History of The River Ayr Way

As the River Ayr Way twists and meanders on its way to the sea, it also travels through Ayrshire’s rich and varied history.

The river Ayr has inspired Robert Burns and helped hide William Wallace from English troops. It has created a village and powered the industrial revolution.

Find out more about some of Ayrshire’s most famous worthies on this walk – William Wallace, Robert Burns, John Loudoun Macadam and Tibbie Pagan are just a few. Discover more of the rich industrial past of the area and the bloody Covenanting times which led to almost 50 years of strife in the area.

Learn more about the mills that the water powered including Catrine Mill designed by David Dale, who built New Lanark, and admire the stunning 14th century Sorn Castle.

Admire the stunning engineering feat of Ballochmyle viaduct which, when it was finished in 1848, was the world’s largest masonry span arch before seeking out the nearby Cup and Ring markings which are carved into the sandstone. The carvings have been dated between the Neolithic and early Bronze Age and site is now among the top 10 most important ‘Cup and Ring’ sites in Britain.

Ayr Gorge, Failford, was where the final parting of Robert Burns and his sweetheart ‘Highland Mary' occurred in 1786.  You can also see Peden’s Pulpit, a set of steps carved into the sandstone leading to the spot where the covenanter, Alexander Peden, preached to his congregation on the other side of the river.

As a young man, William Wallace had a violent encounter with English forces and was forced to flee to Auchencruive near Ayr, where he spent a great deal of his time hiding in Leglen Wood and by the banks of the river Ayr.

Download the PDF on this page for a more in depth look at the River Ayr Way’s history