Situated on the southwest corner of Scotland, the county of Ayrshire has so much to offer. With a mix of beaches, countryside towns and island life, there’s something for everyone. Foodies will enjoy the range of local produce on offer. Fancy yourself as a bit of a golfer? It’s one of Scotland’s top regions for golf with close to 50 golf courses. The county is just under an hour’s drive to the cultural city of Glasgow, so you’re never too far from a ‘stoater’ of a day out (that’s Glaswegian for ‘excellent’). Not to blow our own bagpipes but here at Plum Guide, we’re pretty talented when it comes to knowing where to go and what to do. Of course, no holiday would be complete without a luxurious rental home, and that’s something we also know about. Our team of experts have vetted each home in our range so you’re guaranteed a good’s night’s sleep. Find your dream rental in Scotland today, and find inspiration with our guide to places to visit in Ayrshire.
Culzean Castle & Country Park
Culzean Castle, Ayreshire, Scotland | Image by mat's eye is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Culzean Castle & Country Park is a whole day out. Cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, the park includes miles of sandy coastline, gardens, woods and trails. Spread across 260 hectares, the park is fit for royalty. Literally. It was once the playground of David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassillis. Keen to show off his wealth and status, the park has everything from flamboyant gardens to fruit-filled greenhouses. If it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for us.
The jewel in the crown is the Culzean Castle, a romantic 18th-century fortress perched on the cliffs. Filled with treasures, you can take a guided tour to learn about the people who lived there and to see the fine collection of paintings and furniture. Taking the kids with you? For your sake, don’t drag them along to see artwork. There’s the Adventure Cove and Wild Woodland play areas which will guarantee hours of tantrum-free fun. Enjoy afternoon tea with views over the Firth of Clyde at the Castle’s tearoom, Fo'c'sle (don’t ask how to pronounce this one).
Isle of Arran
Green fields at the coastline of Isle of Arran, Scotland, UK
Just off the coast of Scotland is the Isle of Arran, one of the best places to visit in Ayrshire. This island has a little bit of everything, from dramatic mountains and coastline to outdoor activities and local produce. Before you ask, of course there’s a castle on the island - this is Scotland after all. Brodick Castle and Country Gardens is a must-visit when on Arran. The castle has an interactive visitor experience which includes a Victorian arcade, costumed interpreters and a huge collection of artefacts. Outside there are formal gardens, waterfalls and woodland trails, and adventure play areas for young ones.
Speaking of walks, the island is made for it. Filled with rugged landscapes, there are walks for every level. The highest point on the island is Goatfell at 874 m. It’s well worth the effort for some pretty epic views. On the west side of Arran you’ll find the Machrie Moor Stone Circles, the archaeological remains of six Neolithic stones. There’s plenty of history to discover, including burial cairns and cists, and hut circles. The Isle of Arran is also known for its local produce, so if you’re a foodie you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve entered heaven. Artisan cheese, oatcakes, ice cream and condiments are just some of the local produce you can find here.
We’ve not forgotten about the drinks, of course. You’ll find two distilleries on the island - Lochranza Distillery and Lagg Distillery - making some of the finest whisky. There’s also Arran Brewery if you’re more into craft beer (that’s what all the kids are into nowadays, aye?) Like the rest of Ayrshire and Scotland (they did invent it after all), Arran is perfect for golfing. The island is home to two golf courses - Lochranza Golf Course and Brodrick Golf Course - which boast some pretty remarkable views.
The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory
Here’s one of the most unique places to visit in Ayrshire. Located within the world renowned Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory offers the chance to view the universe through two hi-tech telescopes. What’s great is that you don’t have to be an astronomy genius to understand what’s going on up there. The guides are friendly and explain things in an ‘astronomy for dummies’ kind of way. The observatory also frequently hosts special events with guest speakers or events that are based around special dates in the astronomical calendar.
No trip to Ayrshire would be complete without a visit to the county town itself. This bustling seaside resort is a popular choice for holiday makers, and has plenty of things to see and do. One of the must-sees is the esplanade with a long, sandy beach. The beach stretches for almost two miles and has everything you need - family entertainment centre, crazy golf and plenty of cafes to choose from.
Ayr Racecourse is also a great day out. Dating back to the 16th century, the racecourse holds many Flat and National Hunt meetings year round. It’s also host to the Scottish Grand National, the Ayrshire Handicap and the Ayr Gold Cup. Place your bets ladies and gents. Meanwhile, if you’re well versed in Scottish poetry and literature, you can’t miss discovering more about Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns. Born in Alloway on the outskirts of Ayr, it’s worth visiting his birthplace which is the site of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.