Ayrshire & Arran
If you are planning a visit to Ayrshire, not only will you find a region of Scotland that is steeped in history, but also one which provides a huge array of activities for all ages and interests. Known for two of Scotland's most iconic contributions to the world, Robert Burns and of course golf, you will have within easy reach both fascinating heritage sites and some of the most beautiful and challenging golf courses anywhere in the world. Stunning walks and scenery, fabulous locally grown produce and a great choice of accommodation to suit all budgets, Ayrshire will be a memorable part of your holiday in Scotland.
By Air (to Ayr)
- Prestwick Airport – 4 miles
- Glasgow Airport – 32 miles
- Edinburgh Airport – 77 miles
By Rail (from Glasgow)
- Prestwick Airport – Journey time approx. 45 mins. Frequency – every 30 mins.
- Ayr – Journey time approx. 55 mins. Frequency – every 30 mins.
- Irvine – Journey time approx. 35 mins. Frequency – every 30 mins.
- ScotRail – www.scotrail.co.uk - 0845 601 5929
- Virgin Trains – www.virgintrains.co.uk - 08719 774 222
- National Rail Enquiries – www.nationalrail.co.uk - 08457 48 49 50
- Stagecoach – www.stagecoachbus.com – 0141 552 4961
- First Group – www.firstgroup.com – 0141 423 6600
- Buchannan St Bus Station – www.spt.co.uk - 0141 333 3708
By Car (to Ayr)
- Prestwick Airport – 4 miles; south along A79 then follow signs. Journey time = 10 mins.
- Glasgow – 36 miles; west along M8 for 2 miles then south along M77/A77 for approx. 30 miles then follow signs for “Ayr”. Journey time = 40 mins.
- Glasgow Airport – 36 miles; east along M8 for approx. 5 miles then exit at J24 “Kilmarnock/M77”. Follow signs for “Kilmarnock, Prestwick Airport” onto M77 then continue as above.
- Edinburgh – 82 miles; west along A8/M8 for approx. 48 miles then continue as above.
Journey time = 1hr 50 mins.
- Edinburgh Airport – 77 miles; west along A8 for approx. 1 mile, take 1st exit onto M9 for “Glasgow/Edinburgh M8”. After 0.5 miles keep right and exit west onto M8 “Glasgow”.
After approx. 38 miles exit at J22 onto M77 then continue as above. Journey time = 1hr 40 mins.
- The Waverley – Seasonal sailings from Glasgow, Ayr & Girvan, Arran and Largs & Cumbrae.
See operator for further information - www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk or
- Caledonia MacBrayne – Sailings all year from Ardrossan to Arran and Largs to Cumbrae
See operator for further information - www.calmac.co.uk or 0800 066 5000
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Historic Sites / Heritage
Throughout Ayrshire you will find some of the West of Scotland’s most fascinating Historic and Heritage sites, from Medieval Castles and Neolithic and Bronze-age Standing Stones to the birthplace of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns.
Brig O’ Doon /Robert Burns Birthplace Museum/Burns Monument (Alloway)
Mentioned in Robert Burn’s epic poem Tam O’ Shanter, this high arched bridge, originally built in the 1400’s and rebuilt in 1700, sits amid stunning scenery in the pretty village of Alloway, the birthplace of Burns. Alloway is also home to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, The Burns Monument and Memorial Garden and much more to interest both literary and non-literary tourists alike.
Culzean Castle (Near Maybole)
Perched on a high cliff with spectacular views over the Firth of Clyde, Culzean Castle and Country Park provides an epic backdrop for those interested in history and architecture or for those who wish to simply stroll round the magnificent grounds. Maintained by the National Trust for Scotland the Castle and grounds make a fantastic day out for all the family
Brodick Castle, Garden and Country Park (Brodick, Arran)
This castle whose history stretches back to Viking times is set in a stunning location; overlooking the sea, surrounded by beautiful gardens and overlooked by the majestic Goatfell mountain. The country park has lovely walks and trails and of course the famous Highland cattle.
Dunure Castle and Park
Here you will find a prominent ruined castle with stunning views over to Ailsa Craig, and a family picnic and play area . Scene of the horrific roasting of Allan Stewart, Commendator of Crossraguel Abbey, by the Cassillis Family in their attempt to seize the Abbey Lands.
Crossraguel Abbey (near Maybole)
Well preserved and fascinating abbey ruin founded around 1244 with many historical connections.
Highlights -The abbey’s completeness – everything is still there: the monks’ church, their cloister, even their dovecot (pigeon tower). The choir – with fine architectural details from the 15th century. The chapter house – still complete, with benches for the monks and an arched seat for the abbot. The little houses beyond the cloister – tiny two-roomed dwellings, where aged and infirm monks lived in the 15th century.
Leigh Milton Viaduct (near Kilmarnock)
The world’s oldest known surviving viaduct is a fascinating visit for railway enthusiasts and those interested in the industrial heritage of Britain.
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Museums Galleries and Culture
The Museums of Ayrshire reflect the history of the region from Medieval kings to its agricultural, industrial and sea-faring heritage, and of its most famous son, Robert Burns. Many of the museums are completely free to enter so are well worth a look even for a short visit. Click on the links for details and opening-times.
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (Alloway)
The museum comprises the famous Burns Cottage where the poet was born, the historic landmarks where he set his greatest work, the elegant monument and gardens created in his honour and a modern museum housing the world’s most important collection of his life and works.
The Scottish Maritime Museum (Irvine)
Situated on Irvine's Harbourside, you will find exhibitions and ship models as well as Scotland's 'Cathedral of Engineering', the Linthouse Engine Shop, built in 1872. Inside you can explore much of the Museum's collection including shipbuilding machinery and machine tools, small boats, canoes, lifeboats, and much more. A visit also includes a tour to the shipyard workers' tenement flat, restored to its pre-1920s appearance and you can board the MV Kyles the oldest floating Clydebuilt vessel in the world.
Kilwinning Abbey Tower Heritage Centre (Kilwinning)
Built in 1816 in the ruins of the town's 12th century Abbey, the heritage centre displays the fascinating history of both the abbey and the town of Kilwinning. Kilwinning Abbey Tower is the home of the oldest archery competition in the world. Every June archers gather to try and shoot the papingo (a wooden pigeon) at the top of the tower. The heritage centre is manned on behalf of North Ayrshire Council by the Kilwinning and District Preservation Society.
Museum of the Cumbraes (Millport)
The Museum of the Cumbraes displays the history of Millport and the islands of Great and Wee Cumbrae. The museum was originally housed in Millport's Garrison House but due to the closure of this building the museum has moved into temporary accommodation, which is sited adjacent to the Garrison House. The temporary home is smaller than the original museum but visitors will be able to get a feel for the Cumbrae's rich history. On display are a number of exhibits which celebrates Millport as a holiday town. There are also small sections on the island's industries and the local school.
The Museum of Ayrshire Country Life and Costume (Dalgarven by Kilwinning)
The Museum is located in a group of listed mills, granaries, kilns and agricultural buildings which date from fifteen hundred and seventy, but can be traced back to Kilwinning Abbey in the early thirteenth century. The collection falls into three identifiable themes, the first is the Victorian Grain Mill and its machinery, water wheel, lades, sluices and weir.
The second, displayed in the original granaries, contains exhibitions of tools and agricultural machinery, craft tools, dairy artifacts, and extensive room settings showing life, furnishings and memorabilia from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The third is a comprehensive collection of costume, worn and donated by local families and dating from seventeen seventy to the present. It contains an outstanding group of men’s, women’s and children’s clothes from all sections of local society. As you would expect there is also a large collection of Ayrshire Whitework and other textiles including Mandarin Chinese silks.
Burns House (Mauchline)
The Burns House Museum offers a fresh combination of interactive and traditional exhibits; the Museum represents a truly authentic Burns experience. Situated in the cobbled back streets of Mauchline where Robert Burns lived and worked between 1784 and 1788, years considered to be the most important and formative of his life. It was also Mauchline where he met and married his great love Jean Armour. On display here are a number of original manuscripts and objects from Burns’ life, including poems and letters, as well as an original Kilmarnock Edition. Across the road in Nanse Tinnock’s (an alehouse in Burns’s day) visitors can discover more about two Mauchline Industries – curling stones and Mauchline Boxware.
Doon Valley Museum (Dalmellington)
The former Cathcartson Visitor Centre has been refurbished to provide an improved bright and modern space. The permanent display features objects and illustrations representing aspects of the social and industrial history of the Doon Valley. The exhibition features a changing collection focus and always has new objects and images on display. The museum has a large collection of maps which can be used by local and family history researchers.
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Food and Drink
With the sheer variety of food and drink on offer in the region, Ayrshire has become known as a real larder for Scotland and a destination for foodies from all over the world. Fantastic smoked salmon, shellfish and oysters, exceptional pork, beef and lamb, artisan cheeses and the highest quality organic fruit and veg are just some of the ingredients from this region you will find in top restaurants throughout the country and much further afield. Throughout the region you will find excellent restaurants, cafes and bistros to suit all budgets and farm shops selling a bewildering array of home produced and locally sourced products. Also throughout the region you will find regular farmers markets that showcase the best of what the region has to offer.
Search our listings to find details of restaurants and cafes which accept the Pearl Discount Card
Farmers Markets (Various Locations)
When you visit a Farmer’s Market, you will get a chance to sample and hopefully buy some of the best of what the region has to offer, not just in terms of food but also locally produced handicrafts. You will get a chance to talk to the producers themselves and as a result get a true flavour of the region.
Scotland's most famous café, restaurant & ice cream parlour re-opened in December of 2008 following a multi £m refurbishment that has seen the landmark art deco building restored to its past glory with a new contemporary feel. Originally open in 1935, Nardini's is synonymous with a trip "doon the water" making it a must if you are visiting Largs.
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Walking, Cycling and Nature
With its rugged and craggy coastline, white sandy beaches, forests and lush rolling hills, Ayrshire provides a stunning variety of landscapes and endless possibilities for walkers, cyclists and lovers of the great outdoors in general. Amongst the incredible scenery you will find ancient ruins, historic castles and monuments in landscape which is alive with history.
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Golf and Sporting Activities
If you are a lover of sport, whether as a spectator or as a participant, you will find something to tickle your fancy within the region. With over 40 golf courses and many stunning rivers and reservoirs, the traditional pursuits of golf and fishing are well catered for but if you fancy something a little more adventurous, why not try a spot of kitesurfing in Troon. There are fabulous opportunities for hiking, mountain-biking and horse-riding, allowing you to take in the beautiful scenery at the same time.
Search our business listings on the main page for details of Pearl Discounts on sporting activities in Ayrshire.
Being the ancestral and spiritual home of golf, Scotland is home to some of the most famous courses anywhere in the world. While the East coast of the country has the famous Old Course at St.Andrews, Ayrshire can boast two courses that currently host The Open; Turnberry and Royal Troon. There is also Prestwick Golf Course which is the official birthplace of The Open and is steeped in the history of the competition. Away from the championship venues, there are dozens of other courses to satisfy the most avid golf fan from challenging links to parkland clubs set amidst stunning scenery.
For the latest discounts on Green Fees and lessons and all things golf-related, check our business listings on the main page
While not being quite as successful as Celtic and Rangers, Ayrshire has two professional football teams, Kilmarnock FC (the oldest professional Football club in Scotland) who play in the Scottish Premier League and Ayr United who ply their trade in the Irn-Bru Scottish First Division. If you are a football fan and want to experience football in the raw then why not visit Rugby Park or Somerset Park on a Saturday afternoon
Scotland is world -famous for its trout and salmon fishing and Ayrshire provides ample opportunity for the keen angler whether it is on the banks of the region’s six main rivers or in one of its dozens of well-stocked reservoirs.
Check our business listings on our main page for details of discounts to all things fishing related.
Ayr Racecourse is Scotland’s premier horse racing venue and hosts up to 30 race meetings a year including the Scottish Grand National and the Ayr Gold Cup. So whether you fancy a flutter or simply enjoy the spectacle of the race itself, a thrilling day’s entertainment awaits.
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Family Activities/ Days Out
There are so many great days out for the family in Ayrshire that you will be spoiled for choice. Many of the country parks have a brilliant range of kids’ activities with adventure trails, animals on show, games and entertainment.
Dean Castle and Country Park (Kilmarnock)
Kilmarnock's hidden gem, Dean Castle Country Park is a fantastic free day out for all the family. The country park covering over 200 acres, is nestled in the heart of Kilmarnock and offers something to enjoy for kids and adults alike.
The Country Park boasts beautiful woodland walks, adventure playground, pets’ corner, visitor centre, tearoom, shop and a fantastic 14th century castle housing world class collections including historic weapons, armour and musical instruments. Explore the park using scenic paths and trails - each season brings with it ever-changing plants and wildlife that you might spy along the way. Visit the urban farm area and meet some of the residents– Bruno, Lucy and Murron the kune kune pigs, their fallow deer herd and highland cattle and let’s not forget old favourites - Scott the Clydesdale and Timmy and Pip the donkeys.
Take a free tour of the castle and find out what it’s like to wear some real armour or have a go at playing some replica musical instruments.
Take part in some fun environmental education with the resident Ranger Service who will also answer any natural history related questions that you may have.
From classic car rallies to minibeast hunts, Dean Castle Country Park offers an extensive and varied events programme throughout the year.
Kelburn Castle, Country Park and Estate (Near Largs)
A secret forest, a crocodile swamp and an amazing adventure course makes Kelburn Country Centre one of Scotland's most thrilling days out for kids. Based around a 13th Century castle that's had an amazing makeover courtesy of a team of Brazilian artists, the estate near Largs, Ayrshire also features pony-trekking and a fabulous pets' corner for the little ones.
But there's plenty to keep the adults occupied too, with dramatic walks, breathtaking gardens and many features of historical interest.
The Kelburn Glen with its waterfalls and deep gorges is regarded as one of Scotland’s most beautiful woodlands and leads to spectacular views over the islands of the Firth of Clyde.
Heads of Ayr Farm Park (Heads of Ayr, Near Alloway)
At Heads of Ayr Farm Park - whatever the weather - you'll find plenty to see and do, with activities for all ages. They’ve almost 50 different types of animal, each with its own particular charm. Meet them, touch them, feed them! And you could play all day at their farm park. It's packed with fantastic activities like indoor and outdoor play areas, an aerial runway, thrilling ringo sledging, tunnel land and the combine castle.
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Hidden Gems and Special Mentions
Here you will find a list of things to see and do that are not always found in the guide books. Quite often they will be recommended by our advertisers and maybe slightly off the beaten track but are well worth a look. These little hidden gems often prove to be memorable highlights of people’s trips to the region. There are also certain attractions and places to visit within the region that are just so fantastic that they deserve a special mention and are listed below.
The Island of Arran
Often called Scotland in Miniature, the Island of Arran lies off the coast of Ayrshire accessible by a 1 hr ferry ride from Ardrossan. While only 19 miles long and 10 miles wide, you could easily spend a week on the island and barely scratch the surface. With its dramatic highland landscapes in the north of the island and its pretty villages and beaches in the south, the sheer variety of scenery lives up to its “Scotland in Miniature” title. Stunning walks and views, fascinating history, some of the best produce you will find anywhere in Britain, activities to suit all ages and interests , and its abundant wildlife, all make Arran a true gem of a place to visit.
Electric Brae (Dunure)
Optical illusion, quirk of nature or something more mysterious? On this stretch of road, put your car into neutral and it will glide effortlessly up the hill and grind to a halt going down. Check out the Electric Brae and see if you can solve the mystery for yourself.
A719 nine miles south of Ayr.
Fossil Collecting at Dalmellington Tip (Dalmelllington)
A fossil site that is absolutely packed with both plant and fish fossils. Spend a few hours rummaging through the shale and you’re guaranteed to find a very unusual souvenir of your time in Scotland.
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Whether you are a history buff, nature lover, sports enthusiast or just want to experience the richness of Scottish culture, you are bound to find an array of things to do, no matter what time of the year you come to visit Scotland. Below you will find a sample of events taking place in 2012 - Be sure to check the page for updates and also check out our live blog and Facebook links on the main page.
Sat 21st -Sun 22nd Jan 11-4pm
Model Railway Exhibition (Irvine)
This is Kilmarnock & District Model Railway Club's 30th Annual Exhibition. We have operating layouts in "0", "00" and "N"gauge, including one from Germany. There will be traders selling model railway locomotives and stock along with bits and pieces for modeling. We will have Books, DVD and memorabilia on sale. The Hon. Sec. and her team will be running a Buffet throughout the show.
Cost: Adults £3.00 ; Concessions £2.00 Family (2+2) £8.00Venue: The Volunteer Rooms, 19 High Street, Irvine
Wed 25th Jan - Sun 29th Jan
Alloway 1759 (Alloway)
Alloway 1759 is a unique commemoration of the birthplace and life of Robert Burns. Enjoy a sprinkling of nostalgia as Alloway streets are transformed back to when Rabbie was born. Mingle with costumed characters, enjoy entertainment by Burns Cottage, visit Rabbie's landmarks, take home some Alloway Fayre and celebrate the bard at the brand new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. Full programme now available at:
Sat 10th -Fri 23rd March 2012
The Ayrshire Music Festival (Ayr)
The Ayrshire Music Festival aims to: Represent the range of performing arts locally, raise the quality of performance and create the performers and informed audiences of the future
Fri 20th -Sat 21st April 2012
The Scottish Grand National (Ayr)
Scotland's biggest and best jumps festival comes under starter's orders with the Opening Day featuring seven top races proving quality National Hunt racing at its very best. On the 2nd day is Scotland's premier National Hunt race, The Scottish Grand National.
Fri 4th-Sun 6th May
Girvan Folk Festival (Girvan)
One of the longest running Scottish folk festivals, Girvan Traditional Folk Festival boasts 38 years of music, verse and storytelling. Renowned for its lively concerts and a warmth of welcome, the festival takes place in various venues throughout the seaside town of Girvan and offers a welcoming festival campsite.
Fri 18th-Mon 21st May 2012
Arran Mountain Festival (Arran)
Stunning coastline and breathtaking mountaintops: "Scotland in miniature" has it all. Join us for the 2012 Arran Mountain Festival to explore the island's amazing landscape.
Isle of Arran
Phone: 01770 302244
Sat 26th May 9am -5pm
Stewarton and Dunlop Show (Stewarton)
Agricultural show with cattle, sheep , Clydesdales, light horse showing and jumping, and a fun dog show.
Lainshaw Holm Irvine Road Stewarton Ayrshire
Sunday 10th June 2012
Ardrossan Highland Games (Ardrossan)
Ardrossan Academicals RFC Memorial Field
Sat 4th August 2012 11-5pm
Brodick Highland Games (Arran)
Traditional Highland Games including children's races, heavy events, pipe bands and Highland dancing. Open 11.00am - 5.00pm.
Brodick Isle of Arran
Sat 1st Sep -Sun 9th Sep
Largs Viking Festival (Largs)
A week-long celebration of the ancient Viking heritage of Scotland and in particular of Largs, where the Vikings were finally defeated and driven out in 1263.
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