Walk 178 – Ayr Gorge Woodlands Reserve, Failford – 3.5 miles

Walk 178 – Ayr Gorge Woodlands Reserve, Failford – 3.5 miles

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Reflections of trees and red sandstone gorge into the River Ayr


Ayr Gorge Woodlands Reserve is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Scottish Wildlife Trust Ayrshire. Follow the path of the River Ayr as it flows through a deep red sandstone gorge. This circular / figure-of-eight route takes you around most of the main trails, giving you the opportunity to explore this beautiful ancient woodland including the popular viewpoint at Peden’s Cove. Earth footpaths throughout (can be muddy). Lots of steps and uneven ground as well as uphill/downhill sections. Several benches to rest at. 

Click here for a shorter walk to Peden’s Cove viewpoint & back (2 miles)

Print  Dog-friendly walk (please note some steep embankments next to footpath)

  Small parking area opposite Failford Inn (KA5 5TF). There is also a bus service to Failford from Cumnock or Ayr.

route image  Route Facing the Failford Inn, head right (SW) on B743. Immediately after crossing a bridge over the Water of Fail, turn left (S) to enter Ayr Gorge Woodlands. Follow this woodland trail across a footbridge then up a steep staircase. At the top of the steps follow the trail along for 100m to a bench. Just before the bench turn right (SW) up some uneven ground (path not shown on map). Continue straight ahead at a crossroads then turn left (SE) to follow the footpath around the perimeter of the woodlands. After 450m the path forks. Keep right (S). Follow this high level path for 400m to another fork where you should turn left (E) to go down the steps to the riverside. Follow the path along the River Ayr for 800m to another set of steps heading back uphill. At the top there is an information board about Ayr Gorge Woodlands. Turn right here (NW). This trail takes you back to the fork at the top of the steps from earlier. Keep left this time (don’t go down the steps), and on reaching the next fork turn right (E). At the end of the path turn right (SW) to walk along to Peden’s Cove viewpoint (350m away), then return via the same path to this point. Follow the River Ayr upstream for 900m to reach the bench from the start of the walk on your left-hand side. Continue past the bench to reach the top of the steps and return to the parking area opposite Failford Inn the same way you came.

Route map - Ayr Gorge Woodland walk

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This is one of my favourite walks in Ayrshire and is a place I return to often. Nothing can quite prepare you for the reflections in the river on a calm sunny day, and if you time it right the sun hitting the water shows up the red from the sandstone beneath.

It is a fantastic family walk with lots to hold the kids’ interest. Popular with locals as a place to walk their dogs too. Just remember your wellies if it has been raining because the paths get really muddy (another reason kids love it!)

This route also gives you a great introduction to the River Ayr Way – you will see the marker posts as you wander along. I also love that the river marks the East Ayrshire/South Ayrshire boundary! The walk is on the South Ayrshire side.

Lovingly looked after by the Scottish Wildlife Trust Ayrshire, you will notice that the steps are well-maintained and there are information boards dotted around which tell you about some of the history of the area as well as what wildlife can be spotted.

Not to be missed if doing this walk is the short de-tour along to Peden’s Cove – definitely a hidden gem in Ayrshire! It is both a beautiful, peaceful viewpoint across the river as well as a place of great historical interest. An information board on site tells you all you need to know. It is one of my wishes for places like that to be preserved and for information to be made available about them so that their history is not forgotten through the generations. Peden’s Cove is a great example of that.

Reflections in the River Ayr
The River Ayr as it flows through this magnificent red sandstone gorge. If you time it right, the sunshine penetrating the water makes it glow red!
Staircase with handrail
There are LOTS of stairs along the woodland trails, particularly on the longer route. The shorter circular walk only has one set. Personally I love them, they give the walk a quirky feel and will be popular with kids! 
Reflections in the River Ayr
Reflections in the River Ayr. This was taken on the longer route which is definitely the one to do to experience the beauty of the gorge to the utmost. 
Red sandstone staircase at Peden's Cove viewpoint
The red sandstone staircase at Peden’s Cove (the sandstone wears down easily so in order to preserve this historical site please don’t be tempted to walk on the steps)

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