Location and Access

There are a number of good birding possibilities in the vicinity of the village of Straiton (NS 8 04) on the edge of Galloway Forest Park in the Southern Uplands. Buses run regularly betweenAyr and Straiton and one companycarries cycles. The village lies on the local cycle byway network (see Ayrshire Paths website for details) and all the birdwatching locations suggested are easily accessible from there by bike.

A small car park at the entrance to Straiton from the Ayr side provides a pleasant picnic site beside the River Girvan and is the start of a number of local waymarked walks on which information is available in leaflets from tourist offices and dispensers or from Ayrshire Path’s web site. The village has toilets, a cafe and inn. The recommended birdwatching locations include one of these walks, though any of the others could also be rewarding. The other locations are further up into the hills along the Straiton-Newton Stewart road.

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

Straiton on local byway network, linked to National Cycle Route 7. All locations easily reached by bike.

Lady Hunter Blair’s Walk

This .5 km walk starts in Straiton from the car park and passes the award winning Fowler’s Croft Development. Itthen follows the B741 past Largs Farm, home to a covenanting martyr,and into the mixed woodland of Lambdoughty glen (NS 89 052) with its sparkling burn and falls, the largest a 10m drop.

Birds:The woodland is good for Jay, Kestrel, Siskin and Redpoll. Red Squirrel and Otter have been seen in the glen.

Blairquhan Estate

This is a private estate, home to the Hunter Blairs, which opens to the public at certain times in the summer. It has a fine mixture of woodland and the River Girvan flows through. The quiet roads around the perimeter are suitable for cycling, strolling or gentle exploration by car.

Birds: Typically Buzzard, Tree Pipit, Dipper, Redstart, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher.

Loch Bradan Water Works Road

The road, signposted Loch Bradan,starts at the Tairlaw Bridge (NS 402 009), 5km up the B740 from Straiton, andruns for 6 km following the River Girvan to its outflow from the loch. Park at the Tairlaw Bridge or by the roadside on the better first 2 km of the road. Walk or cycle the rest of the way to the loch.

Birds<: Very good in spring for migrants. The river has Dipper and Grey Wagtail.

Stinchar Bridge

A car park and picnic site (NX 98 958) with glorious views over the surrounding moors and forests lies just off the Straiton-Newton Stewart road about 11km up from Straiton and is the start of the Cornish Hill Walk. The byway links with a forest cycle route between Loch Doon and the village of Barr. Cars may access forest roads along this byway, subject to forest operating circumstances, and are sometimes permitted to pass right through to Loch Doon in East Ayrshire along the cycle route.

Birds: The 4km stretch of the byway to Ballochbeatties (NX 419 956) passes through conifer stands and patches of mixed woodland out onto open moor. It is good for Meadow Pipit, Bullfinch, Song Thrush and Buzzard. Black Grouse may be seen in the trees beside the road, especially in the spring. Siskin and Crossbill maybe seen during a good spruce cone year.

Forest Drive

Following the byway from Stinchar Bridge into the forest on foot, by bike or car, there are several particularly good view points with views over loch, moor and forest:

  • Loch Bradan:can be viewed from various points on the forest drive andthe car park at NX 408 979.
  • Criglure Cairn: a footpath starts at NS 409 972 and goes up to the cairn.
  • Loch Skelloch:can be viewed from a quarry car park overlooking the loch at NX 411 963.


Location and Access

Turnberry Point at NS 196 073 can be reached bywalking along the track to the lighthouse from the A719 Maidens-Turnberry coast road at NS 206 068, a distance of about 1km. The track is on Turnberry Golf Course ground and crosses fairways, so care should be taken not to disturb play or get hit by wayward shots! Parking can be a problem (e.g. double yellow lines on the main road) but visiting birders may be allowedto use a golf course car park just up the track, given due courtesy to the owners and preferably leaving some evidence ofmembership of a bird club on display. There is a bus stop at the start of the track and, with due care, cyclists can reach the track easilyfrom Maidens or Turnberry along the coast road.

Park at golfer’s car park, gate difficult to open, frequently locked.


The vicinity of the lighthouse is an excellent vantage point for sea watching, especially when a westerly wind blows the birds nearer the shore. There is a dune system to the south and the rocky coast to the north towards Maidens is a site of Special Scientific Interest.

Possible sightings include good Manx Shearwater passages, and rarer shearwaters for those with good eyesight and patience! Storm Petrel, and Scoter are seen, including Velvet and, on occasion, Surf. In winter, there are high numbers of Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Diver which often stay into spring giving close views of birds in breeding plumage, especially in Turnberry Bay to the south. The closeness of Ailsa Craig means that Gannet is guaranteed in the breeding season. Arctic and Great Skua can be seen on occasion and the site is good for auks, gulls, terns and Eider and Red-breasted Merganser. The beach is favoured by passage Whimbrel and other waders. Beside the track, the extensive low scrub cover together with the open ground of the golf course and headland provides good records of small birds: Whitethroat, Wheatear (including the Greenland race), Sedge and Willow Warbler, Tree Pipit, Twite and Stonechat (Siberian/Eastern race in 1998).

Turnberry Golf Course

The Course is of world class and has been host to international competitions. It is managed with sympathy for wildlife. A recently formed pool on the inland side of the coast road is worth scanning for ducks and waders.

The golf course cafe is open to visitors and Turnberry Hotel welcomes the well-heeled.

Cornish Hill

Location and Access

This is one of 2 way marked walks provided by Forest Enterprise in the Carrick Forest region of the Galloway Forest Park (although we are still inside Ayrshire!) in the Southern Uplands. Both start from the forest car park (NX 98 958) at 60m altitude near Stinchar Bridge on the unclassified road from Straiton to Newton Stewart. From the A77 south of Ayr, follow B7045 to the SE through Kirkmichael to Straiton and continue onwards through the village up into the hills for a further 10km. At Stinchar Bridge go left. The car park is high on the left.

The Cornish Hill Walk is the more interesting ornithologically of the two and as a walk. Though only 5km long, it entails a climb of 100m, quite steep and rough in places. Strong footwear is advisable.

Off-road tracks unsuitable for wheelchair users.

On local byway network, linked to National Cycle Route 7.

The Walk

From the car park, which itself has magnificent views over Ayrshire, the route dips across the River Stinchar, here a sparkling burn close to its source, through a pleasant picnic area into young pine forest. The path is well defined but can be muddy. It climbs out of the forest within 1km onto rough moorland with heather and scattered rocky outcrops. The highest point, the summit of Cornish Hill, is at 467m and provides an impressive all round view of moors, lochs and far hills. A short, steep scramble down the far side towards the north end of Loch Cornish links up to the continuing trail which follows the infant Water of Girvan for 1km down a steep sided glen from its outlet from the loch. The path is well defined and the worst sections have board walks. Lower down, the route re-enters mixed and coniferous woodland and emerges on a sealed surface minor road which should be followed left back to the car park.

The Birds

Though the possible range is restricted, you can have interesting sightings in an exciting context. Out on the moor there are Red Grouse, Wheatear, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit for sure, and Buzzard, Kestrel and Raven. I have once seen a Merlin sitting tight and it is good Peregrine habitat. Black Grouse used to be common; there was once a lek site here. Common Sandpiper breed around Loch Cornish. The loch itself is quiet, though Goosander, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe are likely. Along the burns, expect to find Grey and Pied Wagtail and, possibly, Dipper. The woodlands do have Goldcrest, and the various tits, especially Coal Tit, and a few Treecreeper. Siskin, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch are all present, taking a special interest in the picnic site. I have been treated to Crossbill in the CP on two occasions – once the male sat on the car mirror for some time, looking in! The ubiquitous Willow Warbler abounds in season. Of the thrushes, Song is quite common, though Mistle and Blackbird are present. Include Robin, Wren and Dunnock of course. I keep looking for Golden Eagle – the terrain is right.

Further Information

Beware: This is Adder country – another reason for wearing boots. You will be extremely lucky to see one, yet on one visit I came across a group of recently born young adders squirming across the heather, watched by a fond parent. The young are reputed to be particularly venomous.

Good mammal sightings may be had: I have seen Mountain Hare, Fox and Roe Deer on the open hill and Forest Enterprise sometimes holds Badger watches in the neighbourhood.

Each year, Forest Enterprise organises a range of activities in the Galloway Forest, including badger watches, and bat, barn owl and nightjar evenings. Details can be had from Tourist Offices or Forest Enterprise, Galloway Forest Office, Creebridge, Newton Stewart, DG8 6AJ (Phone: 01671 402 420). Try their web site.

Maidens Harbour and Shore

Location and Access

Maidens village (NS 21 08) has an attractive harbour much of which dries out at low tide and a foreshore with good feeding for birds. There is a large free car park overlooking the harbour. All the birding is within an easy walk of here. There is also plenty of parking overlooking the beach along Maidens shore road. Buses along the coast by Maybole are regular. Access by cycle is easy and safe from and to Culzean Country Park but take due care if using the main A719 coastal road to Maidens.

Disabled parking. View harbour from car park, foreshore from grassed area but note this area is also used for dog-walking.

A719 approach needs care.


The good combination of rocky promontory, coastal mudflat and sandy beach backed by marram grass attracts a wide range of passage and wintering birds, notably seabirds and waders. The rocky shoreline to the south of Maidens and towards Turnberry point is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Redshank, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Eider, Shelduck and a range of gulls are common. Curlew Sandpiper and Water Pipit have been recordedand pale-bellied Brent Geese have been over-wintering in recent years. An offshore scan may be rewarded with interesting passage and wintering seabirds including Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Diver and Great Crested and Slavonian Grebe.

The rough ground adjoining the beach is good for flocks of Linnet, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, etc.

A family party of Otters was seen playing on the sea from the headland during the New Year Bird Race in January 2002.


Maidens has a good range of catering possibilities ranging from picnicking (with toilets nearby) by the beach to eating in some of the best restaurants in Ayrshire.


Location and Access

These notes relate to one, mainly, of 4 way-marked trails starting from Oswald’s Bridge (NS 87 231) car park by the River Ayr in the grounds of the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), Auchincruive, by Ayr. Information on the trails, including maps, can be had from or from a free leaflet available from tourist offices or public libraries. The notes draw freely on the Waggonway 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.

From Ayr, head out along A719 to the A77 bypass. At the major roundabout intersection continue eastwards along the B743 for Mauchline. In just over 1km turn right for 1km along an unclassified road past the main entrance to SAC Auchincruive. The car park is on the left through a subsidiary entrance just before the bridge over the River Ayr.

All the waymarked trails have interest for the birder but a particularly good sample of lowland Ayrshire habitat can be had by combining the Three Green Knights with the Waggonway.

Network of metalled, paved and un-metalled paths within Auchencruive. Tracks in woods are narrow and steep.

On local byway route to Scottish Agricultural College along river bank from Ayr centre.

The Trail

From the car park, cross Oswald’s Bridge, dating to 1826, over the River Ayr. At this point the river is broad and relatively shallow with well established woodland and grassland banks. The bridge is an excellent vantage point from which to scan the diverse and rich habitat. Turn left immediately down to the water’s edge and follow the path upstream through mixed woodland of Beech, Oak, Scots Pine and Japanese Larch. The opposite bank is open parkland. A steep climb away from the river leads to a track across open grassland surrounded by woodland with distant views of the Carrick Hills and Isle of Arran. Then re-enter woodland along the Waggonway Trail following the route of a 19th century railway linking inland coal pits to Ayr harbour, initially using horse drawn trucks and later steam locomotives. The path eventually climbs steeply to a spectacular viewpoint high above the river, reputed to be a favourite of Sir William Wallace of historic fame. The return to start is by a farm track over Loudon Law through a pastoral landscape of open views, very typical of much of Ayrshire.

The Birds

At any time of year the river is habitat for Dipper, Kingfisher, Grey and Pied Wagtail, Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, Heron and Mallard. In summer, Swallow and House Martin hunt over the water. Sand Martin may come from a down stream colony and Swift hunt overhead. Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Buzzard are the most likely raptors to be seen. The trail passes through Pheasant Nook. Lapwing and Curlew browse the fields in winter together with various of the gull family but the habitat is less favourable for breeding. Flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing are common in winter and Blackbird, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush are present all year. The woods are home to Blue, Coal, Great and Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Goldcrest and Great Spotted Woodpecker, with Spotted Flycatcher in summer. Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Siskin are readily seen, Bullfinch more occasionally. Typically, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Garden Warbler can be expected in season, and possibly Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat where conditions are right. Yellowhammer should be present but is becoming a rarer sighting. And we must not forget the Starling, Rook, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and, increasingly common Magpie. Jay is a possible sighting. Though the entrance to the car park closes at dusk, there is an alternative route out through the SAC grounds for those staying on to listen and search for Tawny Owl.

Further Information

The other walks cover a broadly similar range of habitat in differing proportions and are worth exploring.

The large building visible up river from the car park and various points along the trail is Oswald Hall, built in 1767 to a design by Robert Adam. Oswald was a wealthy merchant who bought Auchincruive in 1764 and included among his accomplishments the role of chief negotiator during the War of American Independence, earning the nickname Richard the peacemaker. He rose from humble origins to a position of enormous wealth, largely as a result of his involvement in the slave trade – an unpleasant facet of his character – but, no doubt, simply a son of his time.

Troon and Barassie

Location and Access

This section of the Ayrshire coast stretches from Barassie in the north marked by Stinking Rocks (NS 23 3) down to the end of Troon marked by Meikle Craigs (NS 25 285). This takes in North and South Sands, and the Troon Harbour and yacht marina. The harbour has become busier recently with the Seacat ferry to Northern Ireland. To get here follow the ferry signs from A76/A77. There are railway stations at Barassie and Troon on the Ayr-Glasgow line.The best places to park are:

  1. Troon Swimming Pool (NS 21 14)
  2. Troon harbour (NS 09 16)
  3. the car park at NS 07 13

The beaches in this area are clean and popular with walkers (with dogs!), jet-skiers and windsurfers. It is possible to walk along the beach to Irvine. There are good views of the Clyde and the Isle of Arran.

Good parking at swimming pool and ballast bank. View from car parks or metalled footpaths.

National Cycle Route 7 passes near best viewing sites.


This area has three main highlights. Firstly, the harbour is a magnet for gulls in winter, Iceland and Glaucous are often resident, with Mediterranean Gull an annual visitor. The Seacat Jetty and inner harbour are particularly good for close views of the northern gulls. The inner harbour is also good for Black Guillemot (up to a dozen at a time) as well as Eider and Red-breasted Merganser.

The ledges on the seaward-side of the harbour wall is a roost for Kittiwakes, Turnstones, Shags and Cormorants. To view this area park in the old Seacat car park, go down onto the beach and head to the right. This is only possible about an hour after high tide. The wall takes a curve which requires you to walk to the sea edge. As the tide goes out, you will gradually be able to see the wall and the ledges. (See photo on the right) [Addition Aug-2006 by Tom Cameron]

Secondly, the third car park above is good for sea-watching. Offshore can be seen Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Storm and Leach’s Petrel (I’m told!), and all three commoner Divers. The rocks in front have Purple Sandpiper.

Lastly, the North Shore, best seen from the Swimming Pool car park, is a good wader and gull roost. This is where to look for gulls that didn’t appear at the harbour. This area is also worth looking for Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Twite (flocks of up to 40 around the high-tide line) and Brent Geese.

Other Information

There are decent cafs and restaurants around the Marina and in Troon.