Sport and Leisure

The parish of Carsphairn is filled with opportunities for outdoor activities, from walking to bird watching, cycling to star gazing. Our fantastic countryside has something for everyone.

We're sat at the top of the Glenkens, the chain of valleys that runs from Loch Doon, south to Parton, just before Castle Douglas. We're bordered on all sides by wild, unspoilt countryside, yet only 25 miles from Ayr to the north and Castle Douglas to the south.

To the west is Galloway Forest Park and parts of the parish lie within the Dark Skies Park. The parish is also within the UNESCO Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere's buffer and transition zones.

To the north-east is Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, the highest of the three Cairnsmores. Loch Doon to the north-west was dammed in the 1930s to provide a reservoir for the Galloway Hydroelectric Scheme. The associated structures are now iconic Listed Buildings and the loch is great for fishing, swimming and canoeing.

See the menu below for details of individual sport and leisure opportunities.

The community frequently runs activities from Pub Nights to Yoga, so check out the home page for news and events as well as the calendar.

Carsphairn Hills

Safety in the Hills

Scotland has enviable right-to-roam legislation balanced by the principle of responsible access, with obligations both on the access users and on the managers of the land. Please read the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and familiarise yourself with your responsibilities.

Be aware that shooters also use these hills. For your own safety avoid walking through areas, in particular forested areas, where you can hear shooting taking place or where you see signs informing you that it is taking place.

Information on current deer stalking operations is available from Scottish Outdoor Access Code website.

The weather changes very quickly out on the hills so please make sure that you are suitably prepared. Mountaineering Scotland and Police Scotland have up-to-date advice for walkers and weather forecasts are available from the Mountain Weather Information Service.

Galloway Forest Dark Skies Park

We're on the edge of the Galloway Forest Dark Skies Park, with numerous opportunities for watching wildlife, walking and biking. See their website for more details.

Scottish Dark Skies Observatory

The observatory at Loch Doon is open to the public, amateur astronomers, groups, clubs, schools and universities, to help inspire people with the wonders of the universe. Visits must be booked. Find out more at the Observatory website.

Red Kites

Within the Glenkens, within only a 15 minute or so drive of Carphairn is the Galloway Kite Trail.

Red kites are frequently seen over Carsphairn, but for guaranteed sightings, try a visit to a feeding station.


Ospreys are regularly sighted in the area and there is an osprey nest viewing station at the Roundhouse, Loch Doon.

See their Facebook page for more info and photos!

Watson Birds

St John's Town of Dalry is close by and is home to the Watson Birds project, a celebration of the work of renowned bird artist Donald Watson.

The project aims to inspire people of all ages and as well as bird watching events throughout the year, has plans to develop a bird garden to attract a variety of species.

For more information, see their website Watson Birds.

The Ayrshire Alps

Just across the border in South Ayrshire is a set of road cycling climbs, pistes and rides, taking advantage of the Galloway Hills fantastic scenery.

See Ayrshire Alps for more info.

7stanes Mountain Biking

The 7stanes are world-class mountain biking centres across the south of Scotland. Our nearest, Glentrool and Kirroughtrees offer different routes through this amazing landscape.

See 7stanes for more information.

Knockengorroch World Ceilidh

Carsphairn gets it's very own festival every May! For over 20 years, Knockengorroch has hosted their World Ceilidh close to the village, bringing the best of music and performers from all over the globe.

From their ticket sales webpage:

"Knockengorroch World Ceilidh is the seminal outdoor roots music festival in Scotland. Located deep in the Southern Uplands in a river valley on Knockengorroch farm, the area was recently awarded Dark Skies status - one of the best places on the planet to see the stars... and see the stars you will...

The musical line-up is a melting pot of world, folk, fusion and dub reggae with electronica, hip-hop and drum n bass thrown in for good measure - both live and DJed.

As well as music, cabaret, spoken word, comedy and dance all take place across five venues, from the mighty open air stage, turf roofed and built from locally sourced timber, to a Berber tent, to the Celtic Longhouse venue, a willow wattled re-creation of an iron age dwelling.

There is a sauna, dedicated children's activities, workshops in arts, crafts, heritage and environmental subjects, fire shows, flash mobs, real ales, 'knocktails' and food stalls. Knockengorroch even has its own ale the 'Knock Ale' and its own chocolate 'chocengorroch'.

The Knockengorroch World Ceilidh festival site was a populated village in ancient times and the festival re-populates the valley for the four days of the event. The festival's motif of a highland cow is a reminder of the ancient beasts that the people in times gone depended on and worshipped.

Run by a family who either live or grew up at Knockengorroch, and presided over by the family's cows who witness the festival fun from the safe confines of the opposite river bank. Knockengorroch World Ceilidh 2016 is set to be a whole world unto itself and one you may not want to leave."

For tickets, the annual line-up and more information, see Knockengorroch World Ceilidh and their Facebook page.

Spring Fling

Spring Fling is highly regarded open studio event, taking place at the end of May each year.

Between 90 - 100 professional artists and makers open the doors to their studios to visitors for three days over the late May bank holiday weekend.

Each studio is unique and offers visitors the chance to see the artists' working process, demonstrations and sources of inspiration as well as a chance to buy directly from the artist.

From their website:

"Spring Fling is a vibrant visual art and craft open studios event covering the length and breadth of Dumfries and Galloway in South West Scotland; it is highly regarded as one of the UK’s most successful contemporary visual art and craft events.

In Autumn 2015 Spring Fling CIC evolved to become Upland CIC, a bold, ambitious, world-class rural based visual art and craft development organisation. Spring Fling is Upland's Flagship Event.

Dumfries and Galloway; inspiring, vibrant and buzzing with creativity is a well recognised as a haven for artists and makers and Spring Fling has helped put the region on the national and international cultural map.

Between 2003 and 2015 Spring Fling has attracted over 100,000 visitors who have made almost 300,000 studio visits. Over 13 years £1.9 million of art and craft had been bought in studios and the event has brought over £8.5 million to the local economy.

Good populations of wild brown trout are present in all the hill waters of the Carsphairn area. Average sizes are mostly 8-10 inches but larger trout are caught in the Deugh and Ken rivers and in local lochs. In 1988 a wild brown trout over 17 pounds was angled from Loch Doon. Fly fishing is successful from late April or early May when the main hatches of aquatic insects normally begin. The trout fishing season runs from March 15 - October 6 inclusive.

Water of Deugh and Ken

The upper reaches of the Deugh and Ken are controlled by the New Cumnock Angling Association. Bank fishing on the stretch of the Deugh from the bridge at Carsphairn down to Loch Kendoon is permitted only by permission of the riparian owners of the fishing rights (who are not always the land owners).

Members of Carsphairn Angling Club have permission to fish on the River Deugh from Marbrack Burn to the Loch, but by boat only. Some other stretches and tributary burns can sometimes be fished with permission of riparian owners.

Carsfad Loch and the River Ken

The shop in Carsphairn sells tickets for the Dalry Angling Association for Carsfad Loch and the River Ken in Dalry. The shop also can give information on who to speak to regarding fishing on the stretch of the River Deugh behind the shop.

Mossriddoch Loch, St John's Town of Dalry

Tickets and instruction available from here.

Galloway Forest Park

For the mobile angler Carsphairn is well situated for reaching Galloway Hills' trout waters as well as the salmon and sea trout rivers of both Galloway and Ayrshire. September and October are normally the most productive months for salmon fishing on the Cree, Fleet, Urr, Doon, Girvan and Stinchar.

Info on where to fish including how to get permits from here.

Loch Doon

Free fishing is available on Loch Doon which is 10 miles long and holds a large head of trout and perch plus South Scotland's only remaining natural population of Arctic char. Some salmon also reach the loch from the River Doon in September and October. Access to the remote Carsphairn (Galloway) side of Loch Doon is by foot from the A713 while the whole Ayrshire shore is served by a road which joins the A713 at Mossdale farm a mile south of Dalmellington.

Carsphairn village lies nestled between the lyrically sounding Rhinns of Kells and the mighty Cairnsmore of Carsphairn.

The whole area is a hill walkers' paradise liberally sprinkled with cairns, monuments, ruins, crosses and history both from the recent past and beyond.

OS Landranger 77 (1:50 000 scale) Dalmellington and New Galloway, Galloway Forest Park is good for general exploring and driving.

Heritage Walks

The Carsphairn Heritage Centre has put together some heritage trails; Bardennoch trail, Woodhead Mine trail, and the Carsphairn trail. These walks are designed to take in sites of historic interest as well as dramatic views, details of which can be found on the Heritage Centre publications page. Leaflets can also be picked up from the Heritage Centre. Please see their main page for opening times and contact details.

More information on the Woodhead Mine Trail can be found here.


Polmaddy settlement is an historic ferm-toun, just 5 miles south of the village. You can explore the ruins and find out about its history using the interpretation provided. It will take you about 20 minutes to tour a site that is significant in Scottish as well as local history.

More information on its history from here.

Dundeugh Forest Walks

Dundeugh Forest is a great area for walking with dogs and children. The longest routes take about two hours at most and it is only a few miles south of the village.

A map is available to download from D and G Council by clicking on the map.

Rhinns of Kells - OS Explorer 318 (1:25 000 scale) Galloway Forest Park North

The Rhinns of Kells are part of a ridge of hills known as the Galloway Hills and forms part of the Galloway forest Park. At the bottom of Meikle Millyea one may join the Southern Upland way, arrange a pick-up, continue down the Garroch Glen towards St. John's Town of Dalry or descend down to Clatteringshaws via Darrou.

Map of suggested route and photo tour available from Ayrsihire Scotland website.

See Walk Scotland for maps and routes of this hill range, including suggested parking places.

Cairnsmore of Carsphairn and the Scaur Hills - OS Explorer 328 (1:25 000 scale) Sanquhar and New Cumnock

The Cairnsmore of Carsphairn is the highest of the three Cairnsmores in Galloway; the other two being Cairnsmore of Fleet and Cairnsmore of Dee. The time and distance of the climb depends on your fitness and the route you take but an average time of 4 hours should be given for a direct ascent and descent using the rough track and following the dyke referred to below.

There are two ascent options following Core Paths. See D and G Council's Core Path pages for more information.

Walk Scotland had detailed maps and routes of this range.

See the Ayrshire Scotland website for a photo tour and recommended routes.

Southern Upland Way

The Southern Upland Way is a 212 mile coast to coast walk crossing the country from Portpatrick in the west to Cockburnspath in the east. It roughly takes between 14-20 days to walk. The section between St. John's Town of Dalry and Sanquhar passes through Carsphairn's north western boundary and takes in stunning views of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, Benninner and the Water O'Ken. This area is filled with interesting historical sites such the remains of an iron age fort, a dykers' village and Whig's hole, so why not break the journey as the walk meets the B729 and explore, before resuming the journey, and heading for the Chalk Memorial Bothy at Polskeoch.

See the Southern Upland Way website for more info and maps.

Loch Doon

There are lots options for either strenuous or not so taxing walks, starting at Loch Doon including Glessel Hill and Ness Glen. See here and here for more details and a zoomable map.

There are some rivers in Carsphairn where there is potential for some good kayaking. However, current research show that the Water of Deugh is the only river as yet assessed. Graded at level 2/3, the course runs for about 8 miles and takes about an hour. Be aware that there are hazards and make sure that you get detailed information.

For instruction and hire, see Galloway Activity Centre.

Canoeing and kayaking is available from shingle beaches at Loch Doon, if you bring your own vessels. More details here

For advice on shooting seasons see BASC for up-to-date information

Clay pigeon and rifle shooting is available at Forrest Estate Experiences, only 10 miles away.

For deer stalking, see Strahanna Stalking.

Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere

Carsphairn parish lies in the UNESCO Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Buffer and Transition zones. Find out more about this amazing resource from their website

Galloway Forest Park

Galloway Forest Park is the place to see wildife up close. The Red Deer Range and Wild Goat Park will let you see these magnificent animals in their natural setting.