A stunning circular route through the idylic south Ayrshire countryside, the Fairy Knowe Trail is most definitely one of Scotland’s hidden gems. Beginning either in Barr village or at the Trails Car Park, this walk follows a variety of forest tracks, mossy tree corridors, and hillside footpaths to reach a viewpoint known as the Fairy Knowe. After a short but steep descent, the track returns to the start following the course of the Water of Gregg.
Download a route map HERE (Viewranger app required)
Parking opposite Barr Village Hall or in the Trails Car Park, just off Changue Road (KA26 9TT)
Route: Head east from the parking area opposite Barr Village Hall to follow a track along the Water of Gregg. After approx 1 mile you will reach a fork at a way marker – take the path on the right to ascend towards a forest. After a short distance on the forestry track, look out for a way marker which indicates a left turn and enjoy a very pleasant stroll along a tree-lined grassy footpath. On emerging from the forest the view opens up and you can see the Fairy Knowe on your left, where you are headed now. Follow a grassy path ahead and downhill to cross a footbridge. The path now heads along the opposite side of the burn, steadily ascending to the viewpoint atop Fairy Knowe. Follow the granite steps down the steep slope to a bridge across Laggan Burn then turn left. Continue on this forestry track beside the Water of Gregg for approx 1 mile to return to the Changue Road which will in turn lead you back to the village.
WALK REPORT: 17TH MARCH 2018
Would I like to come to Barr and experience their trails with a local guide? Let me think for a minute….. YES! Ayrshire born and bred, to the best of my knowledge Barr was a village I had never set foot in. I had, however, tried the trails around nearby Dailly and Straiton and and had fallen in love with rural south Ayrshire as a walking destination. Passionate about exploring and discovering new places, I couldn’t wait to get there and see what Barr had to offer. In her message, Maggie explained that they were trying to promote their local trails and with a Trails Open Day in a few months they were keen to show me around.
Even the drive in was incredible. Google maps took me off the A77 earlier than I had thought it would, around Minishant. From there familiar country roads wound their way through the countryside and eventually became a single track road heading towards Barr. A hill pass awaited me, sheep on the road and all. The views were so stunning I actually stopped the car at one point to take photos.
My guide for the day – local lady Merlin Currie – greeted me on arrival and it became immediately apparent that this woman knows her stuff! A keen walker herself, she has a real passion for the Barr trails and along with a small band of helpers she works tirelessly on a voluntary basis to ensure they are kept in tip top condition. Not only that, but as we continued on our 7.5 mile hike she told me many stories about the history of the trails and also the village’s ambitions and exciting plans for them going forward. It is no wonder she was bursting with pride showing off this wonderful location: a hidden gem indeed. More people need to know about it!
We did a combination of three trails: Fairy Knowe, which recently featured in the BBC documentary The Forest, Kirstie’s Cairn, and The Devil’s Footprint.
From the very start the walk was super scenic. We chose to begin from the Village Hall (which is always open and has public toilets) but there is also a Trails Car Park approx a mile along the road which can be used by walkers. The trails are all way-marked however the signage is in need of a little TLC and there are plans afoot to do so. After turning off Changue Road we headed uphill towards a forest and shortly after took a left turn onto the most beautiful tree corridor. Picture vibrant green all around, the footpath a carpet of moss and grass, the sun penetrating the trees and casting shadows on the ground ahead of us. Simply magical. Had it not been for the wooden signpost I would not even have known that this hidden little footpath existed!
Emerging from the trees we caught our first glimpse of the Fairy Knowe where we would now be heading. Another surprise was waiting at the footbridge in the glen – a small gorge with a waterfall tumbling down it. We paused here for a few minutes taking it all in. Uphill from here and along the side of a steep embankment we soon arrived at the viewpoint where we made use of the newly installed bench to have a bite to eat whilst admiring the scenery all around us. It was hard to believe that I was still in Ayrshire: this was the type of view I expect to have to go to the Highlands to see. Yet here it was, an hour’s drive south of my home, and for many it is much much closer!
As we sat, seemingly alone in this wilderness, we caught sight of a man walking his dog down in the glen. Apparently he didn’t see us, as he proceeded to find a suitable tree on which to empty his bladder! The sights you see when you head out to the countryside haha.
We made use of the new granite steps to descend (you can see them being installed in the BBC documentary The Forest), crossed the burn and headed off to the site of Kirstie’s Cairn 1 mile further along the Changue Forest track. More to come on that in my next blog post so stay tuned!