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How to visit: Ayrshire 

How to visit: Ayrshire 

Ayrshire is a land of vast vistas, sweeping coves, iconic castles, stunning islands, incredible views and one very famous poet. With a coastline dotted with beautiful beaches and great local food, here is how to visit Ayrshire.

Culzean Castle, Ayrshire
Culzean Castle, Ayrshire

The best things to do in Ayrshire

  • Visit the Isle of Arran – otherwise know as ‘Scotland in Minature’ the Isle of Arran is one of the best places to visit in Scotland with rugged mountains, distilleries and castles to visit.
  • Discover Dumfries House – a Robert Adam gem, Dumfries House was saved by King Charles and is now restored to its former glory with lovely gardens to explore including an impressive maze.
  • Explore Culzean Castle and Estate – a giant National Trust for Scotland castle and estate perched out on the edge of the Ayrshire Coast, high on a cliff the castle is surrounded by a 260-hectare country park including its own beaches.
  • Visit Great Cumbrae and Millport – the lovely island of Cumbrae is a cycling paradise – explore the island on the 10 mile cycle route, perfect for families before grabbing an ice cream on the sea front at Millport.
  • Head into Robert Burns country – Ayrshire is the home of Scotland’s national poet – Rabbie Burns – and there is lots to discover from his first home in Alloway to the Bachelors Club where he learnt his poetic debating skills.
  • Hike the Ayrshire Coastal Path – running from Glenapp to Skelmorlie, the Ayrshire Coastal path takes in 106 miles of beautifully rugged coastline and many pristine beaches.
  • Visit the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere – visit the first UNESCO biosphere in Scotland, designated for its outstanding landscapes including a Dark Sky Park.
  • Discover the delights of Ayrshire’s seaside resorts – head ‘down the watter’ to Largs and Troon for a stroll along the prom and a visit to one of Ayrshire’s fabulous ice cream parlours.

Where to stay in Ayrshire

Map of things to do in Ayrshire

Where is Ayrshire? 

Named after its country town, Ayr, Ayrshire is bounded by the Firth of Clyde to the west, Glasgow to the north, the Galloway Forest Park to the east and Dumfries and Galloway to the south. Off the coast of Ayrshire is Arran, and with rugged highland mountains, windswept beaches and ruined castles, and, of course, its own whisky, the Isle of Arran truly is ‘Scotland in Miniature’. Other Firth of Clyde islands include Ailsa Craig, Cumbrae, and the Holy Isle.

The need to know before you go to Ayrshire

  • The word ‘Ayr’ means watercourse or river – and with 8 rivers flowing through the region(and lots of west coast weather) you can see why. All this water makes Ayrshire one of the most fertile regions in Scotland – famous for its food producing including potatoes, strawberries and milk, alongside curling stones made from Ailsa Craig granite. You can walk the River Ayr Way from the river’s source 44 miles to the sea.
  • Ayrshire might be most famous for being the birthplace of Rabbie Burns but did you know it is also the birthplace of Kind Robert the Bruce as well? It is believed that Scotland’s most famous king was born in Turnberry Castle. Rabbie Burns however, came from much more humble beginnings, you can visit his 4 room cottage in Alloway.
  • Ayrshire was once home to Vikings – you can learn more about them at the x and visit the annual Largs Viking Festival which marks the 1263 Battle of Largs, the last battle between Scots and Norsemen. You can also learn more about the history of invading Norwegians at Vikingar! in Largs. Once free of the Norsemen, the next battle for Scottish Independence was with the British and was started by William Wallace in Ayr in 1297.
  • Probably Scotlands most famous whisky brand, Johnnie Walker, was originally started in Kilmarnock, by grocer John Walker who started his own whisky brand Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky in around 1830. Jonnie Walker is no longer made in Ayrshire, but you can visit the statue of the original Johnnie Walker in the centre of Kilmarnock.
  • The Isle of Arran, the biggest island in Ayrshire is nicknamed ‘Scotland in Minature’ due to its rugged highland mountains, and fertile lowlands, windswept beaches and ruined castles, and, of course, its own whisky distillery. Arran is one of Scotland’s most popular and accessible islands with a fast 55-minute ‘CalMac’ ferry crossing from Ardrossan on the mainland to Brodick.
  • Ayrshire is famous for its dairy farms. Dotted around the countryside you will find dairy farms offering up their milk for sale – in their own vending machines! You can even buy milkshakes. Try the vending machines at The Coo Shed cafe (which has a fab cafe too) just outside Ayr or at Humeston Byre farm shop (which also sells lots of other other goodies).
Culzean Castle, Ayrshire

Things to do in South Ayrshire

Here are the best things to do in South Ayrshire.

Visit Culzean Castle

Explore this giant National Trust for Scotland castle and estate perched out on the edge of the Ayrshire Coast, high on a cliff. Designed by famous Scottish architect, Robert Adam, the castle is surrounded by a 260-hectare country park including its own beaches. Did you know Culzean Castle is pronounced Cul-een and is used as the castle of Lord Summerisle in the Wickerman?

Ailsa Craig

One of Scotland’s most famous islands, Ailsa Craig is a mighty granite dome rising out of the Firth of Clyde. A volcanic plug which was spat out of a volcano, Ailsa Craig is thought to mean Fairy Rock is Gaelic. The rock from Ailsa Craig has long been used to make curling stones, which are also known as Ailsas! Home to large breeding colonies of sea birds and a lighthouse, the island can be visited by boat trip from Girvan all year round.

Ailsa Craig

Discover the village of Dunure

The Ayrshire coastal village of Dunure has a ruined castle with its small labyrinth, and is located on the beautiful Ayrshire Coastal Path. Dunure makes an appearance in season 3 of the TV series Outlander – the small harbour at Dunure was used as Claire and Jamie’s departure point on the Artemis for Jamaica and where Jamie swims out to Selkie Island. After visiting the castle have breakfast or lunch in the Harbourside Cafe or dinner and drinks in the Anchorage Inn.

Electric Brae 

Electric Brae is a gravity hill located to the south of the village of Dunure. at Electric Brae a freewheeling vehicle will appear to be drawn uphill – instead it is an optical illusion, the land on either side of the road makes it look like vehicles are moving against gravity!

Learn about Robert Burns at his birthplace museum

The pretty town of Alloway is home to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum and the house in which he grew up. The museum is run by the National Trust for Scotland and makes for a fascinating visit. Inside the museum are more than 5,000 Burns artefacts including his handwritten manuscripts and interactive displays. Outside the museum there there is a monument to Robert Burns and the famous Brig o’Doon over the river. Over in the village is the house where Robert Burns was born and lived until he was 7.

Robert Burns Cottage

Things to do in North Ayrshire

Here are the best things to do in North Ayrshire:

Visit the seaside town of Largs 

One of the west coast of Scotland’s most famous seaside resorts, Largs sits on the Clyde ‘riviera’ and is just 35 miles from Glasgow. With a Victorian promenade, a huge sweep of beach and plenty of ice cream parlours, Largs has long been a destination for daytrippers ‘going doon the watter’.

One of the main attractions in Largs is Vikingar! where you can find out more about the history of Vikings in Largs. You can also visit the Largs Pencil Monument which commemorate the Viking Battle of Largs.

Explore Great Cumbrae and Millport

Sitting off the coast of Largs is the Isle of Cumbrae, otherwise known as Great Cumbrea. Just four miles long and two miles wide, the main town on the island is Millport which is home to The Cathedral of The Isles & College of The Holy Spirit – the UK’s smallest cathedral.

A great way to explore Cumbrae is to walk or cycle the 10 mile loop around the island before heading to Millport’s prom for an ice cream and to find Crocodile Rock. The ferry to Cumbrae takes just 10 minutes from Largs.

Climb Loudoun Hill

Loundoun Hill near Garvel is a volcanic plug from one of Ayrshire exinct volcanos – another is Ailsa Craig further down the coast. Starting at the Spirit of Scotland sculpture (a cast of William Wallace) which commemorates two famous War of Independence battles fought by William Wallace (in 1297) and Robert the Bruce (The Battle of Loudoun Hill in 1307) on Loudoun Hill, the top is reached in about an hour and offers panoramic Ayrshire views. There is also the remains of a small roman fort to discover. Climb Loudon Hill.

Kelburn Castle and Estate

Otherwise known as the ‘graffiti castle’ Kelburn Castle might date from the 13th Century but it is its makeover courtesy of a team of Brazilian and Scottish artists which makes it famous. The castle is the private home of Earl of Glasgow, but the grounds can be visited and tours are available in the summer – or why not attend one of the castles events or stay on the estate in one of Kelburn Castle’s glamping tents.

North Ayrshire Museums

  • Visit the Museum of Ayrshire Country Life and Costume at Dalgarven Mill, a historic grain mill constructed in 1880 which tells the story of rural life in Ayrshire.
  • Discover the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine – visit the dramatic Linthouse hall with its glass roof and the 1920’s Shipworkers flat and Fitting Shed, alongside many fishing vessels.

Ayrshire Castles

The most famous of Ayrshire’s castles might be the mighty Culzean, but my favourites in Ayrshire are the 14th century tower house at Portencross, the 200 acres of parkland to explore at the magnificent Dean Castle Country Park, the dramatic and insta famous Greenan Castle near Ayr and Dundonald Castle and Visitor Centre.

Lochranza Castle, Ayrshire

The Isle of Arran

With rugged highland mountains, windswept beaches and ruined castles, and, of course, its own whisky, the Isle of Arran truly is ‘Scotland in Miniature’. Despite the whole island being only 55 miles around, there is a lot to fit in! Here are the best things to do on Arran:

  • Visit Brodick Castle & Gardens – a quintessential Victorian ‘Highland’ estate and Scotland’s only Country Park on an island! Brodick Castle is 800 years old and the grounds have waterfalls, bathing pools and red squirrels.
  • Visit the Arran Distillery – the Arran 10-year old is responsible for my decade-long love of uisge beatha? Founded in 1995, Arran Whisky now produce 12, 14, 18 and 21 year old whiskies.
  • Hike to Machrie Moor Standing Stones – With six stone circles, Machrie Moor is the place to go on Arran if you wish to indulge in a little Outlander obsession! The stone circles date from around 2000 BC and can be reached on foot in an about an hour. Visit Machrie Moor.
  • Climb Goatfell – Arran’s highest mountain and a famed corbett rises up over Brodick rather like a volcano. The walk up the mountain will take you around 5 hours and is a 6.5 mile walk from the town. There is a good path on the way up and incredible views from the summit. Climb Goat Fell.

More things to do on the Isle of Arran.

Things to do in East Ayrshire

Here are the best things to do in East Ayrshire:

Dumfries House

A Robert Adam gem, Dumfries House was saved for the nation by King Charles in 2007 for the sum of £45million. Built for William Dalrymple, 5th Earl of Dumfries, the house is rather special and contains much of its original furniture – including pieces specially commissioned from Thomas Chippendale. 

The grounds of the house’s 2,000-acre estate are especially beautiful, and come complete with a Chinese Bridge and arboretum, walled garden and even a maze for kids to run around in. The restoration of the house and garden has been completed in stunning fashion and gives an insight into a true 18th-century mansion home. The gardens at Dumfries House are free entry, tours of the house start at £7. 

Dumfries House
Dumfries House and garden, Ayrshire

Visit The Bachelors’ Club and Burns House museum

The Robert Burns Museum might be in his home town of Alloway, but there are lots of other Burns locations to visit all over Ayrshire. Two of the best are the Bachelor Club in Tarbolton – a traditional 17th century mens club and debating society where Burns developed his poetic style and the Burns House Museum in Mauchline where Burns lived whilst he developed his farm along the road at Mossgiel. The Bachelor Club is managed by the National Trust for Scotland.

The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere

The Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere was the first biosphere to be designated by UNESCO in 2012 in recognition of its world class environment for people and nature. A biosphere’s aim is to be a leader in sustainability in Scotland, and one of the goals is to help people find out how a better way of living. There are lots of routes and itineraries to explore the biosphere including the how to discover the Dark Sky Park and Loch Doon and the Carrick Forest.

Pedens Cove and River Ayr

Pedens Cove

On the River Ayr near the village of Failford is a lovely riverside walk through Ayr Gorge which leads to an unusual set of steps carved into the cliff which the Covenanter, Alexander Peden used to preach to his congregation across the river. There are various loops around the Cove, with the longest being around 4 miles though some lovely woodlands.

Ready to book your trip?

Love from Scotland x

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