Starting in Catrine, follow the course of the River Ayr through woodland to the impressive Ballochmyle Viaduct. It is the highest masonry railway viaduct in Britain and even featured in a scene in the movie Mission: Impossible! You also have the option to take a short de-tour to discover one of the most extensive areas of ring and cup marks ever found in the UK (very boggy and uneven ground to reach it). Total return distance is 3.7 miles. Being on the Failford to Catrine section of the River Ayr Way means that you can extend the walk in either direction should you wish. Terrain is mostly earth footpaths and quiet roads but can be muddy at times.
Dog-friendly walk (one wire fence to cross to reach the ring & cup marks)
Getting there: There is a public car park on corner of Wood Street, Catrine (KA5 6RJ). There is also a local bus service with stops at Mill Square, at the start of the route.
Route: The walk starts at Mill Square, Catrine. Exit Mill Square on Bridge Street, cross the River Ayr and then turn immediately right onto Holm Farm Road. Follow this minor road past a few houses and after the last house at a bend in the road continue straight ahead onto a narrow earth path (continuing to follow the course of the river). Stay on this path, eventually passing beneath the A76 viaduct and go down the steps to meet up with a minor road. Turn right and cross a stone bridge over the river, continuing along the road for approx 500 metres until you reach a footpath on your left with River Ayr Way signage on the gate. At the other side of the gate is a large grassy area. [Optional de-tour to ring and cup markings: veer right along the faint grassy footpath heading across towards some trees and a small stream. Follow it, cross the wire fence and then the stream and straight ahead through the trees you will come to a large block of red sandstone which is home to the ring and cup marks. The ground here is extremely uneven and muddy so do take care. Return to the River Ayr Way path the same way]. Continue along the main River Ayr Way footpath through another short woodland section to reach the Ballochmyle railway viaduct. Return by the same route.
WALK REPORT: 20th December 2017
When I went out with the Scottish Wildlife Trust Ayrshire to do some volunteering for the first time, I certainly didn’t expect to be writing up a new walk report afterwards! Winding down for Christmas, the plan was to clean out some bird nesting boxes at the beautiful Ayr Gorge Woodland before stopping by Catrine House Coffee Shop (now closed) for some of their delicious home-made ice cream and finish with a short walk along the River Ayr to try and find some ancient ring and cup marks which Harry had read about online. I was delighted at the prospect of a day out and about exploring! I had already walked some of the River Ayr Way and the day I did the Failford to Catrine section I met someone who told me about the ring and cup marks and how to get to them but short on time, I hadn’t investigated any further, nor given any thought to them since….. Between Harry who had the location co-ordinates of the marks, me with my vague memory of what I’d been told almost 2 years ago, and directions given to us by a local dog-walker, we managed to find them without too much trouble.
Across the grass, over the fence, jumped the stream, through the trees and mud, up the slope…. and there they were! Huge walls of red sandstone covered in various shaped rings and dents. Only found in 1986, the carvings are thought to date back to the bronze age and have now been designated a scheduled ancient monument.
Before heading back to the cars I suggested taking a wander along to the railway viaduct which I knew was only a short distance away and an interesting feature of the area since it is the tallest masonry railway viaduct in the UK! Part of the Glasgow to Carlisle line, the viaduct is still in use today and standing beneath it really lets you appreciate it’s jaw-dropping height and the work that must have gone in to building it back in 1846.
Try some other sections of the River Ayr Way >> Find them HERE