|Walk - Balcary and Rascarrel 1.5 - 8 miles|
This is a very popular area for walking and deservedly so, with fine sea views and spectacular cliffs teaming with bird life. There are so many options available on this walk that you can vary the time and distance travelled from a very short walk to one of several hours. Walking boots are recommended.
Full walk - 8 miles: Balcary round the point - 1.5 miles: Loch Mackie - 3 miles: Rascarrel 5.5 miles
There are so many options available on this fine walk that you can vary the time and distance travelled from a very short walk of about 1 hour's duration to one of 7-8 miles lasting several hours. If time is limited and you have the use of two cars it is possible to leave one at Rascarrel (18) and return to the car park at Balcary to start your walk. A word of warning, the first part of this walk involves walking close to the edge of some very high cliffs so if you have no head for heights, or are taking your children, follow the alternative route which is signposted.
Whether walking or taking the car to the now extensive car park at Balcary (10), head down hill on the Dalbeattie road but turn right with the signs for Balcary just before the bridge over the Auchencairn Burn (1). You will pass the Bowling Green (8) on your left but soon the views over the bay open up and Hestan Island (9) is prominent to the south east. This is fine bird country particularly if you are there when the tide is coming in. You are almost bound to see Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper (summer), Shelduck and Grey Heron. There is also a chance that a bird of prey will fly over, so keep your eyes open. You will find it useful to have a good pair of binoculars handy.
Arriving at Balcary you will notice a track signed "Balcary Point" and "Rascarrel" follow this for about 150 yards until you reach a kissing gate and a further sign to the right of the gate. This is decision time! Assuming you are going to walk the full route, turn left after the kissing gate and follow the track across the field, enjoying the views over Auchencaim Bay (11) and back towards Screel and Bengairn. Very often there are sheep and/or cattle in this field so dogs must be kept on a lead. Go through the kissing gate at the end of the field and along the improved path past the beautiful garden on your left. The path eventually brings you out on to the gentle slopes of Balcary Point.
The grassland flowers here, depending on time of year, include Violets, Primroses, Heath Spotted Orchid and Birdsfoot Trefoil. Continue to follow the path round - you are now approaching the higher and more dangerous cliffs (12). In May and June these cliff areas are alive with nesting sea birds jostling and noisily contesting for prime sites. There are colonies of Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Herring Gulls and on the lower slopes the Guillemots and Razorbills make their homes. Further round there are many Cormorants nesting.
In the spring you cannot help but notice the wildflowers which cling to the cliffs creating such a profusion of colour and form that one cannot cease to be amazed by such splendour. These hanging gardens are made up mainly of Sea Campion, Thrift which forms dense cushions, Wild Cabbage, Scurvy Grass and the low growing and creeping Stonecrop and Birdsfoot Trefoil. When you reach the metal kissing gate (13) you can if you wish return to Balcary by the "permissive path" (14) kindly provided by the farmer - this is signed and waymarked so you should have no trouble finding the way. Do keep dogs on the lead when walking over the farm land.
If you intend to carry on, the path is easy to follow and goes down on to the shore at a point near the ruined buildings of an old barytes mine (15).
Follow the path until you reach the holiday cottages (16) where another option becomes available - you can head up right, behind these small buildings and follow the path through three kissing gates to Loch Mackie (17), turn right and after about a mile you will be back at Balcary. Please remember to close all gates behind you.
For the enthusiastic walkers who are carrying on to Rascarrel the route again is easy to follow; bear left in front of the holiday houses and follow the cart track round to the car park at Rascarrel (18). Do not cross the burn but walk up the glen to the surfaced road where a right turn is made. After about half a mile watch out for a forestry clearing (19) on the right, turn in here through the gates and keep to the track on the left where a good path will lead you to Loch Mackie.
One point to look out for - as you approach Loch Mackie - the track would appear to go straight on but bear left through the wood and this will bring you to the footbridge over the outlet from the Loch. Whilst going through this section of the wood watch out for Crossbills (spasmodic), Goldcrests, Coal Tits, Robins and if you are lucky Sparrowhawk. If you are walking in the late evening there is always the chance of spotting Roe Deer so approach the clearings quietly.
Loch Mackie has some waterfowl possibilities: Mallard, Goldeneye and Tufted Duck; there is usually the odd Cormorant around looking for good fishing! This Loch is man made and your route lies across the top of the dam - through the kissing gate and straight on for your return to Balcary.
If you ignore the right turn at the forest clearing your route back to Auchencairn would lie along the quiet country lane until you reach the main road where a right turn is made for your return to the village. Total Distance 8 miles.