The Muirkirk & North Lowther Uplands Special Protection Area was set up to protect the populations of breeding hen harrier (Circus cyaneus), golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria), merlin (Falco columbarius), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and short-eared owl (Asio flammeus).
The 2001 census recorded a population of 1,865.
The village developed around its church, which was built in 1631, and was a fertile recruiting ground for the Covenanter movement. In recent times, the village has fallen into decline due to its geographic isolation and the collapse of its coal and iron industries, but attempts are being made at regeneration through the Muirkirk Enterprise Group which was set up in 1999.
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- Jocky Dempster, former professional footballer with Dumfries club Queen of the South F.C., St Mirren and Clyde F.C.
- Willie Ferguson, professional footballer with Chelsea F.C. and Queen of the South F.C.
- John Lapraik, poet and friend of Robert Burns
- John Loudon McAdam, who developed his system of road laying in Muirkirk
- Isobel Pagan (Tibby) - poet reputed to have written the original version of "Ca' the Yowes"
- Bill Shaw, pre-war footballer who played for Kilmarnock, Bristol Rovers and Dumbarton Harp
- Prof Sir Tom Symington, Pioneer in Cancer research
- John "Jock" Russell, coal miner
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