Discover the hidden treasures of wild south Ayrshire on this two-way forest drive connecting Loch Doon and Stinchar Bridge. This is one of the easiest ways to discover some of Ayrshire's finest mountain scenery and enjoy a true wilderness experience.
There are several quiet car parks and picnic areas along the 6 mile route, all with fantastic views of the Galloway Hills. There's also a fun adventure playground and picnic area beside picturesque Loch Riecawr.
Look out for the atmospheric ruins of Loch Doon Castle beside the loch, near the eastern entrance to the forest drive. The castle, built in about 1300, originally stood on an island in the loch. It was moved here in the 1930s when Loch Doon became part of a hydro-electric scheme, which raised the water level.
Get a taste of the rugged Galloway Hills by climbing out of the forest onto Cornish Hill. Far-reaching views across Ayrshire to the peaks of Arran.
Long steep slopes for up to 500m. Firm gravel and earth path, with significant rough rocky sections and occasional muddy patches. Includes narrow bridges and a section along the road.
Allow 2 hours
The summit of Cornish Hill is at 1,532 feet (467m). Remember that even in summer the weather can change very quickly in the Galloway Hills, so be prepared.
It’s well worth the climb for the magnificent views of the Ayrshire coast and the rolling hills of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, Shalloch on Minnoch and the mighty Merrick. On a clear day you may even spot the distinctive shape of Ben Lomond over 60 miles away! Pause a while beside Cornish Loch as you descend – it’s an ideal spot for a picnic – and look out for the waterfalls along the Water of Girvan.
This secluded part of the forest park is particularly dark at night, making it a great place to watch the stars. Look out for Dark Sky viewing points at the car parks at Loch Doon and Loch Braden. You can also visit the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory near Dalmellington to find out more about the night sky.
There’s great fishing at the quiet lochs at either end of Carrick Forest Drive. Choose tranquil Loch Braden at the western end for brown trout, and Loch Doon to the east for brown trout, arctic char, perch and pike. You’ll need a permit for fishing Loch Bradan, which is available from any of the three Forest Park visitor centres.
One of the highlights of the forest drive is the Black Grouse Viewing Platform near Loch Riecawr. It’s a great spot to find out more about these fascinating birds and – if you’re very lucky – perhaps even see or hear one. The best time to visit is early in the morning, but you’ll still need to sit quietly and be patient.
The forest drive is a two-way route about 6 miles long. It is suitable for most vehicles.
The nearest places to find toilets, shops and cafès are some distance away at Straiton and Dalmellington. There is a small shop and café at Loch Doon Dam.
The forest drive is open from May to October for motor vehicles, but walkers, cyclists and horse-riders are welcome year-round.
There is a small charge of £2 for vehicles to use the forest drive.
The fee covers the drive as well as parking for the whole day. Tickets can be purchased from The Roundhouse Café, Loch Doon.
Remember to check your fuel before you set off along the forest drive. You won’t find another petrol station until you reach Dalmellington in Ayrshire or Newton Stewart in Dumfries & Galloway.
Carrick Forest Drive is a 6 mile road, open to vehicles between May and October.
The east entrance begins just south of Loch Doon Castle. This can be accessed from the A713 just south of Dalmellington - follow the road signposted for 'Carrick Forest Drive' for about 5 miles.
The west entrance begins at Stinchar Bridge - a small hamlet on the unclassified road that links Straiton (7 miles to the north) and Bargrennan (14 miles to the south).
KA6 7QE is the nearest postcode for the east (Loch Doon) forest drive entrance.
KA19 7NT is the nearest postcode for the west (Stinchar Bridge) forest drive entrance.
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