Naturally Burns

This 2-day itinerary of light walking takes you into the heart of Robert Burns country to explore the very land that inspired him. Both walks are ideal for dog-walkers. Download the full itinerary PDF from the link on the right hand side of this page. If you would like to receive a copy of the ‘Burns and the south west’ leaflet by post then email your request including your name and postal address to

  • River Ayr Way through Ayr Gorge Woodlands, near Failford
    A trail on the River Ayr Way through Ayr Gorge Woodlands, near Failford

Start in Mauchline. Get a sense of the man and his social life from a visit to the cemetery of Mauchline Parish Church in the town centre. Here are buried many of the friends and family of Burns, including his brother and four of his children.

For morning coffee, stop at the small Fairburn Hotel within a few minutes’ walk of the Church where Robert Burns attended the Reading Club in 1796. Or take a break at Poosie Nansie’s: the pub looks much as it would have done in Burns’ day from the outside.  Named after its owner, the tavern had a poor reputation and its goings-on inspired Burns to write The Jolly Beggars.  Locals say Burns was often seen peering in the window at the gable end!

Drive to Failford. Just 100 yards along from the Failford Inn, on the other side of the bridge over the Fail Water Burn, is the Ayr Gorge Woodlands Wildlife Reserve – a beautiful walk following the quiet wooded banks of the River Ayr, which undoubtedly inspired Burns. 

Birds, plants, bats and fungi occupy the ancient woodlands which have remained relatively undisturbed for centuries.  Oak, ash and larch crowd the ravine but walking has been made easier under the care of the Scottish Wildlife Trust which has created hand-railed footpaths in places.  This 5.4km walk (3½ miles) from Failford to the hamlet of Stair is part of the River Ayr Way.  Keen walkers may prefer to keep hiking but the length of this walk fits perfectly with enjoying a great lunch in Stair and then walking back to Failford (where you may have left the car!) for drinks or a great pub supper at the 1880s Failford Inn. (Dogs welcome in the bar and there is also a beer garden).

One of the walk’s highlights is Peden’s Cove where covenanters in the mid-17th century congregated to hear the sermons of their outlawed minister, Alexander Peden, from the opposite bank of the river.

Start in Minishant for a great walk up Brown Carrick. Before you leave the village, there’s a wee shop in the main street for picnic provisions. Walk south and turn right into School Road. Follow the road through fields and light woods until the crossroad at Culroy. Turn left, then immediate right, following signs for the Carrick Hills.

Follow the road past arable fields. At the crossroads past Knockdon turn right and follow the road over the rolling hills before you begin the ascent.  The gradual climb takes you over streams and brooks, past quaint cottages, along a road virtually untouched for centuries bordered by shrubs, grasses and thistles. Corridors of green shade and lush woods give way to the open hillside revealing tremendous views across the region. 
At the summit, a Cairn indicates the best view point.  The 360-degree panorama takes in rolling hills with grazing livestock to the built up coastline of Irvine and Ayr as well as stunning scenes over the Firth of Clyde to the isle of Arran. The only whisky distillery on the island of Arran is a patron of the World Burns Federation and the distillery has created a Robert Burns Single Malt and Robert Burns Blended Whisky.

Begin your descent by continuing on the single track road through more tranquil farmland. At the crossroads at the bottom of the hill, turn left to continue walking to the two-way bus stop on the left side of the road where your walk for the day finishes.

Wet Weather Alternative

If it’s too wet a day for walking in Burns Country or you don’t fancy two consecutive walking days, then visit Rozelle House Galleries with its significant collection of 54 paintings in the Tam o’ Shanter series by Alexander Goudie. Or visit Souter Johnnie's Cottage where Scottish literature comes to life in an 18th-century thatched cottage in the heart of Kirkoswald. This was the home of cobbler (or souter) John Davidson, the real-life Souter Johnnie immortalised in the poem Tam o’ Shanter.