A cold November Sunday, and finally we managed to pay Dean Castle Country Park a visit, which had been on my would like to see list of places for about a year. Dean Castle Country Park is situated reasonably centrally in Kilmarnock, and yet it took us a while to actually find it as the signage is patchy. If it wasn’t for this, it would have been just a 35 minute drive from Glasgow, surprisingly short.
The park is nestled into the banks of two streams which join their paths only to flow over a road, which is a sight in itself. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a road design that just let a river flow right across a road that is used regularly by cars. “Awesome” was my daughter’s comment. The park is mostly made up of woodlands with a number of walking routes with some inclines to make it appear larger than it actually is. There is more than enough on offer for a full day’s visit. In fact, we only explored half of the park (as we let the children dictate the pace) and left out a visit to the castle.
Instead, we explored the late autumn woodlands, and admired the wonderful world of fungi, generally got very muddy (it has been raining a lot recently and although the day was dry, the ground was still very much saturated with water).
The adventure playground is nothing extraordinary but will keep children of different ages happy for a good while, although my older daughter was much more intrigued with the saw dust that I’m sure isn’t a permanent feature but had more to do with a lot of work on paths and making pond life accessible going on at the moment.
The small animal area has recently been upgraded to a small farm, which means that there are quite a collection of farm animals on display, and that this part of the park will expand in the future. There were cows, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, llamas, different fowl, and various small animals to be seen.
Some of the features of the park were not as striking as they must be during spring and summer, but the various ponds of different sizes promise a rich pond life that would in itself be worth a day trip. Similarly we didn’t find the kitchen garden, which was probably due to the season. The countryside rangers exploration area wasn’t open but looked promising.
There are plenty of picnic areas which would make for a lovely outdoor lunch but we decided to also test the tearoom. The food was simple with limited choice and the room was not particularly inviting, but staff were friendly and helpful and the food while not exciting, was fine and healthy. I liked that there was a kids bag that could be taken out to have outdoors, and it contained a bug hunting kit which was rather popular.
The shop next door was filled to the brim with interesting and many outdoor play related items, so definitely worth a visit. Just at the entrance, there are plenty of deer which are quite used to people.
We enjoyed just exploring the park which has quite a wild feel to it, although it’s nestled right in the middle of Kilmarnock. There are some access points to the two rivers too, which was very much welcomed by the kids. I’d definitely like to come back in the spring to see the season change in Dean Park and explore the parts we didn’t get to today.
Access to Dean Castle Country Park and the Castle is free.
Travel: M/A 77 southbound from Glasgow, follow signs for A735 and B7038 and the park is signposted (though signposting is patchy). Public transport: Kilmarnock train station. The park is about 1.5 miles to the north of the centre.