Ayrshire is not a destination that immediately comes to mind when you think of Scotland. Far from the lush landscapes of the Highlands and the buzzing cities of the central belt, the coastal towns of the region are small in comparison. They are, however, the perfect place to capture the charm of the Scots. The birthplace of the renowned Scottish poet Robert Burns, Ayr is an unexpected site for culture and, when the sun shines, many Glaswegians flock to its sandy beaches for a taste of seaside life.
Catching a flight to Glasgow, tourists might find themselves arriving at Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport. South of the city, the airport’s name deceives many visitors with its location in South Ayrshire rather than Glasgow. Golf usually brings visitors down this way, but there is more to experience in Ayrshire’s coastal towns of Ayr and Troon. If weather permits it is definitely worth the day trip; below are seven unique things to discover whilst in Ayrshire.
Celebrate Robert Burns
Scottish literary figure Robert Burns is celebrated world over by natives, and fans, on January 25th; in Ayr the celebrations take place year-round to remember the poet who was born in the local town of Alloway. The main event is the Burns’ Festival, this takes place annually at the beginning of May, with live music, performances and wine and beer gardens taking over Alloway’s Rozelle Park. There are odes to Burns over the rest of the month with the Burnsfringe hosting events at local landmarks. Those visiting the region outside of May can get their Burns fix by visiting the Rozelle House Galleries and the Burns Cottage and Birthplace Museum. Or head to Brig O’Doon, to the bridge that inspired one of Burns’ most renowned poems, Tam o’Shanter.
Go to the beach.
Many Scots know Ayrshire for its beaches and seaside lifestyle; Glaswegians head to the shores of Ayr, or neighbouring Troon, when the city’s temperatures peak. The sandy beaches may attract natives, but for those not from cold countries, it should be noted that a scorching day is Scotland is roughly 20 degrees. Guests might be surprised that this constitutes taps aff weather; a beach experience in Scotland definitely differs to that of its European neighbours.
Cool down with an Irn Bru inspired dessert
Irn Bru is a unique Scottish soft drink: the fizzing, electric orange liquid a sworn cure for hangovers and a quick fix for those lacking energy. A nation with a sweet tooth, ice cream vendors saw a clear gap in the market and came up with an even sweeter way to consume the drink. So, if you are lucky enough to catch a bit of sunshine in Scotland, try a few scoops of Irn Bru ice cream or opt for an Irn Bru float. A popular companion to the beach, for the full seaside experience head to Renaldo’s or Mancini’s Ice Cream to try this unique flavour.
Get involved in water-sports on the Clyde
Meandering from the industrial ports of Glasgow out to the open-water that circulates Ayr, in no other area of the River Clyde would water-sports and swimming be advisable. Escaping from the pollution of the city, the constantly moving, coastal currents of the Clyde gives the opportunity to head out and explore the water. The town’s popularity as a seaside escape, means those who love activity and adventure can take part in water-sports from the local harbour or from different areas up the coast. Whether visitors choose to yacht, row, kayak, windsurf, scuba dive or surf, the vast water and fresh air provide a different view of the south-west coast.
Glimpse Ailsa Craig
Glancing south of the town, Ailsa Craig protrudes from the water as a ghostly silhouette, only visible from various points of in Ayrshire. A tiny speck on the west coast, this outline may not seem like much, but it’s an image well-known to locals and worth looking out for. The uninhabited island is made of the volcanic neck of an extinct volcano; it is comprised of granite which is also quarried for curling stones. The island is now a bird sanctuary with many gannets and puffins calling it home, but from Ayrshire don’t expect to see too many of them!
Go to the races
Host of the Coral Grand National, Ayr Racecourse’s programme schedules races throughout the year. Ayr’s connection with horse racing dates back to 1576 and the Scottish Grand National was transferred here in the sixties. An influx of investment in the fields has seen the premises change into a hub of fine dining establishments as well as the main attraction of the races.
Head to Arran
After you’ve exhausted Burns’ memorials and been envolved in the healthy sporting lifestyle, it’s time to move on. Ayr is a small seaside town and only a taste of life outside of the central hubs of the country. To experience greater remoteness and serenity, the perfect next stop is the Isle of Arran, visible from the Ayr’s shore. Head north to the harbour at Ardrossan and catch the ferry to this much loved island. The ferries depart at multiple times throughout the day and it is possible to take a day trip to the island, though weather can interrupt the schedule of crossings.