Largest town on the Clyde coast, the old port of Ayr is still a traditional holiday centre with golf and a race course amongst its attractions. There are also plenty of Robert Burns’ connections to explore.
‘Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a toun surpasses…’
The often quoted reference to Ayr in Robert Burns’ poem ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ is just one of many instances where the town features in his work. Burns was no doubt aware of the antiquity of the place. The still standing ‘Auld Brig’ (old bridge) that features in another of his poems dates from the 15th century, though the River Ayr here was first bridged at least two centuries before that. And by Burns time, Ayr was a thriving port with trade connections as far as the Americas, a role it had until overtaken by Glasgow. Near the river, Scotland’s oldest merchant’s house, the restored 16th-century Loudoun Hall, can still be seen.
By the early 19th century, the town had developed into a fashionable resort, easily accessible from the Glasgow conurbation at first by steamer services, then by rail. This role as a resort continues to the present day, but Ayr is also important as an administrative and shopping centre for Ayrshire as a whole.
Accommodation in Ayr:
Town centre hotels, or by the seafront, or close to the racecourse are all easy to find amongst the accommodation in Ayr. There is also a good selection of guest houses and bed and breakfast accommodation. Self catering properties both in the town or further afield and conveniently close to golf courses are also available. Caravan and holiday parks also offer a wide choice, mostly on the coast.
Many of the points of interest in and around Ayr have Robert Burns connections. Aside from these, the Rozelle House Galleries and the McLaurin Art Galleries are an important cultural focus for the town. A little further afield, the National Trust for Scotland look after Culzean Castle, whose grounds are a country park that is one of the Trust’s most popular attractions in Scotland. To the north of the town, in Irvine, the Scottish Maritime Museum (closed winter) with its displays and floating exhibits, recalls those who built and sailed Scottish ships around the world.
Walkers can enjoy The River Ayr Way - a series of linked paths that have created Scotland’s first ‘source to sea’ route that connects Glenbuck, at the headwaters of the River Ayr, to the town of Ayr – a distance of 41 miles (66km). In addition, the Ayrshire Coastal Trail runs both north and south from the town and links beaches and walkable shorelines with paths, promenades and farm tracks. Ayr is also a great centre for golfers with at least 20 quality courses within easy reach.
An Ayrshire ‘must see’, Culzean Castle on its cliff edge site has been associated with the Kennedys since the 14th century. The present building, originally commissioned by the 10th Earl of Cassilis, is considered to be one of the finest designs by Robert Adam. Its 230 hectare grounds are a country park with woodland walks, a walled garden, swan pond and still a hint of the exclusive elegance, now open to all.
Robert Burns turns up in the events programme as well – especially around the celebrations of his birth on the 25th January as well as the annual Burns an’ a’ that Festival. Otherwise, some notable events in and around Ayr include the Ayr Flower Show and there are also Highland Games and folk music festivals in the area, plus a full programme at Ayr Race Course. See www.information-britain.co.uk for more info.