Coastal and marine

With 147km of coastline stretching from Glenapp to Largs, the Ayrshire coastline is brimming with life. The well-known Ayrshire coastal path walk offers plenty of sandy beaches and a transition of habitats from a rural to more urban areas on approach to Ayr. To the south, Glenapp connects to the Mull of Galloway trail and has an impressive landscape of rocky coasts and wild uplands in which seeing peregrine and hen harriers are not uncommon, while salmon can be found in the River Stinchar. Estuarine environments around the mouth of the River Doon provide ideal habitat for waders, with 32 species having been recorded, from Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo to Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus, and rare species such as the Great Northern Diver Gavia immer. Around the national trust property at Culzean can be found a mixed habitat of sandy beaches, woodland, rocky seashore and shingle beaches. You are likely to see Common Seals Phoca vitulina (also known as harbor seals), and Grey Seals Halichoerus grypus  basking on the rocks. If you are lucky you may even see a Harbor Porpoise Phocoena phocoena or an Otter Lutra lutra. Troon harbour and its headland are great areas to see unusual gulls.

The Firth of Clyde is an excellent area for seeing UK basking sharks, while large numbers of porpoises are regular visitors, with the occasional sightings of Humpback Megaptera novaeangliae, Minke Balaenoptera acutorostrata and even Killer whales Orcinus orca. The Ayrshire coast is a key place for breeding seabirds, with 21 of the 24 UK species having bred or currently breeding on the Ayrshire coast and its islands.


Ayrshire also has some important estuarine habitat, formed where rivers meet the sea, a challenging environment for any animal to live in. Ayrshire has two main estuarine areas, one at Fairlie flats, and the other larger estuary covering an area of 20 ha at the Ardeer peninsula where the river Irvine and Garnock meet. A large proportion of this area is designated as an SSSI due to its importance for Eider ducks Somateria mollissima, Goldeneye Bucephala clangula and Red- Breasted Merganser Mergus serrator, as well as being a nationally important feeding area for migratory birds in the spring and autumn months.

The Ayrshire coast also provides the only area of saltmarsh between the Clyde and the Solway estuaries, providing an area of 35 ha rich in invertebrate life and plant species such as Sea Campion Silene uniflora, Glasswort Salicornia spp. and Sea Milkwort Glaux maritima. This in turn provides a rich feeding ground for waders and wildfowl.

Much of the Ayrshire coastline is dominated by rocky shores, a tough environment for any inhabitant to survive this wave battered area. Rocky shores provide hauling out area of grey’s seals as well as having a distinctive form of brown algae called Egg/knotted wrack Ascophyllum nodosum ecad mackii.

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