The River Ayr Way has never really taken off, partly because the locals know nothing about it (!); partly because the necessary buses ignore it, following their own rural pathways; and partly because maintenance is subject to an apparently very limited budget. Nevertheless, the bit between Failford and Stair is acknowledged to be the loveliest (even, at the time of writing, with a major diversion around Stair itself) and an alternative route I found back to Auchencruive is equally attractive. Those who followed the ‘official’ route instead of the one I made up were quite late getting back so be warned to add half-an-hour if you’re doing this again. The main walk is just under 9 miles: taking the red route will add a couple of more-difficult miles.
Park on the road to Auchencruive Industrial Estate
If you’re doing this on a Saturday you may be able to park in either the Visitors’ car-park (if the barrier is up) or the car-park for the disabled (if the barrier is down) at what was the old Auchencruive Agricultural College. Otherwise, you should use the official car-park which is half-way down the road on the right. It makes no difference to the length of the walk but it will take you longer to get to the bus stop.
To get there (Satnap postal code KA6 5HW)
Begin by taking your favourite route to the Kingston Bridge and the M77 where it’s a straightforward journey down the M77, following the signs to Ayr, to the Prestwick Roundabout, (take the dedicated lane to Ayr on what is now the A77). Go straight over the roundabout signposted Mossblown and Annbank. A little further on take the left turn signposted St Quivox. This takes you out to the junction with the B743 opposite Auchencruive college gates with a bus stop on the corner. Do a dog leg right on to the B743 and then left to follow the signpost to the Business Park and a brown signpost to Auchencruive Woodland walks. Turn left into the college car-park or drive on further down the road and turn right into the official car park. On the way back you have to turn left on the main road (B743) and go down to the Whitletts Roundabout.
The Main Walk
NB The River Ayr Way (RAW) symbol is a dancing pink walker on a blue path!
Take the bus from the top of the road to Failford. The walk begins more-or-less opposite the bus stop, on the right of The Failford Inn. The path goes straight down to the River Ayr, and an information board. The path straight ahead goes nowhere so you have to climb up steps to get high above the river. You’re now on a level path which eventually drops down to the river again. This time, at a junction, go straight ahead to see Peden’s Pulpit. If you haven’t seen this it’s worth the short detour to visit an impressive remnant from Scotland’s ‘Killing Times’. Retrace your steps and climb gently up again, turning left at the top to continue above the river. At a junction, the Way clearly drops down steeply via wide steps to the River Ayr Gorge, but if you’ve had enough going up and down keep to the high path. You’ll reach the joining of the two ways at a fence, seat, and litter bin. The next bit is very straightforward easy walking. At an obvious stile, just before Stair, there is a ‘temporary’ diversion across a field, round Daldorch Farm and out on to the farm road. Walk up the hill (away from the farm) and bend round to come out on the country road to Stair where you turn left. At Yett turn left again (really going straight downhill). Ignoring the road to Pierhill on the right, continue on down the hill to a path on the right with the RAW signposted and what must be a fenced permissive path. You’re soon on the river bank and another dry lovely stretch below Enterkin House. Go underneath the railway bridge and reach the road (B742) via a very upmarket exit at Gadgirth.
Here cross the road (not the bridge) going slightly to the right and pass under the first of two ‘Dangerous Paths’ notices! The path is fine until long after the second ‘Dangerous Path’ notice when, just as you enter Annbank there’s a steep bit where the steps have washed away. It’s only a few feet but it’s muddy and slippery. Once past this stroll into Annbank at Dunlop Avenue and straight into the Spar Shop. (Awfy nice people and with ice-creams etc.)
Here you have a choice. You can either turn right and walk up the Main Road to Brocklehill Avenue. Turn left here and pick up the path at the end. This goes through a lovely avenue of trees and down to a concrete slab across a burn. Cross the burn (don’t take the path before the burn) and turn left to follow the path towards the River Ayr again. At the top of an obvious rise, go right, downhill, and at the river turn right through a broken down wall. You’re now back on the river again and it’s gorgeous. Hug the river, through a kissing gate and out along a broad track with Oswald House towering above you. At Oswald’s Bridge go back up the road to the car park.
The official RAW turns left in Annbank, opposite the Spar, and goes downhill. It is completely unsignposted. At a lamppost with ‘Fishery’ on it go left down Mill Road which, at a house in front and a lochan on the left, becomes Priven Mill Road. Stay with the road as it bends round to the right and then follow the hand-made notice down to the river’s edge. Turn right along the river and a lovely stretch. At one point the path disappears but follow the obvious course up a slight rise and through a gate and it becomes a path again. A little further on, opposite the second of two islands (I think!) is a set of steps going up and round where the path and the river merge. According to a local the steps are apparently quite steep and slippery. We stayed with the river and it was fine. The tricky bit is no more than 20 yards. The path resumes its onward progress, emerging at a road bridge. Turn left here (no pavement) crossing where suggested and re-entering woods on the opposite side of the river. This stretch was very muddy but soon became part of the local network of paths and emerged at Wallace’s Seat. Here the RAW turned left at a clear sign and I followed this. It was muddy and overgrown and I suspect most people now take the clear well-made path on the right emerging right on Oswald Bridge. Turn right here for the car.