Walk 164 – Brown Carrick Hill & The Ayrshire Coast – 8.2 miles

The download/follow button on this post contains an affiliate link from which I make a small commission. More info in the Privacy Policy – linked in footer. 

A combination of lowland hills and rocky coastlines: perfection in a walk! Starting in the picture-perfect fishing village of Dunure in south west Scotland, you will wind your way up into the Carrick Hills before descending to sea level to return to the beginning via one of the most stunning and rugged sections of the Ayrshire Coastal Path. On a clear day you will enjoy spectacular panoramic coastal views from the summit of Brown Carrick Hill (287 m / 941 ft): the best vantage point in the area!


TERRAIN: Roadside pavements and verges, gravel tracks, grassy (sometimes boggy) farmland and hill trails, small section of felled trees, pathless section across the hillside, single track road, rocky shoreline and sandy beach. There is 1,020 ft of gradual ascent and descent, several stiles, and a long set of steps (downhill) with no handrail. There is a high chance of encountering livestock on this route, both on the hill and on the coastal path north of Dunure.

  Parking available at Kennedy Park, Dunure (chargeable, seasonal). Closest train station is in Ayr, 7.5 miles away with a local bus service operating between Ayr and Dunure.

Route map - Brown Carrick Hill

WALK REPORT: 19th August 2017, 6th January 2018 & 24th February 2023

It took me two attempts at this walk to get it right, a tiny error on the summit taking me off in the wrong direction first time around!  The result was a complicated descent and not one which I would encourage anyone else to follow, unless you like the sound of steep hillside fields full of cows and sheep?

It was a beautiful warm summer day when I set off alone to try out this route. The radio masts atop Brown Carrick Hill can be seen for miles around and I had passed them by car hundreds of times so I was very keen to get up there! The Ayrshire Coastal Path official guide book suggests it as a high-level de-tour and with my local knowledge I knew that it could then be made into a loop using the coastal path trail to return to the start.

The walk was uphill from the get-go however good tracks facilitated things for most of the way. A lovely little fishing loch appeared out of nowhere just where the track joined with the Dunure-Maybole hill path (one for another day!) The light was hitting it just perfectly! I thought it would be a nice place to have a picnic some day but my husband has since informed me that I would need to share my sandwich with a swarm of midges so perhaps not…

Sheep running along hillside farm tracks overlooking the Firth of Clyde and Isle of Arran.
Looking back along the farm tracks towards a hazy Isle of Arran
An old metal gate leading to a small fishing loch surrounded by mature forestry. A sign at the gate says "Private Fishing".
Fishing loch up on the hillside

Between this point and the summit there was little by way of a path so I was grateful once again for my pre-plotted route on my mobile app, showing me what way to walk. It has been made all the trickier thanks to some recent (2022) tree felling just beyond the fishing loch, which has covered the ground in broken tree branches and stumps, making it fairly challenging to get through this short 200m section (not impossible though – just take your time, follow my instructions above and photos below to stay on track!)

Pathless grassy plateau on approach to Brown Carrick Hill
Beyond the fishing loch the track disappears. Walk parallel to the row of trees on your right, at the end of which is a stile (see next photo). Note: there are sometimes cows on this section.
Hillside covered in felled tree branches
Branches and tree stumps make this short section difficult. For simplicity and to make sure you don’t miss the gate, my advice is to cross over it as best you can heading for the fence visible at the other side. Once at the fence, turn right and follow it along to the gate.

Once out on the open hillside I heard the chatter of voices behind me and on turning around I saw two men approach from the same direction I had. For some reason I got spooked and started to imagine some neds from the villages following me up planning some nasty act and I practically jogged across the ridge to the trig point. From there the view was simply stunning, and I got so carried away taking photos that I was still there when the men caught up with me. To my relief (although I wasn’t really surprised) they were really nice guys, both high school teachers in the area, and we chatted for a while about the view, other walks we had done, where we were headed the rest of the day, etc. Silly brain playing tricks on me!

Trig point on Brown Carrick Hill
Brown Carrick Hill trig point – Ailsa Craig on the horizon
Panoramic view looking north along the Ayrshire Coast from the summit of Brown Carrick Hill
View looking north along the Ayrshire Coast

From the trig point I could clearly see the radio masts however I wasn’t sure whether I needed to aim for the seaward or inland side of them to pick up my route down to the road. The whole hill is farmland with barbed wire fences all over the place so I spotted a gate and headed for it. From here a path of some sort led me further downhill to another gate and so on until I eventually checked my position to realise I was way off course and was going to have to clamber down the hillside to meet up with the road further down than planned. Honestly this must be the steepest farmland in Scotland! Thankfully the cows and sheep were very friendly, moving out my way as I trampled over their grass.

So I returned 5 months later to try the walk again, this time aiming directly for the masts via a different gate further along the fence. My friend Eve came along this time. She was new to hills but liked coastal walks and I knew that she would just love this whole route! Stopping at the trig point a little longer than we should have (we are on a trig bagging mission this year and this was #1!), we had fun taking photos from various angles and admiring the awesome view across to the snow-capped mountains of Arran, Ailsa Craig and all the way along the northern section of the Ayrshire coast. An early morning haze hid the view to the east which I was disappointed about as I knew that the Galloway Hills were out there! After finding shelter from the icy wind long enough to have an alfresco lunch, the haze began to lift slightly and the outline of the hills near New Cumnock and south to Straiton became visible. Just magical.

We stayed inland of the masts this time around and as though to make me look like an idiot, a surfaced road appeared at the other side, zig zagging right up to them! I knew that this was probably the one that led to the road. So easy…. We saw a grassy footpath leading downhill in a north-easterly direction which we decided to follow instead as it was more aesthetically pleasing! As expected it emerged onto the road, from where the walk down to A719 was really enjoyable, with views across to the Isle of Arran the whole way.

Hazy hills on the horizon
Hazy view to the south east, inland
Single track road winding downhill towards a snow-capped Isle of Arran
Single track road leading down to the A719. A snow-capped Isle of Arran visible all the way down.

Now it was time for the rookie error! We headed past Heads of Ayr Caravan Park,  along the dismantled railway, across the fields and down the steps of steep Fisherton Gully to the rocky shore. The views had been simply stunning the whole way and you can see some examples of this from the photos below, taken during my summer trip! Today however, I had been able to tell for some time that the tide was further in than I thought it would be, but I hoped that there would be enough shoreline left to pass safely the short distance to the next gully which would take us once again to higher ground. Alas, we were too late.

I had carefully checked the expected high tide time before setting off: 3pm. The time was now 2pm and at one tiny section which jutted out that bit more than the rest, the tide was already lapping the bottom of the cliffs. There was no way past. I was gutted, not least because I loved this section of the Ayrshire Coastal Path and I knew that just around the corner was another bay which would have been passable. Had we arrived at this point even 15 minutes earlier we would have been able to get round.

There was nothing else for it but to clamber back up Fisherton Gully. Fortunately, being a volunteer with the Ayrshire Coastal Path I had been out working on the gully recently, which meant that I knew of a way to access the main road without retracing our steps all the way back to the caravan park which would have been enough to make us both cry. We then headed back to Dunure along the grass verge of the A719. Not the best end to the day! It just goes to show… even though I knew to check the tide times, and did so, and even though I actually work along the trail and knew this area was prone to hide tide issues, I still managed to get caught out!

Steep gully steps which lead down to the Firth of Clyde on the Ayrshire Coastal Path at Fisherton.
A work in progress – Ayrshire Coastal Path volunteers and members of Ayr Rotary Club have been working hard on the Fisherton Gully project all winter to make it safer and easier for walkers to descent to the rocky shore below. 
Daisies growing on a pebble beach - photo taken a low tide
Taken in summer with the flowers in bloom, this photo shows the rocky shoreline. So remote, so spectacular. 
Rocky shoreline at high tide - the water lapping the bottom of the cliffs
I wasn’t so lucky during my winter visit. The tide was too far in at the end of the bay and there was no way past these cliffs. In future I shall aim to be there 2hrs ahead of expected high tide time, rather than the 1hr today!

On both my earlier and later visits to this walk I did much better with the planning and learned that it is sometimes more sensible to do the route in a clockwise direction to get the tidal stretch out the way first on a rising tide.

A stunning section of coastline awaits with a real mixture of terrain: rocky shoreline, clifftops, disused railway, sandy beaches…. a little bit of everything! And the views…… wow.

A steep bracken-lined embankment separates cliff-top fields from the sandy beach at Bracken Bay
Bracken Bay – has to be the best view in Ayrshire at any time of year! 
Rocky shoreline at Dunure, with the harbour buildings and castle ruins visible.
The village of Dunure coming into view towards the end of the walk <3

Share This Post

Support the continued creation of free, high quality content on this website by becoming a Patron or by making a one-off donation.