River Ayr Way

Route: Glenbuck to Ayr
Distance: 41.4 miles
Total ascent: 651m
Difficulty: easy
Waymarked: yes (in places)


Opened in 2006, this was Scotland’s first “Source to Sea” walking route and has been designated one of Scotland’s Great Trails. It shadows the River Ayr from its source at Glenbuck down to the coast in Ayr. It winds through countryside that was once highly industrialised with mines and mills but is now farmland and nature reserve. The trail makes use of disused railways, moorland paths, fishermen’s trails, and bridges of metal, wood and stone to take a walker by remnants of the area’s industrial past, woodland from Burns’ verse, meadow, heath and haugh, pretty villages, nature reserves, and sandstone gorges.


This is an easy walk, mostly on good paths. It uses disused railways, woodland, moorland, and farmland paths, with about 20% of the trail on minor roads. This includes an unpleasant walk along the busy road into Failford. There are not any particularly steep sections but there are several long flights of steps in Ayr Gorge. Our dogs needed help to cross a couple of stiles and some of the footbridges. I’m not particularly porky but one of the kissing gates was too slim for me with my rucksack. The many others were fine. The path does sometimes skirt steep drops down to the river, but there isn’t much chance of falling if you are on the path. The path was muddy and flooded in a short section of the diversion near Stair (opposite Dalmore). Whether this was because of recent heavy rains or is a permanent feature, I don’t know. Some low lying parts of the route might flood during heavy rains and in past years footbridges have been washed away.


Much of the route is obvious, being along disused railways, or fenced pathways. There are waymarkers, but not everywhere they are needed. We had to use the map a few times. Some footbridges are not shown on the OS map which can be confusing and the route has a diversion around Stair so differs from the OS map.


We walked the route a day at a time, driving to Ayrshire each day. The limited public transport meant we had to use two cars for each of the sections. I wanted to keep the distance walked for each section to around 10 miles. This would ease us back into our walks, allow ourselves time to ‘stand and stare’ and see how Mabel coped with her first few longish walks. There are several places to access the route where cars can be parked and these determined how we could split the route. Avoiding walks over 10 miles meant we walked some quite short sections but that suited us fine for our first post-lockdown walk.

There are benches and seats along the way that can be useful for breaks.


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies


  1. Glenbuck to Greenock Water 10.55 miles 5h 32m ascent 82m
  2. Greenock Water to Catrine 8.68 miles 4h 28m ascent 111m
  3. Catrine to Failford 7.05 miles 3h 5m ascent 139m
  4. Failford to Tarholm 8.43 miles 4h 7m ascent 207m
  5. Tarholm to Ayr 8.19 miles 3h 55m ascent 113