We might be biased, but South Ayrshire is a great place to visit. Here are 10 reasons why.
Ayrshire’s 18th-century castle built by renowned Scottish architect Robert Adam is #1 on TripAdvisor’s list of things to do in Ayr, and we can confirm that it’s well worth a visit. With free entry to the park for National Trust Scotland members, it offers a beautiful swan pond, impressive walled gardens, a kids’ Adventure Cove (a creative, maze-like structure that adults can’t keep away from either) and of course tours of the castle itself.
Heads of Ayr Farm Park is a great day out for all ages, with a wide range of animals to see (and feed), as well as slides, swings, sand pits and bouncing cushions for the young and young at heart. There’s also a top quality, well-maintained indoor soft play area, good cafe options, and plenty of picnic tables if you want to bring your own food.
Dedicated to the life and work of Scotland’s most famous son, poet Robert Burns, the site includes the Museum, the cottage in which Burns was born and lived until the age of seven, the Brig O Doon, Alloway Old Kirk and the Poet’s Path. Entry is free for National Trust Scotland members, and admission includes an informative tour of the cottage, available every weekend and at 1pm and 3pm on weekdays during the school holidays. This really does bring Burns to life for everyone, whether you’re already a fan or discovering him for the first time.
For many visitors to Ayrshire, the highlight of their stay is a ride on the “gentle giants”: The Blackstone Centre‘s Clydesdale horses. If you’re not scared to get your hands dirty, you can really immerse yourself in farm life with grooming, feeding, mucking out and tacking up. The farm also has Helian cows, alpacas, donkeys and a huge yellow digger if you prefer to ride something with an engine. (No driver’s licence required!
Whether you already have a passion for Scotland’s national drink (no, not Irn Bru!) or are a whisky newbie, the perfect introduction is A D Rattray’s Whisky Experience & Whisky Shop. Leant about how Scotch whisky is made and aged in casks, and master the art of tasting your dram. After you’ve had a guided whisky or gin tasting (available for individuals or groups of up to 20 people) you can visit the atmospheric Cask Room and fill a bottle of your very own, personalised, limited supply Scotch.
Since it opened in 1901, the Dick Institute has been one of the most important cultural venues in the south west of Scotland, with permanent displays and exhibitions for all ages. Previous major exhibitions include Miffy, Quentin Blake, Wallace and Gromit, Cutting Edge, Radical Nature and Bill Viola. The extensive library is perfect for reading, or you can wander around the gallery, learn about local history and admire the artefacts.
Known as “Scotland in Miniature” due to its mountains, rolling hills, villages and coastline, the Isle of Arran is only a 55-minute ferry journey (sailing several times a day) from Ardrossan to Brodick.
There’s so much to do on Arran you’ll probably want to stay longer, but if you are planning a return trip in one day, make sure you plan ahead to pack as much in as possible. Activities on offer include golfing (there are no less than seven courses), hill walking, climbing, abseiling, kayaking, sailing, fishing, pony trekking and wildlife watching. If you have any time or energy left, try to check out the museum, castles, brewery, distillery, cheese shop, chocolate shop, petting farm and geological sites.
Irvine’s Scottish Maritime Museum is a must-see for boat lovers! The huge cast-iron-framed hangar houses a fascinating range of boats and machinery. Admission includes entry to the boat shop, which has beautiful works of art and a spacious activity area for kids. As part of the free guided tours down to the pontoons, you can climb over various ships and see a shipyard worker’s restored flat.
Rozelle is a peaceful park with beautiful trees and wood sculptures, perfect for dog walking and letting kids burn off some energy. Rozelle House’s Maclaurin Galleries offers a varied programme of exhibitions, events and workshops, with pride of place given to Alexander Goudie’s brilliant Tam O’ Shanter cycle of paintings and a bronze Henry Moore nude. Rozelle Tearoom also gets rave reviews from locals and tourists alike.
Fullarton Woods have always been popular with families and dog walkers, and the addition of the Fairy Trail in 2015 added a touch of magic to the experience! Follow the trail around the woods, looking for all the little fairy doors and reading the messages. The trail gets a seasonal twist every Halloween and Christmas — and if you’re lucky you might even bump into some real-life fairies.
Whatever brings you to South Ayrshire, why not consider serviced accommodation? A fully-furnished property can be a great alternative to a hotel, particularly for those on a budget.