Munnoch Reservoir, by Ardrossan

Location and Access

The reservoir lies high in the rolling, grassy hills of North Ayrshire some 6km north of Ardrossan along the B780. Limited parking can be had at the north end (NS 255 480), near the cottage at the junction of the B780 and B781 or at the south west corner at the junction of the B780 and a minor byway. At both locations the loch is close to the road and readily scanned from the parking location. Please take care not to obstruct passing traffic or residents requiring access. The approach roads are often rather busy for cycling safety.

Very limited parking at side of busy road, stone wall along roadside restricts viewing.

Both ‘B’ roads require care but a safe approach is possible along by-ways from the south.


The loch is set in a shallow hollow below the Knockewart Hills. It is of medium size and fringed with reeds. Notable in the area are Tufted Duck, Water Rail, Jack Snipe, Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting. Wintering waterfowl and migrants find the reservoir to be a useful resting place. In 1999 a Lesser Scaup stayed for a few days.

Kirktonhall Glen

Location and Access

From the A78 coast road Ardrossan-Largs,turn inland in Seamill, eastwards, at signpost to West Kilbride town centre. Follow the road up the hill and into the town and take right down Glen Road, parking on the left just before the Post Office and Spar shop. The sign saying “Kirktonhall Glen” is easily visible straight ahead.

There is a nice 0-40 minute walk through the woods beside the river with various little paths off the main one. After 10-15 minutes you come out onto a quiet road at the Seamill Youth Community Centre which takes you back down into Seamill. Retrace your steps until the sign for the Beechgrove Community Project and turn right over the bridge and return to your car along this different path.

It would be possible to take a wheelchair into the woods but maybe not right to the end as there are some steps built into the paths in various places.

West Kilbride is fully accessible by train and bus. Tel: 0870 608 2608 for timetable enquiries.

Metalled footpath then unsurfaced path gradually becoming more difficult, rough surface, some steep sections and adverse cambers.


There is a pleasant mix of easily accessed woodland and waterside habitat. Quite a few bird boxes have been erected to attract breeding species. Common park and garden birds are readily seen: Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, crows. Wintering birds such as Redwing can be expected and spring/summer migrants such as warblers.

Horse Island

Location and Access

Horse Island is a small island located only one kilometre offshore from Ardrossan (NS 213 427). Despite its diminutive size (20 hectares including 13 hectares of inter-tidal zone), it has been recognised since at least the 1950’s as an important island for breeding birds. In addition to various inter-tidal habitats, there are several brackish pools and areas of dune grassland which add to the interest of the site. The RSPB have managed the island as a Nature Reserve since 1961, it having achieved the designation of Statutory Bird Sanctuary in 1963. Management is mainly through monitoring, non-intervention and minimising disturbance. RSPB staff and volunteers make an annual visit to the island in late May to survey the breeding birds, with occasional visits later in the season. Since 2001, the Clyde Ringing Group have carried out ringing activities on site.

There are no visiting facilities and there is no access during the breeding season (March – September). Out with that period, written permission to visit the island must be sought from the RSPB at Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve (telephone 01505- 842663, e-mail Calm sea conditions are an essential prerequisite to visiting the island, as landing is somewhat precarious! Relatively good views of some of the birds around the island can be obtained from the Ardrossan – Brodick Ferry.


Over 60 species have been recorded on the island with over a third of these having bred. Historically, Horse Island was an important ternery, with five species of tern having bred there. Peaks were 267 pairs of Common Tern and a similar number of Arctic Tern (1961), 15 pairs of Roseate Tern (1970), 574 pairs of Sandwich Tern (1975) and two pairs of Little Tern (1977). Few terns have bred since 1984, and there has been no breeding since the final pair of Common Terns recorded in 1996. In harsh weather, there was also an important roost site for Greylag Geese, with a peak of 2,000 in 1979.

Currently, the island is famed for breeding gulls and Eider. Of the three principal gull species breeding there – Lesser Black-backed, Herring and Great Black-backed – the former has established a nationally important colony. In total, usually over 2,000 pairs of gulls breed. Eider numbers are also very healthy at the site, with 542 pairs breeding in 2002, making it a regionally important site. A Cormorant colony was established in 1996, and this included 73 nests in 2002. A lone pair of Shag nested in 2001 (constituting the first breeding record for the island), however it was suspected that the nest failed as no young were seen on a later date.

Other regular breeders have included Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Moorhen, Oystercatcher and Rock Pipit. Occasional breeders have included Barnacle Goose, Carrion Crow and Raven – the latter breeding on a ledge on the Beacon Tower for the first time in 2002.

Out with the breeding season, 13 species of wader have been recorded on passage including Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit and Greenshank. Passerines recorded have included Redstart, Wheatear, Linnet and Snow Bunting. One might speculate that Twite and Snow Bunting are more frequently found on the island in autumn and winter than records would dictate, but go un-recorded. Given the regular sightings of Black Redstart further north at Seamill, there is similar suitable habitat to be found on Horse Island.

Further Reading

The excellent Whispers of Horse Island by John & Noreen Steele (Argyll Publishing, 1999, ISBN 1 902831 055) provides a comprehensive history of the site, complete with illustrations and photographs, both historical and contemporary, and is available from Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve Shop. Copies of the Horse Island Management Plan are available to consult at Ardrossan and Saltcoats Libraries, or alternatively, at Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve. The Horse Island Breeding Bird Report is published annually, the latest copy available from Lochwinnoch RSPB Nature Reserve.

Ashgrove Loch

Location and Access

This medium sized loch lies in a hollow (NS 275 443) in pastoral land km north of Stevenston. The network of byways which surround the loch require some map reading skills and none approach closely. Excellent viewing over the area by telescope can be had, however, from the car park at Lochwood Farm Steading (NS 273 448), on the byway which passes to the north, but please respect the wishes of the owners.

The byways are suitable for cyclists but the nearest public transport is a fair walk away at Kilwinning or Stevenston. One approach by car is: From A78 north from Irvine, turn right at the Hawkhill roundabout at the end of the dual carriageway along A738 signed Kilwinning. In 0.4km, first left, then in 1km right at crossroads in the outskirts of Stevenston. Follow this byway round for 2.5km to the Steading at the top of a rise overlooking the loch.

Park at farm steading, use telescope.

Good network of quiet by-ways.


The loch is in a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The reed beds around the loch are good for Water Rail, Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting. The loch has a range of waterfowl, especially in winter. Interesting sightings have included Marsh Harrier, Quail and Garganey.

Other Information

The Steading is a highly-rated farm guest house and is part of a working farm. There is also self-catering accommodation. Although the car park is really for visitors, the farmer is keen to encourage an interest in wildlife and farming practices. He may, on request, permit an approach to parts of the lochside on his land.

Ardrossan Harbour and North Bay

Location and Access

This town on the Ayrshire coast is the terminal for the Arran ferry and so has good road and rail links. The harbour is a good starting point with the best viewing from the Marina (NS 225 423): follow the signs for the ferry and bear right into the Marina. You can drive through the gates and go round the inner harbour and park just beyond the Harbour-master’s tower. Beyond the breakwater is Horse Island (NS 213 427). This is an RSPB reserve and although access is not possible, you can get reasonable views through a ‘scope (although avoid the afternoon sun – not a common problem on the west coast!).

The next location is North Beach (NS 229 432) as shown in the photo on the right. On leaving the Marina take the left turn at the traffic lights and follow this round for about a mile until the beach can be seen on your left. Park near the toilet block at the junction with the A78. This was where the Snowy Egret was found in December 2001 (see the Photo Gallery for some excellent shots of this bird).

The Calmac ferry to Brodick on the Isle of Arran is a mini-pelagic.

Car park at the Marina but uneven surface.

On National Route 73 to the Arran ferry and coastal path to Largs. Linked to National Route 7 at Kilwinning.


The harbour area can give close views of Black Guillemot with several pairs nesting. The rocks at North Beach are good for Redshank, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Wigeon. This part of the coast is a magnet for Eider, especially during eclipse with large rafts forming. The field behind the roadside restaurant (at NS 220 444) often has a flock of Curlew numbering several hundred and up to 0 Twite. The track just before the restaurant goes up to Montfode Farm. After you go under the railway bridge there are some horse stables and ruined buildings up the hill. There are regular sightings of Buzzard (4+) plus occasional Barn Owl and Tawny Owl. The rough field towards the houses contains breeding Whitethroat, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler. And of course, there was that Snowy Egret!

Other Information

There is a cycle-path/walk way going from Ardrossan north along the coast towards Seamill and beyond. This gives great views of the coast with Arran beyond. For details of ferry times, Calmac’s phone number in Ardrossan is 01294-603226.

Portencross to Hunterston

Location and Access

Portencross (NS 175 488) is at Farland Head which projects into the Clyde Estuary just south of the Cumbrae Islands. At the cross roads on A78 on the northern edge of Seamill, take B7048 west for 2km to the road end where there is a large free car park and seaside picnic place with panoramic views of the Clyde. The historic Castle and port lie close by. A track for use on foot or cycle follows the shoreline north for 2km to the BNFL nuclear power station. This coastal walk or cycle can be extended to a very attractive and level 10km round trip past rocky shoreline, mud flat, scrub, marsh, cliff face, mature woodland and pastoral and arable farmland. The route, which is described below, is mainly on off road tracks and way-marked cycleways. Please respect any requirements from the power station operators by whose property the route passes at one stage.

Adequate parking. Very rough track beyond locked gate at end of public road (NS 176 490).

Easy link to the Ardrossan to Largs coastal cycle path. Easy 10km round cycle on tracks and quiet byways.


The path from Portencross runs along a raised beach though meadow backed by a steep escarpment whose lower reaches are heavily wooded. The shoreline is rocky at this stage. Sea viewing can be rewarding. Black Guillemot and other seabirds favour the projecting power station service pier. Stonechat, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler inhabit the scrub and the escarpment has breeding Fulmar and Buzzard. The woodland attracts summer visiting warblers such as Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Raven, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tawny and Barn Owl are in the area. The range of birds seen can be extended by following the circular route.

The Castle

The castle is of historic importance to Scotland and vital efforts are being made to preserve it. The following are extracts from the interesting information board:

Portencross (also known under many variants of that name) was once a harbour of some importance. Arnele Castle (and its successor Portencross Castle) was the focal point of this harbour and hamlet at Farland Head, overlooking the Firth of Clyde. Rich in history, Portencross is reputed to have been the last mainland resting place for bodies of the former Scottish Kings from Kenneth MacAlpine to Malcolm Canmore, before they were ferried to the island of Iona for burial. The present Castle was built in the reign of Robert II, 1371 to 1390.

The castle’s roof blew off during a violent storm in 1739, but its walls remain intact. Four storeys high, the interior features a barrel-vaulted ceiling. It boasted two kitchens on the first two floors, and from the first floor, a circular staircase leads to the top. The L-shaped plan of Portencross castle is the first of these early buildings in that form. Abandoned, it remains remarkably intact despite an absence of urgently required maintenance.

Update 2010: As a result of a successful fund-raising campaign, the castle has been extensively restored.  It is now open to the public during selected periods in the warmer months.

Extended Route

From the style or gate at the northern end of the raised beach path, continue along a well-made road past the power station complex for 2.5km round to where the way-marked coastal cycleway crosses. There are wetlands within the BNFL site, a haunting natural setting for the impressive reactor buildings in the background. A bubbling outflow and mudflats lie to seaward with seascapes past Great Cumbrae and Largs to the mountains beyond. Turn south along the cycle route towards Seamill and follow it as it weaves along tracks and byways through mature woodland and pastoral and arable farmland. Rejoin the B7048 just 1km from its terminal car park. Allow hours for walking and 1 for cycling – plus birding!

Fairlie Sands

Location and Access

The main site is a shallow, tidal bay on the southern outskirts of Fairlie where the burn down Fairlie Glen enters the sea. The bay can be viewed from a roadside car park on the A78 (NS 207 543) or from the car park and picnic area, with toilets, on the promontory at Burnfoot (NS 206 546) on the south edge of the town. Failrie railway station is within 0.5km and buses run along the A78 regularly. The coastal cycleway passes the site.

Park in lay-by (not ideal) or at promontory, no disabled spaces.

Nearby to the south there is an enclosed lagoon which was created when an ore terminal was built in the seventies. This can be viewed by following the footpath on the south side of the bay and up the bank on the northern side of lagoon to an overview of the site. It is possible to enter the terminal and ask permission at the barrier to use a hide on the south side of the lagoon – proof of membership of a bird club may be required. Park in a small car park on the right just inside the barrier and walk the short distance to the hide.

Wheelchair access to hide down gently sloping paved footpath. Hide adapted for wheelchair use. Unsurfaced track around the bay finishes up a steep grassy slope to view lagoon.

Adjacent to the Ardrossan to Largs coastal cycle path.


The bay is at its best in winter as a site for waders and sea duck. It is the best site in Ayrshire forwintering Greenshank. In the spring and autumn it can be visited by Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit. The pier for the terminal can have good numbers of Eider and Goldeneye with small numbers of Red-breasted Merganser. The burns on the south side of the bay and at the picnic place car park can be good for Dipper and Grey Wagtail.

The lagoon has an island which is used by many of the bay’s birds at high tide. In summer, it has a breeding colony of gulls and, in some years, Sandwich Tern. The island is also used by Grey Heron as a roost – 10 or more can sometimes be seen.

The trees which are planted on the southern embankment between the bay and the lagoon have many fruiting species that attract thrushes in the autumn. Waxwing has been seen here on occasion.

Fairlie Glen

Location and Access

Travelling by car, park at Fairlie railway station having turned off the A78 Ardrossan-Largs coast road in Fairlie at the sign to “Park and Ride”. There is a regular train service Glasgow-Largs and bus service along A78.

Facing the railway line, take the path on the left and then turn right in front of Argyll Cottage. Alternatively keep on the path and take right up the road, but the former is more interesting. Climb up the hill past Fairlie Castle, the only residents being a number of Jackdaws, till you see a sign for “Waterfall”. This is a little detour off the main path – nice but there was not much water falling when I visited! Retrace your steps back to the path and continue up the hill. You will see a sign “To the Moors”. Turn left over a fixed gate and onto the moors at NS 220 547. You can climb and wander the moors as far as you like and enjoy lovely views across to the Cumbraes, Bute, Arran etc. A network of paths is planned for the area.

West Kilbride is fully accessible by train and bus. Tel: 0870 608 2608 for timetable enquiries.

Rough narrow steep tracks up through glen.

Just off the Ardrossan to Largs coastal cycle path.


The walk up the glen onto the moors takes in woodland and moorland habitat with flowing water attractive to birds. Typical species to be expected would be tits, finches, wagtails, thrushes, Robin, Wren in the glen and Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Linnet on the moor. Raptors would include Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and the possibility of Merlin and Hen Harrier.

Kelburn Castle and Country Centre

Around walk of about 7-8 km can be had by going left on reaching the moor, following a wall, fence and powerlines north for 2km to the head of Kelburn Glen. This section of the route requires strong footwear and reasonable fitness as it is over grass tussocks and boggy patches and there is the Keppen Burn to cross. The wall, fence and powerlines are good guides and a well-defined path and track will be accessed again on leaving the moor through a gate and heading for a white cottage, Fairlieward. Beyond the cottage, join the Kelburn Castle and Country Centre path network down the Glen past the Castle and Visitor Centre. Return to Fairlie station along a nice easy going straight track accessed from the far end of the Visitor Centre car park, crossing the Keppen Burn again, this time by bridge.

Note that there are charges for Kelburn Castle and Country Centre, for prices phone 01475 568 685. Some of the paths around Kelburn would be accessible by wheelchair but not up the Glen.

For anyone interested in falconry, or just wishing to see raptors at close hand, the Bird of Prey Centre in Kelburn has displays. Ferruginous Buzzard, Common Buzzard, European Eagle Owl, Lanner Falcon, Red-tailed Hawk, Harris Hawk and Saker Falcon can be seen. The birds are flown on most days and Hawk Walks, educational visits and special displays can be arranged.

< Network of paths.

Lochwinnoch RSPB

(Editor’s Note: Lochwinnoch is in Renfrewshire but has been granted honorary inclusion in Ayrshire due to the support they have given over the years to the Ayrshire Bird Report: buy a copy the next time you are in the shop.)

Location and Access

Lochwinnoch RSPB Nature Reserve, founded in the early 1970’s, is situated approximately 0 kilometres south west of Glasgow (NS 59 581). The reserve is part of Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park and is a SSSI. The reserve consists of two shallow lochs, Aird Meadow Loch and Barr Loch (both former flood meadow systems, redundant since approximately the 1950’s) which are fringed by marshland which is in turn fringed by carr woodland and drier deciduous woodland. There are also areas of scrub, and a mature beech wood. The visitor centre is situated 0.8 kilometres from Lochwinnoch village beside the A760 and is signposted from the A737. Lochwinnoch rail station (on the Largs/Ardrossan/Ayr to Glasgow line) is adjacent to the reserve, and several bus routes are within 15 minutes walking distance of the site. There is a visitor centre featuring a sizeable ground level viewing area, viewing tower and a well-stocked RSPB shop. From the visitor centre, two level trails lead to three hides which overlook the Aird Meadow loch. The visitor centre, trails and hides are accessible to wheelchair users. The visitor centre is open daily from 10am to 5pm, with the hides and trails open at all times.

Disabled parking. Wheelchair access to Centre (1:15 ramp) and hides (1:40 ramps), paths surfaced in rolled stone, narrow in places (900mm), one section of boardwalk. Further info from

Just off National Route 7, Irvine to Glasgow.


Over 100 species are recorded annually. Breeding species include over 150 pairs of Sedge Warblers, several pairs of Grasshopper Warbler and over 20 pairs of Reed Bunting. Other breeding species include Water Rail and Great Crested Grebe. Management work on the reserve has contributed to an increase in breeding waders, with Lapwing and Snipe being regular breeders, and Redshank and Curlew being occasional breeders.

Species recorded on passage have included raptors such as Marsh Harrier and Osprey and waders such as Dunlin, Jack Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, Green, Wood and Curlew Sandpiper, Greenshank and Whimbrel. White Wagtails have been recorded in autumn.

Autumn and Winter brings up to 40 Whooper Swans and 00 Greylag Geese to the site, with Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye and Goosander present. Smew and Scaup occurs in most winters and Long-tailed Duck are seen occasionally. Glaucous and Iceland Gulls are worth looking out for at the Barr Loch gull roost, and also at the adjacent Castle Semple Loch where a multitude of gulls are regularly to be found feeding on scraps of bread thrown by visitors! Also worth looking out for in winter are Bramblings – historically, Garthland Wood (which runs alongside the A760 near the Glasgow to Irvine cycletrack) was a “top spot” for this species. Hen Harrier and Merlin are occasionally noted over Aird Meadow.

A number of rarities have been reported on the reserve including Purple Heron, Spoonbill, Black Duck, Yellow-browed Warbler and Red-backed Shrike. An Eye-browed Thrush was recorded in 1978 – the second Scottish record. A Reed Warbler in 2000 and a Nuthatch in 2001 were the first records for Renfrewshire and the Clyde Area, respectively.

Further Reading

The Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve Management Plan is available for consultation at the visitor centre. Copies of the twice-yearly Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve newsletter Wilsonia are also available at the centre. Currently in production are a checklist of the birds of the reserve and the latest reserve bird report.