Site of the Month: Ballochmyle Gorge (October 2022)

Ballochmyle Gorge, a spectacular sandstone gorge of the River Ayr near Mauchline, is densely clothed in broadleaved woodland. Ash Fraxinus excelsior and Pedunculate Oak Quercus robur are the most frequent mature trees, but with significant amounts of Beech Fagus sylvatica, Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus, Hazel Corylus avellana, birches and other species – a recipe for stunning autumn colours.

On the river, Dippers Cinclus cinclus are resident and Kingfishers Alcedo atthis are occasionally seen. All the common woodland bird species are present and reasonably well-recorded, including Nuthatches Sitta europaea in recent years. There is a long list of bryophytes, and the ground flora is dominated by ferns and Great Wood-rush Luzula sylvatica, but we have relatively few records of other flowering plants and fungi. Many invertebrate records relate to feeding signs rather than the creatures themselves, whilst records for mammals such as Hedgehogs Erinaceus europaeus and Otters Lutra lutra relate to the 1960s or 1970s. So, great potential to update and add to these lists.

As an added incentive to visit, the gorge contains two sites of national historical importance. Firstly, on a sandstone outcrop is a group of prehistoric cup-and-ring markings, one of the most extensive in Britain but, remarkably, only discovered in 1986 (though a carved date of 1751 suggests someone knew about them earlier). Secondly, towering high above the trees is Ballochmyle Viaduct, opened in 1846 and still in use today, the central arch of which is believed to be the largest masonry railway arch ever built.

There is a network of footpaths through the gorge, including the River Ayr Way that links with nearby Catrine. There are some precipitous sandstone cliffs in places, so care is needed.

Peter Norman

SWSEIC Project Officer

Website by Red Paint

SUP is registered in Scotland as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. Registered address: The Southern Uplands Partnership, Studio 2, Lindean Mill, Galashiels, TD1 3PE. Company No. SC200827 / Charity No. SCO29475

Back to top