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Dinmurchie Trail at Barr 5km - For those who appreciate a combination of forest and open hill, this walk will suit admirably. Following the track through the forest you suddenly clear the trees at the top of the hill, from where you can look down on the picturesque village of Barr and across the Stinchar Valley.
If you are lucky you may see some of the wildlife including deer, foxes, hares, kestrels and buzzards. The route now descends along the old road which runs from the Water of Minnoch to Barr as described in Armstrong's 1773 map of Ayrshire.
The village of Barr is known by local people as "The Barr" which is thought to mean the confluence of the waters. The trail passes close to Dinmurchie Farm which was the birth place of James Dalrymple (1619- 95) who became the first Viscount of Stair and was the author of the "Institutes of the Law of Scotland". The village is worth exploring from the historical viewpoint.
The area has a considerable Covenanting history. In the old churchyard there are two Martyrs' stones, one of which is to Edward McKeen who was arrested by soldiers at the farm of Dalwyne following suspicion that a prayer meeting was taking place. He was dragged out and after some questioning the officer in charge shot him twice through the head. One of the soldiers of the party thought he saw McKeen move and shot him a third time. This all happened in 1685 when such events were commonplace in the "killing times", however Barr is now noted for its peace and tranquillity. To stroll back along the narrow road which follows the Water of Gregg with its attractive wooded banks makes a fitting end to a memorable walk.
Fairy Knowe Trail at Barr 6km - Downhill from the car park the walk follows the Water of Gregg past Changue House to a point where the track forks sharp right and ascends to the forest. Continuing through the trees for 500yds the route bears left along a woodland trail. From this elevated route overlooking the Gregg Valley occasional views are glimpsed through the trees over the Changue Forest to the hills beyond. Once clear of the trees and on to the open hill an impressive vista opens up to the east.
Haggis Hill, Rowantree Hill and Pinbreck Hill form an impressive backdrop and beyond the Nick of the Balloch, an exciting hill pass on the road from Crosshill and Barr, which meets the Straiton road at the Rowantree Toll. Descending to a wooden footbridge the burn is crossed at an attractive waterfall and the way continues down along a narrow ridge to the valley below. Care should be taken when negotiating this ridge, as the path is steep and often slippery.
Traversing the burn you reach a delightful spot called the Fairy Knowe where it is worth pausing for a minute and looking back up the gully to where the burn rushes down a spectacular cleft in the hills. At this point you have the option, either to walk back down the Gregg Valley to the start or if you feel energetic you can turn right and continue along the Devil's Trail to make a longer yet rewarding excursion.
Devil's Trail at Barr 6.5km - The first part of the walk follows the Water of Gregg for two kilometres before branching off and climbing steadily through the woods along an attractive grass path. Near the highest point beautiful views open up across the Stinchar Valley to the hills beyond. The walk leads steeply down a gully and across Changue Burn. In spring and summer numerous wild flowers such as primroses and bluebells can be seen in this area. The edge of the burn is planted with small-leafed lime.
Legend has it that near High Changue, there is the site of a famous battle between the Laird of Changue and the Devil. The story goes that Changue was getting short of money and he decided to make a bargain with the Devil. He would sell his soul in return for great wealth. The Laird's fortunes changed and he prospered for many years. When the time came to deliver his soul the Laird reneged on his bargain and refused to go. The Devil proceeded to lay hold of him, but Changue placing his Bible on the turf and drawing a circle with his sword around him, sturdily and, as it turned out, successfully defied his opponent. The story must be true because to this day on the hill above High Changue you can still see the Devil's footprints, the circle drawn by the sword and the mark of the Bible clearly visible on the grass.
As you descend westwards, the walk back is a delight with glorious views across the valley to forest and hills beyond.
Kirstie's Trail at Barr 7.2km - No climbing is required in this, the easiest of the Barr routes. The trail follows the delightful Water of Gregg up the valley to the Howe of Laggan, passing through mature woodland as far as Kirstie's Cairn.
Christopher McTaggart (Kirstie to his friends and family) a nineteen year old shepherd lad set out on January 11th 1913 in a raging blizzard to care for his sheep. Later that day he was found dying by his twin brother David and two friends. Their efforts to restore heat to his frozen body were in vain. He died fifteen minutes later. With such weather they were unable to carry his body back. Kirstie's faithful dog "Wag" refused to leave his master. The following day between twenty and thirty men set out for the Howe of Laggan to bring back the body of their friend. At Kirstie's funeral the Reverend John Angus charged the young men of the village to raise a memorial to the young shepherd and this they did by building a cairn a few yards from the spot where he died.
Returning walkers should look out for roe deer and amongst our feathered friends long-tailed tits, jays, siskins and bullfinches.
Changue Forest Trail at Barr 13km - Of all the routes at Barr, this is the most strenuous due to its length. Although designated a cycle route those wishing to walk will also find it worthwhile.
Continuing up the Howe of Laggan there are excellent views over the Polmaddie Hill Group, which rises to over 1800 feet. This is an area which is still predominantly sheep country, where sheep paths and folds are evident. The route takes you through the heart of Changue, now a commercial forest in its many stages of development. The main species which can be seen are Sitka Spruce, Norway Spruce and Larch with some broadleaf trees including oak, ash and birch.
Looking northeast you can see that well-known Galloway mountain pass called "Nick of the Balloch". In olden times this was famous as a smuggling route. Men with pack horses would follow the perilous path and at the summit drink from the "brandy well", a spring which still flows with clear crystal water.
The word "Changue" of Gaelic origin means the large rounded hill-shoulder of the nigh impenetrable inner row of storm-swept mountains. A lengthy meaning perhaps but one which accurately describes this area, especially during winter. This is a notable excursion taking in the full aspect of the forest with its many magnificent views.
Barr is a remote community in rural Ayrshire with access to some dramatic scenery and outdoor pursuits. Barr is also near the Galloway Forest Park and there are over 400 miles of trails for walking and horse riding in the area. Walks at Barr range from 5km to 13km. There are Woodland strolls, farms and fields, and hill top views. See text and Map below for Path details.