Our Places: Ayrshire, Scotland
have always been drawn to Scotland, partly because my grandparents
were Scots. We had many holidays in places like Newton Stewart when I
was growing up, but when I decided to take my own family on a
"pilgrimage" about seven years ago, it had to be Burns Country we
visited (my Dad was born on Burns night, so it was only fair to see
what all the fuss was about). We now go to Ayrshire at least once a
year, occasionally twice or more.
Ayr and the surrounding areas has everything you could wish for in a holiday . The countryside is both spectacular and soothing, but you are never far away from something to do if you wish. It is also uncannily warm at times due to the gulf currents arount the coast. The area is steeped in history, and not just the 18th century Burns period. You can go from various castles (including Culzean Castle about 25 minutes from Ayr town centre, which has an apartment gifted to Dwight Eisenhower), to Cromwell's citadel, to the former ICI plant, which is the site used for dynamite production by Alfred Nobel in nearby Irvine Harbour. Alas, this nature reserve was once the home of a wonderful attraction called "The Big Idea" inventor centre, but the Scottish Parliament preferred to invest in similar attractions in Glasgow and Edinburgh, so it closed down. Shame.
Ayr racecourse is two minutes from the town, and there are also various golf courses to choose from. Neither of which are my reasons for going, but it is a plus point for some.
You are never far away from a site or building which has a claim to the life of Rabbie Burns or been part of his stories. The "Auld Kirk" and Brig 'O' Doon in Alloway are two of my favourites. If you go in the Burns cottage museum, you can even look at a cast of his skull and a splinter from his coffin!
Anybody visiting Ayr should make sure they drive along the coastal route and see the natural phenomenum of Electric Brae ( it is a hill, but if you stop on it and let yourself roll forwards, there is a natural optical illusion that you are rolling uphill).
For the kids, there is the beach and Pirate Pete's centre at the sea front. A little further down the road is the Heads of Ayr farm park, where the traditional petting zoo is mixed with quad rides, trampolines and wild buffalo viewing.
Those who remember life before the multiplex will enjoy the nostalgia of the Odeon cinema in Burns Statue Square. Although this is now a multi-screen, one of the auditoria has been kept in it's original state.
I have always found Ayr to be a good base for travelling to other parts of Scotland. Glasgow is about 45 minutes away and Edinburgh is about 1 3/4 hours away. The Braehead shopping centre near Glasgow is the best bet for serial shoppers. There is now also a large entertainment complex which has been built next door, so you can spend a day there. A short drive to the Ardrossan ferry terminal gets you on a boat to the Isle of Arran.
For those who have not visited the area for some years, it is worth pointing out that there has been a great deal of investment in the road network over the last five years, with a number of 'A' roads receiving extensions, upgrades and re-routes to speed up journey times.
To sum things up, I think Ayr is somewhere everyone should go to at least once in their lifetime. As I mentioned, we have been a number of times, and there are still things on our to do list each time we go.
This article © Darren Gibson. A variation of this page is published on under the user name Alslad36
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