Walk 23 – River Ayr Way (Ayr Harbour to Auchincruive) – 5.6 miles

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Start your journey along the River Ayr Way at Ayr Harbour. This linear route then follows the course of the river upstream through part of historic Auld Ayr and into scenic woodland before leading you beneath the A77 trunk road and out into quiet countryside all the way to Oswald's Bridge. There you can visit the Wallace Burns Cairn.

For a longer circular walk option, try this 11.3 mile route which brings you back along the south bank of the River Ayr and a pedestrianised area beside the historic Citadel.

TERRAIN: A mix of roadside pavements, surfaced paths, woodland trails (blaze, earth) and country roads. One short section along the busy A77 trunk road where there is a narrow pavement with no railing. One set of shallow steps with handrail. No steep hills.

buggy friendly image  Buggy-friendly walk (Note: one set of shallow steps after crossing Craigholm Bridge, possible to bump up them. Parts of this walk can also become very muddy underfoot)

  There are buses between Auchincruive and Ayr – the bus stop is on B743, 0.8 miles NW of Oswald’s Bridge. Parking available close to the start point in Queens Terrace Lane car park, outside Horizon Hotel, Ayr (KA7 1DT). Ayr Bus Station is 0.4 miles away and Ayr Train Station is 1 mile away. At Auchincruive there are a few parking spots around about Oswald’s Bridge, just small lay-bys. There is also a small car park a little off-route at this office building (always quiet at weekends).

Route map - Ayr to Auchincruive

WALK REPORT: 21st March 2016 and 1st February 2023

This walk took us to parts of Ayr we didn’t know existed, right from the get-go. We had never for example, walked right along to the end of the Esplanade and out to the little lighthouse building on the end of the pier. Nor had we ever taken the time to walk through and appreciate Auld Ayr. So many sculptures, statues and plaques to read. So much history. I loved the effort that has obviously gone in to preserving it and informing visitors about it.

We had some path and street closures to negotiate and there was a fair amount of building work going on. First up, a small section of South Harbour Street was closed due to a broken sewer pipe. I knew about this before we went because it had been all over social media and seemed to be causing havoc for drivers (as we found out when we tried to get out of Ayr later to go home!), but for pedestrians it was not an issue. Our de-tour actually took us through a lovely area beside historic Loudoun Hall which we’d have missed out otherwise. We spent a while there reading the information boards and admiring the artworks and building itself.

Next up was the area around the new Cutty Sark Centre which was all still under construction. There was metal fencing around it and lots of people hard at work on the site. It looked close to completion with the whole area mono-blocked and benches and planters dotted around. We could imagine loads of people relaxing here on a warm summers day, enjoying the view over the River Ayr.

One thing which was striking was the lack of River Ayr Way marker posts. At the very start there was the Ayr Sculpture and an info board explaining its significance to the River Ayr Way. But no directional signs to tell us where to go from there. In fact, the first one we noticed was at the A77 road bridge, about 3 miles into the walk. Had it not been for me plotting out the route on my mobile mapping app in advance, we’d have had no idea where to go. (Click the purple button above to download the route map to your own phone).

Having done some research when I got home, I managed to find out that South and East Ayrshire councils have purchased way markers and directional arrows for the entire route and hopefully these will be installed soon (pending funding becoming available for the install). So that is reassuring news!

As we made our way gradually out of town, I was amazed at the number of bridges spanning the river over a short distance.

Near the harbour you have New Bridge Street which is one of the main roads in and out of Ayr town centre.

Then there is Old Bridge Street – a charming stone pedestrian bridge which is part of the River Ayr Way.

A little further along the metal railings of Turner’s Bridge appear – another pedestrian bridge which I had crossed often as I used to park in a small car park at the other side of it when coming shopping in Ayr! That car park was out of use at the time of writing due to the demolition of two high rise apartment blocks next to it.

Then you come to the railway viaduct. This is a beautiful stone bridge with perfectly-painted red railings along the top of each side. We remarked at how it must be quite a job to keep them looking like that!

Right beside this is the comparatively ugly road bridge transporting traffic travelling on the A79. This one was drippy to walk under!

So that’s 5 bridges all within approx a 1 mile distance along the river.

Railway viaduct, River Ayr
The path (and river) go beneath the impressive railway viaduct

Leaving the town behind, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in peaceful woodland next to the college and university.

There is a short circular walk on my website which starts from Holmston Road and takes you through these woods and back along the other side of the river. It is particularly scenic in autumn! Check it out here: River & Golf Circular from Holmston Road.

Woodland trail with autumn colours
Woodland section in Autumn
Gravel woodland footpath beside the River Ayr
River Ayr Way near Kyle Academy – photo taken Feb 2023 when the river was in full spate.

I always have to think carefully when I reach the A77 road bridge so that I don’t make a mistake. A lot of people ask me where the River Ayr Way route goes at this point.

There are stairs and a ramp at each side of the bridge and there is also a path which continues along the river. I’ve investigated the riverside path before, because it is the most tempting one to follow when doing a River Walk. However it just fizzles out when you reach the stepping stones.

The next most tempting thing to do is to go up the first set of stairs/ramp, however doing that then presents you with the impossible challenge of crossing the busy A77. Even on a mid-week afternoon there is a constant flow of traffic.

A77 road bridge – what way do we go?!

The “right” way to go is to continue along the river path beneath the bridge and use the ramp or stairs to go up the other side. Tadaaa… you are safely across the A77. But where to go now??

Almost unbelievably and against all intuition, the continuation of the River Ayr Way is along the narrow A77 pavement. It is a very short distance, but not particularly enjoyable especially if any trucks whizz past you! A top tip: look out for puddles at the road edge and stay in if there are any – I have had the unfortunate experience of being splashed before 🙁

If you are a horse-lover you will enjoy the next section of the walk through Mainholm Smallholdings to Oswald’s Bridge: I lost count how many we passed along the way! It’s a lovely peaceful section, though be aware that it does become quite muddy underfoot at times the further along you progress.

Two horses behind a gate
Looking over the side of Oswald's Bridge onto the River Ayr
View from Oswald’s Bridge
Gated entrance to the Wallace Burns Cairn at Oswald's Bridge
Looking up to the Wallace Burns Cairn from the roadside. There is a beautiful gate at it’s entrance with a plaque indicating that it was gifted by the Calgary Burns Club! I didn’t know of this cairn before stumbling across it today and was intrigued to find out more once I got home. I found this document online which gives a very interesting history, not only of the cairn itself but of the local area too.

On my first time doing this route, I had my 2 year old in his buggy and on arrival at Oswald’s Bridge, my mum and I in our great wisdom attempted to take the buggy down a trail at the opposite side of the river looking for a potential circular walk back.

The result was us carrying a ton weight down steps, bumping it over a narrow trail and pushing it through thick muddy tractor tracks. We finally admitted defeat in front of a stile (!!) leading off onto a field with grazing lambs.

I won’t deny that I was gutted to realise the path ended here and we were going to have to go through all of that again to get back to the road! However…. every cloud has a silver lining and I got some lovely photos of Oswald’s Bridge from the path and satisfied my curiosity as to where it leads.

Always an adventure when you go out with Gillian’s Walks!

Read my other River Ayr Way walk reports.

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