Volunteer-led project brings Rabbie Burns’s poem to life

An iconic route taken by Robert Burns’s Tam O’Shanter has been revived.

L-R: Member of Opportunities in Retirement David Bowman and Chairman of SAPI Stuart Bates
L-R: Chairman of SAPI Stuart Bates, Member of Opportunities in Retirement David Bowman, Member of SAPI Colin Clark
L-R: Member of SAPI Colin Clark, Member of Opportunities in Retirement David Bowman, Chairman of SAPI Stuart Bates

The restored path was funded by South Ayrshire Council and Paths for All, with support from NatureScot, for the South Ayrshire Paths Initiative to let visitors retrace the footsteps of Burns’s character and his trusty steed Meg, on their journey home after market day and a drink at an Ayrshire pub. 

Pensioner volunteer group Opportunities in Retirement identified the need to restore the route which was created by them many years ago. 

The route was revived and extended by South Ayrshire Council and South Ayrshire Paths Initiative (SAPI) in 2020 and named The Blue Bonnet trails after Tam’s famous headwear.  

Officially completed in July 2021, the 3 miles-long trail features two self-guided historical routes, Tam’s Trail and Alloway Trail, with 23 Blue Bonnet signs to guide the way. Colin Clark, SAPI representative, said:

"The restoration was funded by an application by SAPI with field work completed by South Ayrshire Council’s resource and thanks to Opportunities in Retirement we are now all able to enjoy it."

"It’s a really fantastic project as it benefits not only the local community but the wider Scottish public - it brings in great tourism as well."

"The funding has helped fulfil the long-standing need for interpretation boards and updated trail maps, providing walkers with information about the route and its history."

Colin added:

It is always rewarding to see a project being completed – especially when it is something many of us are truly passionate about. It proves that great things can happen when you put your mind to it.

The funding by Paths for All has helped us bring the trails to life by updating signs and leaflets to showcase both routes as a national treasure with great historical value.

Due to lockdown restrictions, our plans for the completed route were put on pause, so we are looking forward to organising activities for children and pensioners in the near future to showcase the trail to more people.

Walking enthusiasts from near and far are now able to take the self-led route to explore renowned sights like Brig o’Doon and the Robert Burns Museum using online and leaflet maps, as well as the Ayrshire Through the Ages app. 

Stuart Bates, chairman of SAPI said: "SAPI's work continues with the development of new walking and cycling routes such as the Culzean Way, a wonderfully scenic off-road path linking the communities of Alloway to Culzean and onwards to Girvan."

Rona Gibb, Senior Manager at Paths for All, said: “The work of volunteers improving their local path network is invaluable, and is fundamental to encouraging more people to walk every day and everywhere.”

Scotland's Path Grading System

The Blue Bonnet Walks have been rated as Easy using Scotland's Paths Grading System which helps to standardise path grading across Scotland. It uses a 6 part system to describe paths including:

  1. Path Name (and waymarker colour or way-finding symbol)
  2. Path Promotion or description
  3. Grade Symbol
  4. Terrain Description
  5. Distance
  6. Time

This system fulfils the long-standing need for a standard path description approach to ensure that all walkers, cyclists and horse riders, have good information to help them choose a route that suits them. 

Download the Blue Bonnet trails leaflet

Find out more about Scotland's Path Grading System.