Around Alloway, Ayrshire

Grade: Easy walk on footpaths and pavements

Distance: 4 miles/6km

Time: 2 hours

IT’S hard to imagine what Alloway must have looked like in the days of Robert Burns. Rural, agricultural, with small whitewashed cottages and some larger farms. Today it’s a smart suburb of the town of Ayr with sprawling housing estates and an intricate network of roads.

But fear not. The village centre is still atmospheric and pleasant and there is a very good network of local off-road paths that carry you round some of the sites associated with Robert Burns. The excellent Robert Burns Birthplace Museum opened about ten years ago and is full of artefacts and memorabilia connected with the Bard - there is also a very good tea-room, ideal for us to sit with a coffee and scone and plan our walk.

We left the museum and followed signs past Alloway Parish Church to a much more interesting place of worship. The Auld Kirk was built in 1516 and was the site of the dancing witches that so beguiled poor old Tam in Burns’ wonderful poem Tam O’Shanter. And it’s here you’ll find the grave of William Burns, the Bard’s father.

The National:

Just across the road we followed more signs to the impressive Burns National Monument and Memorial Gardens. The Memorial is an imposing construction with a circular room that contains a bust of Burns, but climb the steep stairs to the top to get an excellent view of the layout of the gardens. Our winter visit didn’t give us the best of it but I imagine on a fine summer’s day this view would be glorious.

Just past the Memorial we entered a more rural scene. A cobbled bridge crosses the River Doon here, the Brig o’ Doon that features so prominently in Tam O’Shanter. At this point Tam’s horse Meg loses her tail to the witch called Nannie, who couldn’t cross the bridge so Tam makes good his escape.

The National:

Once across the bridge a fairly muddy path took us below the driveway to Doonholm Estate and then the main road. We passed the locked gates of the Estate entrance and crossed the road to Longhill Avenue. A couple of hundred metres along this road a path and wooden steps gave access to the Sustrans cycleway on the track of the former Ayr to Turnberry railway line. Mid-morning on a Saturday and it was being well used by cyclists, runners and dog-walkers.

We turned right along this path and followed it for what felt like a long way. One of the problems with converted railway tracks is that the old lines were often deep down between embankments so you don’t get much of a view. I must admit I felt some relief when it eventually reached the A79 Maybole Road. We turned left here and followed the pavement to the first turning into Kersepark. We then turned right into Pemberton Valley - who thinks up these street names?

A couple of hundred metres along this road we escaped the tarmac by turning right onto a footpath between houses and followed a very pleasant woodland path above the Slaphouse Burn. We crossed a road, picked up the path again and at a prominent junction, turned left into Rozelle Park. We stuck to the footpath which passed behind the Pavilion and soon reached Rozelle House and its wonderful tree on which someone has made some excellent carvings. You’ll find a face, a squirrel, an eagle and a great hand holding a clock. It’s very impressive.

We wandered through the park, past the duck ponds and out onto the main road which we followed back to the village centre of Alloway. At the far end we found Burns’ Cottage, complete with its thatched roof and whitewashed clay walls. It was here, on 25 January 1759, that Robert Burns, our finest ever poet, was born. Today the old cottage forms part of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.

Crossing the road again we followed the Poet’s Path, which took us back to our starting point at the museum, just in time for another coffee and scone. I think we deserved it. 

ROUTE PLANNER Map: OS 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 326 (Ayr & Troon)
Distance: 4 miles/6km
Time: 2 hours
Start/Finish: Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway (GR: NS 335180)
Transport: Regular bus service from Ayr to Alloway. Express bus X77 from Glasgow stops in Alloway
Information: Ayr TIC, 0192 290300, Burns Birthplace Museum, 01292 442700,
Refreshments: At the Birthplace Museum and in Rozelle House

Route: Leave the museum and turn L, passing Alloway Parish Church. Cross the road to visit the Auld Kirk. Recross the road and head towards the entrance to the Birthplace Museum. Visit the memorials and continue through the gardens to a sign that points out the Brig O’Doon. Cross the bridge and continue below the Doonholm Estate drive, turn R and cross the main road to Longhill Ave. Head along the road for 200 m and look out for wooden steps leading off to the R. Descend to the cycle path, turn R and follow it to the A79 Maybole Road. Turn L, then first L into Kersepark then turn R into Pemberton Valley. After 250m turn R between houses onto a footpath. Turn L after a short distance and follow path through woodland to reach a road. Cross and continue on path. At a prominent junction turn L and follow path behind the Rozelle Pavilion. Continue to Rozelle House, and on past the duck pond to leave the park at the main road. Cross, turn L and continue into Alloway and Burns’ Cottage. Cross road and follow Poet’s Path back to the Museum.

The National:

Link for digital map: © Crown copyright 2020 Ordnance Survey. Media 059/20.