Carrick Forest Drive
There's plenty to discover at Carrick
Discover the hidden treasures of wild south Ayrshire on this two-way forest drive connecting Loch Doon and Stinchar Bridge (open May to October). 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 (10 km) route, all with fantastic views of the Galloway Hills. There's also a fun adventure playground and picnic area halfway along the forest drive, beside picturesque Loch Riecawr.
Exploring the Forest Drive
The forest drive is a two-way route about 6 miles (10 km) long, suitable for most vehicles. It’s open to vehicles from May to October (closing October 30th) but walkers, cyclists and horse-riders are welcome year-round.
Fuel up first
Remember to check your fuel before you set off along the forest drive. You won’t find another fuel station until you reach Dalmellington in Ayrshire or Newton Stewart in Dumfries & Galloway!
Charge and car parking
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.
The nearest places to find toilets, refreshments and shopping are some distance away at Straiton and Dalmellington. There is also a small shop and café at Loch Doon Dam.
Cornish Hill Trail
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.
3 ¼ miles / 5.4 km 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.
Mountain biking trails
Star gazing that’s out of this world
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, at either end of the forest drive. You can also visit the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory near Dalmellington to find out more about the night sky.
Fishing along the forest drive
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 Braden, which is available from any of the three Forest Park visitor centres.
A great place to play – and picnic
If you’ve got a taste for adventure play, then Carrick Forest Drive is for you. Burn off some serious energy on the play equipment beside Loch Riecawr, half way along the forest drive. If the play features don’t take your breath away, the view certainly will! There are picnic tables here too so you can relax and enjoy the panorama of lochs and hills with your picnic.
Wildlife watching – black grouse
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!
Look out for the small parking area half way along the Forest Drive, with a short but steep trail on the opposite side of the road that leads you to the viewing platform. Here you’ll find lots of information about black grouse – rare birds renowned for their unusual call and impressive mating displays.
Loch Doon Castle
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.
How to get here
Carrick Forest Drive is a 6 mile (10 km) linear route, open to vehicles from May to October. You’ll find the entrances at Loch Doon in the east and at Stinchar Bridge, south of Straiton, in the west.
Loch Doon entrance (east): Loch Doon lies beside the A713 between Dalmellington and Carsphairn. From the A713, take the minor road to Loch Doon (marked as a no-through road). Follow this road for about 5 miles (8 km) towards the southern tip of the loch. The start of the Forest Drive is just beyond Loch Doon Castle at grid reference NX481 945.
Using SatNav for the Loch Doon entrance? KA6 7QE is the nearest postcode for the Loch Doon forest drive entrance.
Stinchar Bridge entrance (west): The start of the forest drive is at Stinchar Bridge, about 7 miles (11 km) south of Straiton on the Straiton to Glentrool road. Turn off at the signs to ‘Carrick Forest’ at grid reference NX 396 956. There’s a car park with picnic tables here.
Using SatNav for the Stinchar Bridge entrance? KA19 7NT is the nearest postcode for the Stinchar Bridge forest drive entrance.
The forest drive is a great place for stargazing – find Dark Sky viewing points at the car parks at either end of the forest drive and find out more at the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory.
Step back in time – visit the 13th century ruins of Loch Doon Castle, transplanted to the shore in the 1930s from an island out in the loch. The site is cared for by Historic Scotland.
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