Location and Access

This site comprises an SSSI, consisting of mature oak woodland beside the quiet minor road, B7044, between Ballantrae and Colmonell(turn north-eastwards off the A77 at the southern outskirts of Ballantrae). Alternatively, from Girvan, turn off the A77 just north of Ballantrae on to the B734, then right at the B7044.

Park by the roadside with consideration for other users and walk the section along the hillside. Good birding can be enjoyed all along this road, but the wooded section at NX 113 848, about 4km from Ballantrae, above the river and along the slopes of Knockdolian Hill is especially rewarding. The view south-eastwards towards Glen Tig and the slopes of Beneraird not only provides an attractive scene, but is well worth scanning for soaring raptors. In the foreground, the River Stinchar should not be neglected either.

The site is a longish walk from the nearest bus route but an approach by cycle up the B7044 from Ballantrae has appeal and would enable Ballantrae Shore and Knockdolian to be explored together.

This is a busy country road with no surfaced lay-bys or safe refuges for wheelchair users to avoid passing traffic. Opportunities exist to watch and listen from vehicle.

Easy ride along B7044, all good for birds.


The real value of Knockdolian lies in its breeding bird community. Mature oak woodland is a scarce commodity in Ayrshire and the range of species breeding here is typical of such habitats. Early spring migrants such as Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler often occur here well ahead of their arrival elsewhere in the county. However, May is probably the best time to hear the songs of breeding species like Tree Pipit, Redstart, Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher. The river valley also holds wealth of birdlife with both Red-breasted Merganser and Goosander occasionally nesting alongside regulars such as Common Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail, Dipper and sometimes Kingfisher. The following species could be expected depending on the time of year: Grey Heron, Mallard, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel Pheasant, Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Woodpigeon, Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Tree Pipit, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Redstart, Redwing, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Wood Warbler,Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Treecreeper, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Starling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch Goldfinch, Siskin, Linnet, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer. Scarcer species such as Osprey, Green Woodpecker and Waxwing have also occurred.

Glen App

Location and Access

About 8km south of Ballantrae,the main A77 trunk road south enters the lower reaches of the valley of the Water of App. Along the main road there are two safely entered laybys from which the slopes of the glen can be scanned. Near the mouth of the river (at NX 052 724) asmall road to Finnarts Bay forms the entrance to a fish processing plant, but also leads to a large informal parking area overlooking the mouth of Loch Ryan. Turn in with care as the A77 carries heavy traffic. From here, once again, the glen can be scanned as can the entrance to Loch Ryan. By this park, too, the heavy scrub and woodland is good cover for small birds, especially at migration periods. The A77 through the Glen is not recommended for walking or cycling but a regular Ballantrae-Stranraer bus service follows the route.

Car park at Finnarts Bay is very rough but parking nearby for wheelchair users should be feasible. Access also available along quiet road from Marberry Cottage on the B7027 to Barwinnock – 2 cattle grids on this unclassified road.

A77 not recommended.


Glen App is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The hillsides are comprised mostly of open moorland and conifer plantations but contain small deciduous stands too. A good range of raptors can be expected, soaring and hunting along the skyline, with Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine likely and Hen Harrier possible. Other likely sightings include Raven, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Stonechat, Wheatear, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher, with Loch Ryan providing seabirds such as Red-throated Diver (Sep-Apr), Fulmar, Eider and Black Guillemot.

Drumlamford Lochs

While exploring Galloway, a trip to the group of lochs near Drumlamford House (NX 288 765) on the B7027 south east of Barrhill is worthwhile. The route from Ballantrae along B7044, A765, A714 and B7027 passes through a rich and varied habitat, all of it along river valleys and with many opportunities for wayside stops. Three of the five lochs, Nahinie, Dornal and Maberry (the latter two extend into Dumfries and Galloway), can be scanned from the roadside.

These are upland lochs surrounded by small reed beds, conifer plantations including good stands of Scots Pine, some open moorland and small areas of mature broadleaf woodland. Among the likely sightings are Grey Heron, Greylag Goose, Tufted Duck, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Blackcap and Crossbill but there are many other possibilities such as the scarce Willow Tit.

Ballantrae Shore

Location and Access

The village of Ballantrae (NX 083 826) lies on the A77 approximately 21 km south of Girvan. This whole stretch of coastline, including Ballantrae Shingle Beach, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. There are several laybys from which the sea and shoreline can be scanned.

At the southern end of Ballantrae a westwards turn leads from the A77 to a large car park, with toilets, by the shore. The shoreline, from the harbour at the north end to the shingle bank and estuary of the River Stinchar at the south end, is well worth exploring. A good view over the estuary and shingle bank can also be had by continuing south out of the village, over the Stinchar, and immediately right on to a minor road leading to the cemetery. Just before this, fork right past Holmpark and Kinniegar farms and walk down the track towards the beach. Parking along this minor road can be difficult – be careful not to block the entrance to any fields.

Ballantrae is also on the main Ayr-Girvan-Stranraer bus route. For cyclists, the A77 carries too much heavy traffic to be ideal, though a visit to the nearby site of Knockdolian could be made by cycle from Ballantrae along the quieter B7044 which follows the Stinchar up from the south end of the village.

Park at south end of village (NX 082 825), view from carpark or nearby pavements.

A77 not recommended. Byway along B7044 a good link to nearby Knockdolian.


Ballantrae’s main attractions lie in its breeding species, offshore seabirds and migrants using the ever changing layout of the estuary. Three species of tern (Little, Arctic and Common) can breed, but disturbance levels are high and visitors are asked to walk along the shoreward edge of the shingle bar. Breeding waders include Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper while up to pairs of Mute Swans and occasional Greylag Geese also breed. An eroding river bank near the mouth of the river holds a sizable Sand Martin colony in some years. Offshore, the seabirds can also be spectacular with winter and spring build-ups of divers, notably Black-throated, breeding season “strings” of Gannets from Ailsa Craig, and autumn movements of Manx Shearwaters. The area is perhaps under-rated as a migration stop-over and has held Osprey, Little Ringed Plover and Wood Sandpiper in recent years.

The following species could reasonably be expected depending on time of year: Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Pheasant, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Little Tern, Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Woodpigeon, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Wheatear, Stonechat, Whinchat, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Twite, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting.

Rozelle and Belleisle, Ayr

These adjacent parks on the south side of Ayr (Rozelle at NS 4 19; Belleisle at NS 19) contain a wide variety of habitats, encompassing open grassland; coniferous, deciduous and mixed woodland; scrub; ponds and the Slaphouse Burn. Consequently, they are rich in bird life, despite their suburban location. Indeed, over 110 species have been recorded.

Disabled parking at Belleisle House. Network of metalled and un-metalled footpaths, occasional steep sections can be avoided.

Various access points from local byway network and National Cycle Route 7.


Given their suburban location, many of the common garden birds, such as Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, Robin and Dunnock can be easily seen. However, there is much more to be seen.

Both parks boast large open grassland areas, especially Belleisle with its golf courses. These areas attract gulls and Rooks throughout the year, with Redwing and Fieldfare flocks regular in winter. Small numbers of waders can also be seen on the fields occasionally, with Curlew, Oystercatcher, Snipe and Woodcock the most likely species. In summer, flocks of Swallow and House Martin often gather to feed over the fields.

Hunting Kestrel are a regular sight over the golf courses at Belleisle, whilst sizeable flocks of Meadow Pipit and Skylark can occur in the autumn.

The woodland areas hold the highest diversity of breeding species. Rozelle is the better of the two parks for woodland species due to its greater mix of woodlands. However, Belleisle should not be overlooked as it contains a large Rookery, breeding Stock Dove, Tawny Owl, Blackcap and Chiffchaff among others. Additionally, Rozelle can provide Spotted Flycatcher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Wood Warbler and Siskin.

In the autumn and winter the woodlands provide food and shelter for a wide variety of species. Finch flocks can be quite large and number hundreds of birds. Chaffinch and Siskin are the most regular with Brambling very common in some years. The best places to look for finch flocks are around the strands of Beech trees or in the rough weedy areas. Crossbills also occur erratically, usually in the Spruce plantations behind the ponds in Rozelle. This area often holds one or two Jays. Roving tit flocks should not be ignored as they sometimes contain the odd Willow Tit or over-wintering Blackcap or Chiffchaff.

The ponds in Rozelle attract a wide range of wildfowl despite being almost surrounded by trees. Around 20 pairs of Mallard breed annually along with 4-5 pairs of Moorhen, and Little Grebe bred in 1992. Other suck species recorded fairly regularly include Goldeneye, Shoveler, Pintail and Gadwall, whilst oddities like Mandarin and Smew occur occasionally. The ponds also attract other fish-eating birds, with Cormorant and Grey Heron often present. It is also worth keeping an eye open for Kingfisher.

Continuing with wetland habitats, the Slaphouse Burn and its banks are also home to Grey Heron, Kingfisher, Moorhen and Mallard. Other species to be seen along the burn are Pied and Grey Wagtails, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler in summer, and Snipe in winter. Flocks of Siskin and Redpoll numbering up to 50 are regular on the burn-side Alders in autumn and winter.

Both Rozelle House and Belleisle House Hotel are home to colonies of Swift and Lesser Black-backed Gull has been suspected of nesting on the roof of Rozelle House. The wood behind Belleisle House Hotel holds a large crow roost with several hundred Rook, Jackdaw and Carrion Crow often present.

Being close to the coast, it is often worth looking up as many birds over-fly the park. The parks lie on the regular flight-line of gulls and waders heading to the coastal roost at Doonfoot. Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls can be seen in thousands towards dusk, along with smaller numbers of Curlew and Lapwing in autumn.

This description has been published in the leaflet Birdwatching around South Ayrshire produced by South Ayrshire Council and is reproduced with their kind permission.

Newton-on-Ayr Shore

Location and Access

The coast from the shore end (NS 42 250) of Maryborough Road, off Ayr Road, Prestwick, south along the edge of St. Nicholas Golf Course, and promenade towards Ayr Harbour (NS 2 236), accessed from Woodfield Road off Prestwick Road, Newton upon Ayr. There is kerbside car parking at either end. National Cycle Route 7 follows the coast here. There is a good bus service on Prestwick Road/Ayr Road (0.5km), with Newton-upon-Ayr railway station 0.5km away.

Easy viewing and parking along promenade (metalled surface), rough steep sandy coastal path to North.

On National Cycle Route 7.


Good mixture of rock, shingle and sandy beach with outflows attractive to birds. Species recorded according to season include Glaucous Gull, Long-tailed Duck, Arctic, Common & Sandwich Tern, Scaup, Goldeneye, Slavonian, Little & Red-necked Grebe, Razorbill, Little Auk, Black Guillemot, Jack Snipe, Black Redstart, Snow Bunting and Peregrine.

Doonfoot and Greenan

The stretch of coast between the mouth of River Doon (NS 24 195) and Greenan Castle (NS 12 193) is a well-known local birdwatching site. Over 190 species have been seen here, including several unusual migrants.

The main habitats of the area are the mudflats, rocks and mussel beds exposed at low tide, which are backed by dune grassland. There is also a section of low cliff and scrub around Greenan Castle. Woodland is scarce but there is a small wooded island near the mouth of the River Doon. North of the river lies Cunning Park, an area of marsh and fields, almost surrounded by houses.

Car park off Castle Walk is un-surfaced, park in road. Easy access to cycle track.

National Cycle Route 7 runs along the shore. Good viewing from cycle bridge over the River Doon.


Being a coastal location, the main species of interest are waders, wildfowl and gulls. A total of 2 species of wader have been seen and are present in numbers from late July to April/May. In autumn, a night-time roost of Curlew can number over 1000: these birds can often be seen on the rocks at Greenan Castle in late evening.

Similarly high numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover also occur in autumn and winter. Many of these birds move onto Ireland in the winter. Other waders obvious on the shore are Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Dunlin and Turnstone. In autumn a closer look may reveal Sanderling, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper, whilst in the winter, Greenshank are regular. These species are best looked for at high tide when the birds gather to roost at the Doon mouth and the shore below the Greenan car-park (NS 15 193).

Wildfowl are mainly present in the winter, with the nationally important Goldeneye flock, numbering several hundred birds, the main interest. Also present are flocks of Mallard, Teal and Mute Swans. Many other species pass through on migration including Wigeon, Pintail and Common Scoter. In autumn, flocks of geese and swans can be seen passing overhead in varying numbers. A small flock of Scaup is regular in winter, and during cold weather, large numbers of Pochard and Tufted Duck can occur. During the summer, flocks of up to 400 Eider gather to moult in Ayr Bay. Small numbers of divers and grebes are often present in Ayr Bay and are most numerous from February to April. The most commonly seen are Red-throated and Black-throated Divers and Great Crested Grebes.

Doonfoot is well known for its gulls, with a very large roost of up to 0,000 birds present in autumn and winter. Amongst these large numbers, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls from the Arctic are regular in winter, whilst Little, Mediterranean and Ring-billed Gulls occur occasionally.

Although the shore can be quiet in spring and summer, look for terns, Gannets and Manx Shearwaters feeding out in Ayr Bay. Also at this time of year, the grassland, scrub and woodland are at their best for breeding birds. Watch and listen for Chiffchaff and Blackcap in the woodland, and Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler and Stonechat in the grassland and scrub. The locally rare Lesser Whitethroat can sometimes be found in the scrub at Greenan Castle.

The Doon mouth is also a good spot for Kingfisher, which are best looked for from the Scaur O’ Doon car park.

Suggested Walk

Park around Cunning Park Drive, Gearholm Road which are off Doonfoot Rd and make way down to the sea front. Turn right walking towards Ayr and commence birdwatching! Walk along till you come to the car park at the Ayr India restaurant and turn right up Seafield Road. Continue till the traffic lights at Racecourse Rd. Turn right again and cross road into playing fields/running track and walk along perimeter which leads onto Seafield golf course. Continue around edge of golf course (keeping all dogs under control so they don’t upset the golfers!) until you come to gap in wall ahead of you. Go through and ahead till you come to the footpath across the golf course. Turn right and then left just before the gate onto Doonfoot Rd. This path may be marked with a Tam O’Shanter trail sign! Continue along path in amongst trees and bushes. Cross driveway up to Belleisle House onto path at other side. Pass through tall trees where there is a Rookery turning right at corner of deer/pony field. This paved path takes you onto Greenfield Ave (look in trees to your left down side of golf course and Greenfield Ave – saw a Woodpecker there once!). Turn right onto Greenfield Ave and cross road at bottom to the Doonfoot Store. Head for the sea following the river to see if you can spot the Kingfisher, or in my case, the Heron and then make your way back to the car.

This walk takes about an hour or just over (more if you birdwatch diligently!).

This description has been published in the leaflet Birdwatching around South Ayrshire produced by South Ayrshire Council, and has been reproduced with their kind permission.

Ayr Harbour and Auld Brig

Location and Access

Ayr Harbour is best approached from its south side along the beach front. Drive to the beach front and head northwards towards the harbour, following the beach all of the way. There is limited parking and a turning space (do not block the turning space). The harbour has appeal at different times of the year.

Park on road (not ideal), metalled/paved level surfaces.

National Cycle Route 7 passes both sites.


During winter months scan the wooden posts on the north side of the harbour for Purple Sandpiper, as this is a high water roost supporting up to 70 birds. The harbour itself can offer protection for many birds. Seeing Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Scaup and Goldeneye at the western end of the harbour, near the mouth, is not uncommon during the winter.

A walk to the end of the pier can usually reveal Rock Pipit and occasionally other passerines e.g. Stonechat, Robin. Check the big boulders on the south side of the pier for close views of Purple Sandpiper. A scope is useful to scan the sea for birds from the end of the pier. The tower can offer some protection from wind. Scanning the sea from south to north can produce some interesting birds, though this is often weather dependent. The best time to scan in winter is on a cold still day in the morning. It is possible to see all three divers, as well as big rafts of Scaup and Goldeneye and smaller groups of Long-tailed Duck. In very cold weather when the inland lochs are frozen keep your eyes open for other wildfowl such as Smew and grebes. The sewage outflow at Blackburn Rocks (south) and Newton Shore (north), both visible from the end of the pier, are worth scanning for wildfowl.

The breakwater has Cormorant and Shag on it most of the time. With easterly or north-easterly winds the Purple Sandpiper occupy the western side of the breakwater, making them invisible to watchers from the pier. Choose time and weather well to see them.

Glaucous and Iceland Gulls can be found in the harbour, though for a better view go into Ayr to the Auld Brig area and scan the multitude of gulls that gather there. Good, close views of these gulls can occasionally be had. The Auld Brig area also has large numbers of swan, mostly Mute (80+) but occasionally there are Whoopers and the odd goose. There is parking right beside the bridge though this tends to fill up quite quickly, alternatively use the Asda car park.

Note of caution: In strong south-westerlies the pier is often subject to waves battering it and exploding over the pier. This makes a visit out to the end of the pier very hazardous. It is not recommended to venture out on the pier in such conditions, besides which you are unlikely to see anything!

Spring, Summer and Autumn

Ayr harbour has breeding Black Guillemots. In summer months Gannet, Guillemot and Razorbill can be seen from the end of the pier and with a westerly or south-westerly so can Shearwater, usually Manx, though these are better seen in autumn. With perseverance and warm clothes, westerly or south-westerly winds providing the best conditions, rarer sea birds may be seen in autumn.


Location and Access

From the A77 southbound from Ayr, turn off left onto the B7045 towards Kirkmichael and Straiton. After about 1.5km a flooded field should become visible on the right-hand side (western) of the road at NS 26 113. There are small places to pull in by the roadside, but take care as it is a reasonably busy road. There is a network of good byways for cycles in the vicinity but be aware of the traffic on this section of the B7045. The nearest bus route is from Dalrymple to Minishant, a long walk away.

This is a busy country road with no safe refuges for wheelchair users to avoid passing traffic. Park on verge, good viewing from car.

Network of quiet byways in the vicinity but B7045 carries fast traffic..


This is primarily a winter spot when a large field on the western side of the B7045 partially floods and a shallow lagoon is formed. Flocks of ducks, geese and waders gather there. Scanning the flocks can often reveal something special. Check the surrounding trees for the inevitable raptors, including Peregrine, which are attracted by the presence of the wildfowl. The field usually has a good range of waders, including breeding Lapwing. Wood Sandpiper on passage have been observed and large roosts of Curlew.

Turnberry Bay to Girvan

Location and Access

The whole stretch of coastline from Turnberry Bay to Girvan, with sand dune system in the northern part and raised beach throughout, is well worth a look at any time of year. Unfortunately, the A77 trunk road carries fast and heavy traffic and this is an accident black spot. Extreme care is needed when parking, even at official lay-bys, and cycling is not recommended. There is a regular Maybole-Girvan bus service which makes appropriate stops.

The only recommended safe access is at Dipple (NS 201 024). Approaching from the north, and opposite Kelco alginate factory, an entrance on the left leads to a section of the old coast road, with a number of cottages and a telephone box. A bus stop lay-by lies immediately beyond. Park on the old road with consideration for the occupants of the cottages and cross the A77 on foot with care. 100 metres south along the factory fence line, a track leads down to the shore at the mouth Lady Burn from where the shoreline can be explored. If coming from the south, go past the site by 1km rather than risk a right turn across the traffic at this poor visibility section, and reverse your route from Dowhill Farm on your right, into which the right turn has been made safer.

Other approaches to the coast can be made from Turnberry village near the Milton Burn (park at NS203 055 and follow footpath to shore), Chapeldonan (NS 193 004) and Girvan Mains (NX 192 993), which are described later.

Not recommended. No disabled access.

Not recommended.


Dipple is a good, compact area from which to look for divers and sea-duck. The foreshore is partly shingle and not so good for waders, although the stretch near the alginate factory is worth inspection. From late August till May, divers can usually be found offshore, with the Red-throated being the most numerous. However, small groups of Black-throats form here, normally from late November, becoming more numerous as spring progresses, with late March-early April being the best time to see them. Great Northern Diver is the least numerous species. Again, this area is good for Eiders and a search through them from October to April can usually turn up a few Goldeneye, Scaup, Common Scoter and Long-tailed Duck. The most numerous waders are Oystercatcher and Redshank which usually roost near Curragh (NS 197 017). Look carefully in the fields from early October onwards for large flocks of Twite which assemble here until late March. Local rarities have included Surf Scoter, Black Redstart and Water Pipit while an over-wintering Ruff, and a Swallow on the first of December have also added a bit of excitement to this stretch of coast.

Other Approaches to the Coast


On the A77, about 1km south of Turnberry village, a small black hut near the shoreline on the west side of the main road is the most obvious landmark. Although a small track leads down to the beach here, parking is extremely dangerous, and the area should be accessed from Turnberry village (see above). A short walk southwards along the beach will lead you to Balkenna. Like most of the bay, this sandy stretch is particularly good for divers with a variety of wildfowl and waders too. The best time to look for divers is usually early spring, with late March to early May being best. At this time good numbers of Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers may be present, although calm conditions are necessary to get the best out of this site. The shoreline can support high numbers of roosting and feeding waders with the spring and autumn passages frequently providing the unexpected bonus of a Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank or Ruff. Watch out for Whimbrels, particularly in May, since numbers here can reach sixty or seventy. High numbers of Curlew, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher roost just to the north of Balkenna with the fields behind the beach often holding these birds, pushed off the beach by high tides. Wildfowl in the bay include Eider, Red-breasted Merganser (an autumn build-up occurs in this area with around 150 birds in mid-late August), and a small flock of wintering Wigeon at the mouth of the Balkenna Burn. Local or national rarities can occur, with Hobby and White-rumped Sandpiper being two recent examples.


A recently metalled track leads down from a gate at NS 193 004. This is usually open since it allows traffic into the new sewage treatment plant on the foreshore at NX 190 000. However, it might be prudent to park at the gate and walk down to the shoreline since the gate may well be locked when the plant is in operation. This tends to be the least productive stretch of the whole area, with a rock and shingle foreshore, although the cultivated fields are well worth a look in the autumn to spring period. Most of the common species of diver, sea-duck and wader occur along this bit, but the most notable change in recent years has centred on Goldeneye, numbers of which have fallen from around 750 to a mere handful due to renovation work on the sewerage system for the Girvan area. Likewise, a small, but regular, flock of Scaup has virtually disappeared. With fields of turnips and potatoes dominating the farming scene, it’s well worth looking through wintering finch flocks, especially after the onset of hard weather. Apart from numbers of Twite often exceeding 00-400, birds such as Linnet, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Brambling, Lesser Redpoll (and occasionally Common Redpoll), Snow Bunting and Tree Sparrow come into the weedy fields during cold spells. Skylark numbers can often reach 00-400 at such times too. Obviously this attracts raptors, and Sparrowhawk, Merlin, Kestrel and Peregrine can all be seen frequently hunting this area.

Girvan Mains

Park at the farm, outside the entrance gate (NX 192 993) and walk, via the farm forecourt, to the shoreline. Although the farmer is generally sympathetic towards birders, take care to watch out for moving farm vehicles. A walk from the farm down towards the shoreline can be quite productive in the winter, with large finch flocks attracting raptors into the area. Much of this, of course, depends on what has been grown on the adjacent fields. However, there’s usually something of interest, even if it is the local farmyard Collared Doves which initially catch your attention. This was the site of Scotland’s second recorded breeding for the species back in 1959, although the birds may well have been around for two years previously. Yellowhammer can usually be found around the farm steading and the fields on either side of the track can be worth a close look for other passerines, as Snow Bunting may well occur in hard weather. Since the shoreline here is much like that at Chapeldonan, you should look out for Turnstone and, occasionally, Purple Sandpiper which over-winter here in small numbers. With the closure of the effluent pipe which carried much of the waste from the nearby Grant’s distillery, lots of wintering ducks have departed the area, no doubt heading for the next duty free outlet! A few Goldeneye remain, but it is still worth looking for the odd stranger since Velvet Scoter and Little Gull have both popped up here in past winters, as has Black Redstart on the foreshore.

Barr Trails

Location and Access

These notes relate to one of 4 way-marked trails in the vicinity of the village of Barr (NX 275 940) in the hills ESE of Girvan. Information on the trails, including maps,can be had from or from a free leaflet available from the dispenser at the forest car park which is the official starting point or from tourist offices or public libraries. The notes draw freely on the published leaflet and full acknowledgement is due to its authors.

Ayrshire Paths is an initiative supported by various organisations including Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire, Scottish Natural Heritage and the three Ayrshire Councils. They have signposted and improved many traditional walks and pathways around Ayrshire and have a continuing programme of development.

Nearly 5km of paths have been joined together to form circular routes by riverside, forest and open hill, very typical of southern, inland Ayrshire. Access is thanks to the goodwill and generosity of the landowners: Forest Enterprise and W A F Cuninghame. Of the 4 way marked routes, The Devil’s Trail, coded purple and some 6.5 km long has the greatest diversity of habitat for birds. To reach the start, turn inland from the coastal A77 just north of Girvan and follow B734 up into the hills to Barr. The road winds over typical grass and moorland, good birding for the passengers, but the driver will need concentration. In Barr, where B734 goes sharp left at the Inn, continue straight on along a rough single track road for 1 km, then left at a fork to the forest car park and official start of the trails.

Since, however, Barr is a beautiful village, and the 1km track is itself excellent birding along the wooded banks of a sparkling, clear burn, there is much to be said for parking in Barr and proceeding on foot.

Might be accessible in part, further details to be posted on the website in due course.

A network of suitable routes converge on Barr, including a forest route from National Cycle Route 7.

The Devil’s Trail

The walk begins along a forest road beside the Water of Gregg, passing through or beside well-established deciduous and coniferous woodland and open scrubland. As the track winds through the glen, views of open hillside and recently planted moorland emerge. Look out for the glade with bat-boxes. After some 2km, the trail leaves the forest road, and climbs steeply through mature conifers to a highest point with breathtaking views across the Stinchar Valley to the hills beyond. It then plunges down a gully and across the Changue Burn to reach the far hillside at High Changue from where it returns by a forest road with deciduous and coniferous woodland to the north and open views over farm, forest and moor to the south.

The Birds

Almost anything in the way of inland birds is possible since all habitats are represented. The following is a sample from my own experience. In season, Spotted Flycatcher abound along the access road as do Coal, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tit all year. The squeak of Goldcrest is ever present. Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Garden Warbler are common in summer and I have heard Wood Warbler on occasion but not yet Grasshopper Warbler, though the terrain seems suitable and they are certainly present in the vicinity. Treecreeper breed in numbers and I have heard Great Spotted Woodpecker but not Green Woodpecker. The ubiquitous Chaffinch are there in numbers as are Linnet, Siskin, Goldfinch and Greenfinch and the occasional pair of Bullfinch. On the highest part of the trail I have had several excellent close sightings of Crossbill. House Sparrow is still to be seen but not a single Tree Sparrow so far. Dunnock, Robin and Wren, of course, are around in numbers, and Stonechat but not yet Whinchat or Wheatear, though some of the other trails which take to the moors should yield them. On the far hillside, by the farm, a Redstart held territory one year. Meadow Pipit are common; I must look out for Tree Pipit. Both Pied and Grey Wagtail inhabit the glen. I have never seen a Dipper, which is a curious omission. All three common thrushes breed here. In spring and autumn many hundreds of Redwing and Fieldfare have been seen passing through. Several pairs of Buzzard have territories along the walk, and Kestrel have been seen quite often; Peregrine on one occasion; Sparrowhawk and Merlin not yet – I keep looking, the habitat is right. The open moor and young plantation zones should suit Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl. I have heard the atmospheric deep croak of Raven as a pair passed over the glen.

Further Information

The other walks extend the range of habitat to include cleared forest and extensive open moorland. The approach roads to Barr pass through stock and arable farmland and over open moorland and young plantations. There is ample scope to stop and look. Since the whole area is close to the coast by Turnberry and Girvan, a combined coastal and inland birding trip is easy to organise – and an attractive Ayrshire village stop makes a pleasing objective for all the family for the day.


The locally researched leaflet contains this story:

Legend has it that near High Changue, there is the site of a famous battle between the Laird of Changue and the Devil. The story goes that Changue was getting short of money and he decided to make a bargain with the Devil. He would sell his soul in return for great wealth.

The Laird’s fortunes changed and he prospered for many years. When the time came to deliver his soul the Laird reneged on his bargain and refused to go. The devil proceeded to lay hold of him, but Changue, placing his Bible on the turf and drawing a circle with his sword around him, sturdily and, as it turned out, successfully defied his opponent.

The story must be true because to this day, on the hill above High Changue you can see the Devil’s footprints, the circle drawn by the sword and the mark of the Bible clearly visible on the grass.