AYRSHIRE

UK South Scotland Peebles PastureThe Ayrshire region of southeast Scotland is home to fertile farmlands, sunny beach stretches and wide golf courses. Sitting close to the Clyde Coast, this region is home to some fine ancient structures like the Culzean Castle- a prolific 18th century mansion that is considered a national treasure. The region has also been the birthplace of famous names such as Robert de Bruce (King of Scotland in the 14th century), Robert Burns (poet) and Sir John Boyd Barr (Noble Peace Prize Winner).

 


Ardrossan (pop 11,000) is located in North Ayrshire on a promontory. This commuter town mainly sees tourists for transportation purposes only- ferrying people to and fro Arran via ferries.

 


UK South Scotland Great Cumbrae IslandThe Isle of Great Cumbrae (pop 1,434) often confuses visitors as they will quickly discover that the entire territory spans no longer than 4 miles. This tiny island however, was named as such to avoid confusing it with its neighbouring, privately-owned Little Cumbrae isle. Nonetheless, do not let the miniscule size fool you; as this island holds a long and rich history.

Much mystery surrounds the past of the Isle of Great Cumbrae as archaeological evidence states that this island has been inhabited since the end of the Ice Age. Many also assume that the Isle of Cumbrae is the starting point of the spread of Christianity in Scotland, as it is believed that early saints like St Maura, St Beya and St Mirran used to reside here.

The island’s only town is the southerly settlement of Millport. This town holds several unique records such as being home to the narrowest house in the world [50 Stuart St], which has an exterior of just 119 centimetres. The town is also home to Europe’s smallest cathedral- the Cathedral of the Isles [College St, +44 147 5530353]. These record holders are tourist attractions in their own right. Other attractions include the Robertson Museum & Aquarium [+44 147 5530581 www.gla.ac.uk/marinestation/index.php?url=facilities/museum.php ad/ch €2/1]- a museum managed by the local university that is dedicated to providing information about the marine life in the island’s surrounding waters; and the island’s beaches that attract windsurfers.

The entire island can be scoured on foot; in fact, the road that encircles the island provides the main path for walking and cycling enthusiasts (you can find several bike rental stores across Millport). Hence, many visit the Isle of Great Cumbrae for day trips only. You can arrive at the island via ferries from Largs, stopping at the port just a few kilometres from Millport (local buses run every 10 minutes, transporting ferry passengers to Millport).

 

 


Ayr (pop 46,000) is the largest town in the Ayrshire region and the Firth of Clyde. This town used to be an important sea trading centre for centuries (even rivalling Glasgow) up until the 17th century. Ayr then morphed to become a popular beach resort in the 19th century, mainly catering to families. These days, Ayr caters to a sporting crowd with stellar beaches, golf courses and racecourses (the top in Scotland). In terms of tourism, Ayr depends more on housing the crowd that visits Alloway for their Robert Burns attractions. However, it does have two main sights- the Auld Brig and Kirk (reasonably preserved medieval structures).

 


UK South Scotland Dumphries Robert Burns portrait WikipediaAlloway lies on the outskirts of Ayr and is the first port of call for anyone who loves Robert Burns- the national poet of Scotland.

Sights
Robert Burns was born in Alloway on the 25th January 1759, in a tiny one-room cottage house. The Romantic poet was known for poems such as the Auld Lang Syne and Ae Fond Kiss. An entire collection of Burns-related attractions are located in the Burns National Heritage Park [Murdoch’s Lane +44 129 2443700 www.burnsmuseum.org.uk ad/ch €8/5.25]. The main sight in the park is the Burns Cottage and Museum that showcases the tiny room in which the poet was born, as well as a collection of his personal letters and songs.

 


Electric Brae is a little hill on the A719 route, south of Ayr. This gravity hill is known for its famous optical illusion whereby anyone travelling downhill, will appear to be heading backwards, uphill instead. Several theories had popped up over the years to explain this phenomenon; and one of the most potent ones was the theory that used electricity as the cause for this movement (hence the name). The best way to experience this effect is to hop on a car and head northwards, with the sea on your left.

 


UK South Scotland Culzean CastleCulzean Castle [Maybole, +44 131 2439405 www.nts.org.uk ad/ch €14/10] is perhaps one of the best loved architectural structures in Scotland. It appears on the back of the Royal bank of Scotland’s five pound note and is featured on many Scotland travel brochures. Built in the 18th century, by Robert Adam (one of the forefathers of the neoclassical school of architecture in Scotland and England), the Culzean Castle sits on a dramatic location at the edge of a rugged cliff that is constantly embraced by the sea waves. The castle was erected on the site of a former state mansion and was intended to house the Earl of Cassillis, David Kennedy. The family passed the castle to the National trust of Scotland, after holding on to the property for almost two centuries.

Today this castle is opened to the public, proudly exhibiting its exquisite interior design works such as its Oval Staircase, armoury and Circular Saloon. Each room in the castle offers a different breathtaking view, as the building is flanked by the wild sea on one side and the vast Culzean Country Park on the other. The park features thick woodlands, a deer park and even a swan lake. You can visit the castle and the park on a combined ticket.