Location and Access
John Brown’s Walk is a moorland track which goes to a monument which marks the spot where John Brown, one of the Covenanting movements most famous martyrs was shot. The track begins directly opposite Linburn Farm about kilometres north of Muirkirk at NS 699 299 and runs down over the Greenock Water and on past Priesthill Farm to the site of the memorial, a distance of .5 kilometres.
There is a tiny car parking area on the right just after the track crosses the Greenock Water bridge, this is really the only place to park as the track is very narrow. The walk is a 7 kilometre round trip so you should probably allow about hours to complete it, the route is well sign posted. More information can be had from a leaflet obtainable at information centres or by visiting the Ayrshire Paths website.
Kirk Plantation (NS 698 278) lies just at the northern outskirts of Muirkirk opposite the cemetery. Kirk Plantation is actually a bit of a misnomer as the conifer plantation which stood on the site was clear-felled in 1980. What is there now is a naturally regenerating broad-leaved woodland, comprising mainly of Birch, Oak and Rowan. The site is managed by East Ayrshire Woodlands and a circular footpath allows easy access to the woodland and the glen beyond it. There is a good sized car park right beside the wood and information about the site is provide on a notice board there.
John Brown’s Walk: Small car park. Rough cobbled unsurfaced road up to about 500m before farm, then becomes very rough, path is boggy. Kirk Plantation: Steps at start, circular path has woodchip surface.
From Muirkirk along the A723 or via hill byway linking B743 Sorn to Muirkirk road, to the A723.
John Brown’s Walk takes in heather moorland and upland grazing pasture, similar to the type of habitat found around Cairn Table. Birds that can be seen here during the breeding season include Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Snipe, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Stonechat and Buzzard. Short-eared Owl, Merlin and Hen Harrier might be seen on occasion. The track passes a number of small wooded glens which could also be investigated for other species.
The main interest at Kirk Plantation is during the spring and early summer when the woodland is full of arriving migrants. Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff are everywhere, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Garden Warbler can be observed in the under-storey and Spotted Flycatcher is also commonly seen. Treecreeper, Coal / Blue / Great and Long-tailed Tit, Bullfinch, Greenfinch and Song Thrush are among the regular breeding species which are resident all year round. If you continue through the woodland to the unclassified road behind it the habitat becomes more open with mature trees where a variety of different species can be found.
The small single track road which runs up past Linburn Farm, leading to the B743 Muirkirk – Sorn road is usually a reliable place to see Short-eared Owl, often perched on a post or wall right at the roadside. There is a conifer plantation at Smallburn (NS 675 275) which has good access via a network of footpaths and could be explored at the same time as a visit to nearby Kirk Plantation. This site is also managed by East Ayrshire Woodlands and is an excellent place to see species associated with coniferous woodland.
Stagecoach run a regular bus service between Cumnock and Muirkirk, buses are 15 minutes past the hour during the day from the bus station in the Tanyard. The service is the X76 which originates from Glasgow and travels to Muirkirk via Kilmarnock, Cumnock and a number of stops in between.
Kirk Plantation is an easy 10 minute walk from the centre of Muirkirk. To get to the start of John Brown’s Walk would take 40 to 60 minutes walking along the B743 Strathaven road. No bus services run past either of the sites.
An alternative for walkers (or very keen cross country cyclists!) would be to follow the track up through Smallburn Plantation on to the unclassified road which runs between the B743 Strathaven road and the B743 Sorn road. Then head east down to Linburn Farm and on to the start of John Brown’s Walk. You would then need to re-trace your steps or walk back down the Strathaven road into Muirkirk.