Tibbie’s Brig

Location and Access

Tibbie’s Brig (NS 689 258) was built in 1793 as a crossing point on the Garpel Water to replace the ford which had been used up until then. Although originally called simply “Garpel Bridge”, it was later renamed to commemorate Isabel “Tibbie” Pagan a local poetess who lived in Muirkirk and was an acquaintance of Robert Burns. Today the pool beside the bridge is a favourite spot for locals to swim in and there is a small monument to Tibbie on the river bank. A network of way-marked footpaths in the area allows adventurous birders to extend their explorations to the surrounding moors, hills and glens. A leaflet is available from information centres or visit www.ayrshirepaths.org.uk. The bridge is reached via a small track from Kames just to the south of Muirkirk. There is a small car park there with an information board which has details of the track on it. Kames is reached by turning off the main A70 road in the middle of Muirkirk just beside the Coachouse Inn; there’s a signpost for Kames Race Track, golf course and caravan park.

Unsurfaced track, muddy in places. Closed wooden gate (unlocked) part way along track – becomes steep close to bridge.

Approach along A70 requires great care.


The habitat around Tibbie’s Brig is a mixture of heather moorland and rough grazing typical of upland areas in Ayrshire. The moorland extends up on to the slopes of Cairn Table and Wardlaw Hill. There are small grazing areas enclosed by drystane dykes and a few stands of shelter-belt trees. On the Garpel Water, Dipper and Grey Wagtail are easily seen, Common Sandpiper should be looked for on exposed shingle and Kingfisher at the quieter pools. Swallow nest under the bridge in the summer and Sand Martin can be found nearby. The surrounding moorland has lots of Red GrouseCurlew, Oystercatcher and Dunlin also breed. Kestrel and Buzzard can be seen anytime, Merlin and Hen Harrier are strong possibilities and you should keep an eye out for Peregrine over the hillside. Stonechat, Whinchat and Wheatear can all be encountered in the vicinity and the trees are always worth checking for Siskin, Redpoll and Bullfinch. The area attracts Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher and Goldfinch in the summer and in the winter can host spectacular flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare.

Additional Information

This area is rich in social as well as natural history, on the way to Tibbie’s Brig it is worth stopping to have a look at Macadam’s Cairn, built in memory of the famous pioneer road builder John Loudoun Macadam. There are numerous Neolithic and Bronze Age sites on the moor and surrounding hills as well as several “Martyr’s Graves” which are testament to the importance of Muirkirk in Covenanting times.

A regular bus service runs from Kilmarnock and Cumnock to Muirkirk. The X76 leaves Kilmarnock bus station on the hour each hour during the day and from Cumnock at 45 minutes past the hour. The return service leaves Muirkirk at 15 minutes past each hour until 5.15pm, there are three later buses the last of which leaves at 9.48pm.

Although most of the sites mentioned around the Muirkirk area can be reached on a mountain bike, walking is by far the best option to explore the locality. If you do plan to cycle on the roads around Muirkirk watch out for open-cast mine traffic!

John Brown’s Walk

Location and Access

Both of these sites lie to the north of Muirkirk and are reached by taking the B743 Strathaven road from the traffic lights in the middle of the town.

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.

Other Information

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.