Ballochmyle Rock Carvings, Ayrshire

Hidden away beside the deep sandstone gorges of the River Ayr is one of the largest collections of Prehistoric rock carvings in Britain.

Ballochmyle Rock Carvings (11)

Ballochmyle Rock Carvings (5)

They consist mainly of cup and ring marks but there are also geometric and sunray-like motifs.

Ballochmyle Rock Carvings (3)

Ballochmyle Rock Carvings (9)

What is unusual about these carvings is that they are carved onto two vertical cliff faces (adjacent but at a slight angle to each other) rather than onto flat or sloping rock exposures.

The sandstone cliffs are south facing, with a stream running through the dip in the trees below. I only managed to visit the site on two wet days this summer, when the tree canopy and the rain made it a dark, gloomy place to visit and I had to use a flash or night setting on the camera to take these photos. I should think it’s a very atmospheric place to visit whatever the weather.

It was interesting to see the photos on the Canmore website, taken in 1987 when the trees and undergrowth had been cut down, making the cliff face very clear and visible compared to today.

Despite a few ‘additions’ to the carvings during the last millennium (and unfortunately some modern graffiti), the carvings had been forgotten about and gone unrecorded until they were rediscovered in the 1980’s and subsequently recorded by RCAHMS (Royal Commission of Ancient and Historical Monuments, Scotland) in 1987.

Ballochmyle Rock Carvings (4)
The stream that had to be crossed to reach the carvings

There are no signs to the site and it can be tricky to find, which is perhaps just as well, as the carvings are so fragile and eroded.

Ballochmyle Rock Carvings (13)
Ballochmyle viaduct just visible on the skyline. From the lane where you park, a footpath to the left leads to the viaduct but the rock carvings are in the trees directly across the field.

Only 260m away, is the impressive Ballochmyle Viaduct, which is the highest railway bridge in Britain and has the largest masonry arch in the UK. The track is even higher than on the Forth Railway Bridge!  It is such an impressive piece of railway engineering that it was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

It carries the Carlisle to Glasgow (via Dumfries) railway line high above the sandstone gorge of the River Ayr and much of the stone to build it was quarried from some of the other red sandstone cliff faces in the vicinity.