Essential Advice and Information  -  Safety on walks
BEFORE starting out  -  Read       -     The Scottish Outdoor Access Code

Planning your route

If you've chosen a route from the Ayrshire Coastal Path there's a written route description available, but except on the easiest waymarked walks, you need to also make sure you can follow the route on an Ordnance Survey Map and identify any points where the terrain or bad weather might present difficulties and work out how you can avoid them.

Before committing to a particular route, think whether everyone in your group is fit enough, experienced enough and properly equipped for the journey. We all like to be pushed a bit sometimes – but make sure you're not asking too much of yourself or anyone else. 

Weather and ground conditions

This is more than just checking the weather forecast. It's as basic as considering whether it will be summer or winter conditions. If it's a spring trip, will there be late-lying snow to consider? Has it been raining a lot recently? If it has then are the stream, tide and river levels higher than normal.

Consider  - Sun, rain ,temperature, wind -strength and direction,

What to wear and what to take

Kit: Walkers should plan their trip properly, and be well shod for the terrain. Trainers or slip-on shoes may be OK for northern promenades and sandy shores, but walking boots are essential south of Ayr. Walking poles are advised for balance over slippery shore rocks.

Make sure you have all the right kit for your journey, including both clothing and equipment – and not forgetting adequate provision for food and water. Your should carry a paper map, a compass if your route is a hillwalk, and a headtorch for longer routes.

For clothing, a layering system is most effective for the conditions you will expect to meet. This consists of a base layer, a mid layer and an outer layer. The base layer should be quick drying and wick moisture away from your skin, so this is best being made of either merino wool or manmade fibres. Cotton is very slow to dry and, once wet, will chill you. The mid layer is for insulation. This will most likely be a thin fleece or wind shirt in summer, or a thicker fleece in winter. The outer layer is for protection from wind and rain, and should be of a waterproof fabric.

Navigation – more than just an arrow on a screen

When planning and following a route you need to be able to understand the map and gain information from it such as the steepness and nature of the terrain, and the presence and rough idea of the size of streams and rivers – not to mention the presence of cliffs!

Once you are familiar with the map, you need to learn to plan and follow a route. This means being able to identify a practicable route on the map and then to follow it on the ground.  The basics of navigation are not complicated.

  1. Study the map and plan your route so that you know where you want to go and how long it will take
  2. Always set the map in relation to the ground
  3. Learn to use the compass before you need to use it for real
  4. Have the map and compass to hand during the walk
  5. Check your position regularly - know where you are

 In the South Section, at several points marked on our Guide Book maps, you may be delayed for 1-4 hours by a rising tide on a few days around High Spring Tide. Simple and careful planning will avoid unnecessary delays. Packing a pair of plimsolls would allow easy wading. 

Click here to view the tidal predictions for Ayr.

On Your Walk

The ACP paths are waymarked by white posts and circles. It's very easy to follow a sheep or deer path that leads to nowhere, so use your map and keep track of your location at all times.

Your route may involve traversing different types of terrain, from heather and peat bog to rocky paths, which can make walking slow and exhausting. Rivers and burns can rise rapidly and become impassable.

Throughout your walk, you need to consider whether whether you need to change plans. This could be because the weather is worse than expected or has deteriorated, because a river is too high and a crossing would be hazardous, or progress to the current point has been slower than intended and pressing on with your original route may risk being benighted. Always have an alternative in mind if you need to alter your original objective in this way, and be prepared to turn back if necessary.