Much of the River Ayr Way has SSSI designation (Site of Special Scientific Interest). SSSI‘s are the best examples of our natural heritage of wildlife habitats, geological features and landforms. An SSSI is an area that has been notified as being of special interest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Ayr Gorge is one such example as it is one of the finest examples of native woodland in the West of Scotland. It is also home to kingfishers, spotted flycatchers, dippers, grey wagtails and great spotted woodpeckers. May and July provide the best opportunity to see otters, badgers, bats and roe deer.
Glenbuck Loch, the source of the River Ayr has also been awarded SSSI designation because of the fossilised fish in its water. Sightings of osprey have also been reported here.
Muirkirk and North Lowther Uplands is a SPA (Special Protection Area). It is of outstanding interest for its variety of upland habitats and breeding birds. There are large tracts of blanket bog, wet and dry heaths and upland grasslands and this diversity of habitats supports a rich variety of internationally important moorland breeding birds - short eared owl, hen harrier, merlin, peregrine and golden plover and its wintering population of hen harriers.
Airds Moss is managed by RSPB Scotland as a nature reserve. It is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for its population of hen harriers, peregrines, short-eared owls, merlins and golden plovers. It is also a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and SSSI for its rare blanket bog habitats. Some of these designations are among the highest levels of protection for wildlife and habitats in Europe.
Local Nature Reserve
Catrine Voes is East Ayrshire’s first local nature reserve. The river provides the ideal habitat for Atlantic Salmon as well as being home to water voles, otters, kingfishers, heron and dippers. Look out for the salmon run during late March, April and early May and again in the autumn as they begin their journey back to the ocean for the winter. Sea trout, brown trout and eels, water shrew, voles and lampreys are also present in and along the river.
Listed wildlife sites are found most of the way along the River Ayr Way and our changing seasons bring exciting changes to the wildlife in East Ayrshire. Let us know about your wildlife spots