Location: Ayrshire Grade: Easy semi-urban walk Distance: 4.5 miles/7km Time: 2-3 hours (not including stops)
THIS walk is all about storytelling. The village of Alloway, just south of Ayr, has many associations with Robert Burns, the master storyteller in verse, and if you do the walk soon you also have the opportunity to see an amazing series of paintings by Alexander Goudie.
Appropriately, the walk starts at Burns Cottage, where the poet was born on January 25, 1759. It is now part of the Burns museum complex at Alloway and you can either visit it now or leave it to the end of the walk.
From the cottage it is a short walk into Rozelle Park, a pleasant green space with many mature trees. At its centre are Rozelle House and the MacLaurin Art Gallery. The gallery holds regular events and exhibitions and at present has on display the full series of 54 magnificent paintings by Goudie vividly telling the story of Tam o’Shanter, one of Burns’ bestloved works. This is the first time the entire series has been on show together for nearly 20 years and it is an opportunity not to be missed. But note: the exhibition closes on March 12
eaving the gallery, the walk continues past two attractive ponds holding a good variety of birdlife to reach an area called Remembrance Woodland featuring a number of very fine wooden sculptures of scenes from the First World War, part of the centenary commemorations. There are about a dozen at present and more are being added. A leaflet giving more information is available at Rozelle House.
From the sculpture area return past the ponds to the main drive and leave the park. Cross the road and enter Belleisle Park, another large open area with a golf course. Walk across to Belleisle House, which looks rather forlorn. This gracious 18th-century mansion, which was extensively remodelled by the architect William Burn around 1830 and was formerly the golf clubhouse, was sold in 2012 to private developers who had ambitious plans to turn it into a luxury 90-room hotel with a spa and facilities for weddings and conferences. Sadly, the scheme has hit a number of problems, including a fire last year, and there seems to be nothing much happening at present. Belleisle is a listed building so can’t be demolished (nor indeed should it be) and it is to be hoped that a solution can be found soon.
Pass the Belleisle Conservatory, beautifully restored with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and leave the park to cross the River Doon, passing (if you can) the Secret Garden, an excellent tearoom and restaurant. Somehow I find my footsteps irresistibly drawn into these places… The walk continues down to the shore where there is another story to be told – of the persistence of Ayr Rotary Club in setting up the Ayrshire Coastal Path and of both they and Sustrans in getting the funding for the splendid bridge that now spans the Doon where it empties into the sea (note: this bridge is still not on most OS maps). From the bridge you get a grand view of the town of Ayr.
The walk continues on a cyclepath, part of the long-distance NCN7 route. Over to the right you can see the gaunt ruin of Greenan Castle, a 17th-century Kennedy stronghold. The cyclepath is clearly signed and leaves the houses behind at a right fork, climbing to a high point which offers more good sea views.
The route then turns sharp left and heads back towards Alloway. This section is being sealed and you may come across a gang working on it. Ask politely and they will let you through.L
NCN7 is left behind after crossing the A719 and the final part of the walk is on a relatively new cycleway using an old railway line. It takes you back to Alloway and the Burns complex where there is much to see – the main museum, which superbly tells the story of bard’s too-short life, the old Brig o’Doon, central to the tale of Tam o’Shanter, the Burns monument and old Alloway Kirk where Burns’ father is buried.
A short stroll along the Poet’s Walk featuring Burns-related sculptures (including the largest mouse I have ever seen – no cowerin’ timorous beastie this one) takes you back to the start.
Start/Finish: Burns Cottage car park, Alloway (GR: NS335185) Transport: . Regular trains and express buses from Glasgow to Ayr. Local bus from Ayr to Alloway. Details from www.travelinescotlandcom Information: Ayr TIC, 01232 290300. www.themaclaurin.org.uk
Route: Walk past Burns Cottage (or visit) cross road and TR (Clochanhill Rd). TL Well Park and at end cross road and take small path into Rozelle Park. At Bridle Path TR and follow path to pavilion. TL on road and walk up to Rozelle House. After visiting, leave in same direction and take first path on R to walk by pond. At end of pond walk round sculpture area then take any path by ponds back up to main drive. TR and exit park. Cross road, TR and in 100m TL at gate into Belleisle Park. Cross golf course and walk up to Belleisle House. TL in front of house and walk past Conservatory. TR up steps then L on path. Fork L and walk out to park exit. TR on road, at T-junction TL to cross River Doon. Take first R in 200m (Scaur o’Doon Road). Walk to end at shore and TL. Follow NCN7 cyclepath signs along Greenan Road and then fork R to continue with cyclepath. In 1km (at house) turn left as signed. Follow cyclepath to A719 road. Cross with care, TL and in 50m take cyclepath on R (not signed). Follow this path (old railway line) for 2km back to Alloway. After going through long tunnel go R up path. To leave, follow signs for Burns Cottage over footbridge and along the Poet’s Walk.
Fine wooden sculptures in the Remembrance Woodland in Rozelle Park depicting scenes from the First World War