Reach for the Stars with Stagecoach West Scotland’s 356
An unforgettable masterpiece
59 minutes of captivation with ‘wow factor’ scenic beauty! The 356 Stagecoach West Scotland service from Bellsbank to Cumnock provides an unforgettable venture off the beaten track but deep in the heart of beautiful East Ayrshire, passing lochs and penetrating former mining communities, seeped in history. The journey twists and turns, with every curve drawing gasps of awe and wonder at some of the scenery from the window – it’s a trip where, as we have found, the drivers are the friendliest around, looking after customers needs meticulously.
The panorama is ever-changing, captivating customers, whilst offering a taste of Scotland’s diverse beauty, from serene countryside to vibrant communities – this bus ride really is an enthralling and memorable masterpiece, one of the finest in the Great Scenic Journeys collection of over 200 routes!
As the bus departs from Bellsbank, customers are treated to a captivating display of Scotland’s picturesque countryside. The landscape unfolds like a living tapestry, adorned with rolling hills, lush green pastures, and meandering streams. In the distance, the majestic Galloway Hills form a rugged backdrop, their peaks often shrouded in mist, lending an air of mystery to the scene. Bellsbank is the second highest place in East Ayrshire and it’s no surprise the views from here are great!
The bus first calls at Dalmellington, a quaint village nestled amid the hills. Here, charming cottages with colourful gardens dot the landscape, and the tranquil waters of Loch Doon glisten in the distance. As the journey continues through Burnton and Broomknowe, customers can admire the open fields and scattered farmsteads, where sheep graze peacefully.
The route takes a dramatic turn as it passes through Dalleagles, where the terrain becomes more rugged, and dense woodlands envelop the road. The bus then winds its way through New Cumnock, a historic mining town, with its stone-built cottages and remnants of its industrial heritage.
Bellsbank is a village that was expanded between the World Wars to house miners working in the coalfield that once thrived in south-east Ayrshire. It is half a mile from Dalmellington where the 356 makes the best connection with the 52 service from Ayr to Bellsbank. The connection is at Dalmellington Square, where a stream runs underneath.
For adventurous walkers, a hike to Craigengillan Estate (see photo above!) is deeply enticing. This vast estate features woodlands, a walled garden, and walking trails. It’s an excellent destination for nature lovers, offering opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and enjoying the peaceful surroundings. The estate, which has a history dating back to the Bronze Age, comprises 3,000 acres, encompassing a “Designed Landscape”, woodlands, wetlands, pasture, heath, lochs and two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI’s), providing a diverse range of natural habitats, within a landform more closely related to the Highlands than to the south west of Scotland.
Dalmellington is a reinvented post-industrial village and is close to the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory (destroyed by fire but likely to be rebuilt). It announces itself as “The Village in the Stars“. The 356 seems destined for the stars as it climbs out of the village on the dramatic first stage of the route to Cumnock. It climbs through a stunning landscape of hills, valleys, forest and streams to pass access points to the North Kyle windfarm currently under construction.
Blissful solitude to captivating Cumnock – new and old!
There is little human habitation, just sheep and pens to contain them for shearing. It then descends equally dramatically to the farming hamlets of Dalleagles and Burnside to reach the halfway point of the journey (in time if not in distance) at New Cumnock. Whilst here, a visit to The New Cumnock Heritage Centre is a “must”. It’s a cultural treasure trove nestled in the heart of the town, encapsulating the rich history and vibrant traditions of the community. Housed within an architecturally captivating building, the centre serves as a repository of local heritage, preserving and showcasing artifacts, documents, and multimedia exhibits that narrate the town’s evolution over the years. Visitors are greeted by immersive displays chronicling the industrial, social, and cultural facets of New Cumnock, allowing them to step back in time and connect with the roots of the community. The centre serves as an educational hub, hosting workshops, events, and lectures, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the town’s heritage.
From here, the surroundings change. New Cumnock is on Afton Water and a statue of Robert Burns commemorates his poem and song “Flow Gently Sweet Afton”, but it was primarily a mining town and the 356 follows a loop around what would originally have been a housing estate, picking up many of its customers for the final leg of the journey before calling at the town centre and its railway station (on the Glasgow-Kilmarnock-Dumfries-Carlisle line). It heads then into open country, passing Lochside House (a country hotel) and the adjacent Loch of the Lowes before reaching Cumnock.
Arriving in Cumnock, the scenery transitions to a more urban landscape. The bustling Glaisnock Street offers a glimpse of local life with its shops, cafes, and vibrant atmosphere.
The Chippendale Collection
Whilst in Cumnock, Dumfries House is worth a visit. It is a stunning 18th-century mansion, renowned for its exceptional architecture and extensive grounds. It was built in the Palladian style between 1754 and 1759 by the architects John and Robert Adam. The mansion is celebrated for its symmetrical design, elegant facades, and classical proportions, characteristic of the Palladian architectural movement. The interior features beautifully crafted details, showcasing the Adam brothers’ mastery.
One of the highlights of Dumfries House is its collection of furniture crafted by renowned Scottish cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale. The house boasts one of the most extensive and complete sets of Chippendale furniture in the world, including pieces designed specifically for the mansion.
The estate surrounding Dumfries House spans approximately 2,000 acres, featuring meticulously landscaped gardens, woodlands, and meadows. Visitors can explore the picturesque grounds, which include a walled garden, an arboretum, and a peaceful river walk.
Bellsbank to The Baird on the brilliant 356
The Baird Institute is also a great place to visit in Cumnock and was established in 1891 through a generous donation from Miss Jemima Baird, a Cumnock resident. The institute was created in memory of her brothers, Dr. James and Dr. Alexander Baird, with the purpose of promoting education and preserving the history of the region. The Baird Institute houses a museum that features a diverse collection of artifacts, documents, and exhibits related to the history of Cumnock and its surrounding areas. The collections cover various aspects of local life, including industry, social history, and notable individuals from the region. Workshops and exhibitions are also fascinating and frequent at this great place – just like the Stagecoach West Scotland 356 bus journey from Bellsbank to Cumnock! To get on-board and start planning your trip on this magnificent route, go to 356, Bellsbank-Cumnock – Great Scenic Journeys