The Ayrshire region of Scotland sits on the southwest coast and enjoys considerably better weather than most of the country! This is also Robert Burns country – you can’t miss him and his influence when exploring the area. It is also home to some lovely beaches, fantastic castles, great food, stunning drives and much more! Here are my top 11 Things to do in Ayrshire Scotland
1. Things to do in Ayrshire – Stay at Glenapp Castle
I had always wanted to stay at a Scottish castle. I think it goes back to when Madonna married Guy Ritchie at a Scottish castle. I had images of a brooding and mysterious castle with lots of men in kilts and wild Scottish weather.
If, like me, you have always had a desire to stay in a Scottish castle then look no further. Glenapp Castle is the place to stay. It absolutely is not dark and brooding – quite the opposite – but to me it offered exactly the type of special castle experience I was seeking.
The grounds are huge. It takes several minutes to drive up the winding path after you go through the gates to get to the actual castle. It covers 36 acres. The castle itself is magnificent. The ground floor has several sitting rooms and a bar as well as the main areas for eating.
There are seventeen guest rooms and suites. My room was huge! A giant four poster bed, a dressing area, stunning bathroom with a claw foot tub.
If you like a castle as much as I do check out this 7 day Scotland Itinerary that focuses on castles and abbeys.
The grounds are stunning and worth a lengthy walk. From the castle, it is easy to see the lovely xxx pond which is Instagram heaven. Take a walk and wander through the extensive and beautiful grounds.
There are loads of activities on offer from archery to private boat tours. On the water, you can fish, check out birds or find a private beach. Staying on site there is croquet, quotis, french boules, clay pigeon shooting and pretty much everything you might think of!
Glenapp Castle also has a relationship with the lovely Pebbles Spa which is about a 10-minute drive away.Check Prices & Availability for Glenapp Castle
2. Ayrshire Things to do – Eat at Glenapp Castle
All the food at Glenapp castle is outstanding! As much of the menu as possible is locally sourced and you can taste the quality of the ingredients. Their version of the full Scottish Breakfast is outstanding!
The Castle offers lunch, afternoon tea and dinner for guests and visitors. Lunch is a three-course meal. Afternoon tea can be held either in the castle or on the grounds.
Dinner is a six-course extravaganza! Amazingly it changes every night. It is filled with treats including canapes and palate cleansers and petite fours and many other taste sensations. The evening I was there I enjoyed an amazing white onion, leek and thyme veloute which was mostly sourced from the grounds of the castle. The local Girvan lamb was also delicious.
The castle also has a charming tea shop. If you’re not able to make a full meal you can pop in and visit, have a look at the grounds and get a taste of castle life.
3. Visit Culzean Castle
Culzean Castle is big! Again, the size of the grounds of this castle is quite staggering. It will take several minutes to drive through from the entrance to the parking area. Once out of the parking area there is a large complex with the Home Farm Restaurant. There are 40 buildings across the estate!
There are then a couple of paths you can follow to the castle itself. There are castle tours – don’t miss the knife collection!
There is a lovely little cafe just to the side of the castle with outdoor seating.
A great Instagram opportunity is the little boat launch.
There are also several other walks etc throughout the grounds.Save Time & Stress and book Culzean Castle Now
4. Have a Spa at Trump Turnberry
Such a luxe spa! The chandelier in reception is a bit of a giveaway! The Trump Turnberry Spa offers both Espa and Ishga treatments. Ishga is actually Scottish Seaweed! Apparently, that is a thing!
There is also a lovely 20m pool with indoor and outdoor seating. Sauna and steam rooms are on offer as is a state of the art gym.
Visitors can often get some great deals on full day packages. Check on the website.
5. Play golf at Trump Turnberry
Scotland home of golf – think of St Andrews. But Trump Turnberry is one of the top 100 golf courses in the world – and its location on the Scottish West coast is quite spectacular. The legendary Ailsa course has hosted some of the biggest names in golf over the years.
Trump invested a considerable amount in the course and it is now ranked number one in the UK and Ireland.
6. Visit the Brig o Doon
This is the most photogenic of the Robert Burns activities! This iconic bridge is thought to have been built in the 15th century. It was made famous by its appearance in classic local boy Robert Burn’s poem Tam o’ Shanter. It now appears on the Scottish five-pound note.
When you walk down to the bridge on the Alloway side of the water you will walk past a lovely pub called the Brig o’ Doon House Hotel. The pub has a lovely garden with amazing trimmed trees that are also worth a look and a photograph.
7. Immerse yourself in Robert Burns
The town of Ayr is all about Robert Burns! Start off by parking in the museum car park. It is a very modern museum and quite interactive and digitally friendly. The Burns monument and gardens are walking distance nearby.
Then across the road is the graveyard where Robert Burn’s father is buried. Robert Burns is buried at St Michael’s Churchyard in Dumfries. The road that this is on has been called the Poet’s Path. This road leading down to Burns Cottage.Save Time & Stress - buy your Robert Burns Museum ticket Now
8. Walk by the seaside in Troon
Troon is a very cute little town on the seaside in the north of Ayrshire. Have a walk along its long seafront. There is a beach here with some lovely sand.
If this appeals you may also want to check out the seafront at nearby Prestwick (where the airport is). A little further north is the town of Largs. It is known for some great cafes, Scott’s restaurant at the marina and some great sunset views.
9. Drive the Coast road A77
When it comes to scenic drives in Scotland most people think of the highlands. However, southwest Scotland has some absolutely stunning roads. The key road is the Southwest 300. This circular road covers over 300 beautiful miles.
The key section of the route through Ayrshire is the A77 road. This road starts in Glasgow and then runs all the way to Portpatrick on the Irish Sea. Along the way are Prestwick, Ayr, Girvan and Stranraer and most of the main towns of this area. Once the road hits Givran (if you’ve started in Glasgow) it follows the sea down to lovely Portpatrick.
If you are heading north in Scotland you might like my posts on:
10. Visit Dumfries House
Dumfries House is a stunning yet little known stately home in Ayrshire. It was saved by the Prince of Wales himself in 2007 as it features the architecture of Robert Adam and the furniture of Thomas Chippendale.
The estate is open free to visitors and walkers from dawn to dusk. The main gates for cars close at 6 pm.
The only way to see inside the estate is a guided tour. Click here to find out tour options and to make a booking.
Despite the name, Dumfries House is located in Ayrshire, not Dumfries and Galloway.
If you’re interested in Dumfries and Galloway check out my post on the Top 11 Things to do in Dumfries and Galloway for Grown Ups.
11. Have a Wee Dram
AD Rattray has been making whisky since 1868. The company is family owned and still independent. Their focus is single malt whisky. Their Whisky experience is located in an old village school. There is no cost and no need to book. Just drop in and the team will take care of you with a tasting and everything you could possibly want to know about Whisky!
12. Visit some Islands
There are several Island options in Ayrshire. From Largs, there is a 15-minute ferry that goes to Cumbrae and the small town of Millport. There are beautiful sunset views over Arran island from Cumbrae.
There’s also the one-hour ferry from Ardrossan on the mainland to Brodick on the Isle of Arran. Arran is definitely worth visiting if you get the chance. It has a castle, a distillery, a brewery, a cheese, a chocolate shop, standing stones, a mountain to climb…. they call it ‘Scotland in miniature’ because of the variety of landscape and flora & fauna all over the island. It’s absolutely beautiful.
In the summer a ferry runs from Claonaig on the Kintyre Peninsula to Lochranza in the north of the island.
Great Deals for those visiting Scotland from outside the UK
Visit Great Britain has some fantastic offers that are just for those who live outside the UK. It is possible to make significant savings if you book certain things before you travel – not to mention how much easier it is to already have tickets for things when you arrive!
If you have just moved to the UK you can buy these passes in your first six months of residency.
There are a number of Brit Rail passes available. Rail is a brilliant way to get around the UK – the train services are generally pretty good and there are good timetables. The most important thing to check is what kind of pass you need. The best way to determine this is to start by checking this map against where you are planning to visit.
There are two options available for Scotland.
The BritRail Central Scotland Pass covers the key central cities in Scotland – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Fife Station.
If you’re planning on exploring the Highlands and the islands of Scotland then a better option is the BritRail Scottish Freedom Pass. This covers all rail within Scotland and even some of the ferries to the islands.
If you’re planning on travelling around England and Scotland then the best option is to buy the BritRail GB Pass. This covers all train journeys across all of the United Kingdom.
All of the above take the form of paper tickets that will be mailed to your home address.
There is a new BritRail MPass which has an eticket that can be downloaded onto a mobile. However, it has one key restriction which is that the travel must be taken on consecutive days so make sure you check if this suits your plans before purchasing.
Book Your BritRail Passes Here
If you prefer travelling via a bus to train then check out the skimmer pass national express coach. National Express travels to over 1000 locations and has free wifi, usb and power sockets, onboard entertainment, air conditioning and reclining leather seats!
Minicabs can be a great way to get around the UK. Minicabit taxi booking covers 300 UK towns and cities and can be booked as far as one year out. These can be particularly good for getting from a train station to hotels/b&Bs.
One of the best value offers for overseas visitors are National Trust passes. These passes cover entry to a large number of major attractions and stately homes within the UK. If you will be visiting a few of their properties these passes very quickly become amazing value.
The Historic Scotland Explorer Pass covers more than 75 properties including Edinburgh and Stirling Castles, Urquhart Castle at Lochness and many more.
The Scottish Heritage Pass covers over 120 properties but can only be used between April 1 and October 31.
Click Here to see All Deals on UK Sightseeing passes
UK Travel Essentials
Grab a WorldSIM PrePaid Global SIM Card to stay in touch at reasonable prices. Access WIFI at local rates with the mobile wi fi rental wireless internet anywhere you go in britain. This in your pocket wifi can be picked up at Heathrow or Paddington Station.
How to Get To Ayrshire
The closest airports are Glasgow and Prestwick. Click here for Cheap Flights.
If you’re going to spend some time in Glasgow check out my post on the 19 Best Glasow Tours and Day Trips
It is also possible to fly into Edinburgh Airport – especially if you are more interested in the eastern side of Dumfries and Galloway.
If you’re heading to Edinburgh make sure you read my blog post on Underground Edinburgh.
Once you have arrived the easiest way to get around is to hire a car. I would highly recommend doing this. Not only is it the most convenient option the weather changes frequently in Scotland so it is great to be able to rearrange your day as you need it.
When to Visit Ayrshire
The region has a maritime climate so it never gets extremely hot or cold. July is the warmest month of the year and January the coldest. Snow is rare. Rainfall is quite even throughout the year. Ayrshire is a good destination to visit all year round. Summer is peak time. Personally, I think Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit (I visited in May) as there are fewer people but quite long days. Autumn is also good for colourful leaves.
Like the rest of the UK, the weather changes often during the day no matter what time of year you visit.
Where to Stay in Ayrshire
I loved my stay at Glenapp Castle – as you can tell by its number one position in this post! I also enjoyed two nights at the very decadent Trump Turnberry. It is so luxe – well worth it for something special. Finally, I heard excellent things about Highgrove House Hotel.
Places to Eat in Ayrshire
In Ayr, check out the Fox & Willow on Carrick Rd which is known for its fantastic cocktail list. The Waterfront on South Harbour has a comfortable patio overlooking the water leading out to the sea, try Ruby 7 Days in the Sandgate if you like Chinese, and if you’re in the mood for a curry try Ayr India.
There are also several lovely pubs to check out in Ayr. The Ayrshire & Galloway friendly and comfortable. They serve Caledonian 80 on tap and are known for their pizza and savoury crepes. The Tam O’Shanter in the High Street is small, but a great spot to wind down for the day or hide out from a spat of rain.
The Twa Dugs in Killoch (just a couple doors from the Ayrshire & Galloway) has a good latte and a range of whiskies plus blues on a Sunday night. Some other cafes worth visiting are Cafe Monza in the High Street, Nova Coffeehouse & Juicebar in the Lorne Arcade, The Book & Bun in Newmarket Street and Pandora in the Sandgate. The Bhaile Craft Bakery is in an unusual spot north of the river, in the North Harbour Industrial Estate but has an excellent reputation.
For dessert check out either Renaldo’s & Lori’s Delights for ice cream. They are conveniently located about a minute away from each other so you can review both before deciding on your flavour!
What to Pack for a Visit to Ayrshire
As the weather does vary quite a bit no matter what time of year you visit pack layers and bring some waterproofs if you have a more outdoor itinerary planned. This part of Scotland does not tend to be terribly fancy. However, the high-end hotels in the area (like GlenApp Castle and Trump Turnberry ) do have a bit of a dress for dinner thing going on so good to pack one more dressed up option.
Scotland National Trust
If you’re spending a bit of time in Scotland and love a historic site it makes financial sense to buy a National Trust for Scotland Pass – much cheaper than paying for a load of separate entries.Save time & money - Buy a Scotland National Trust Pass
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If you click through on some of the links in this post and make a purchase I will receive a small commission. Just wanted to make sure you knew.
Thanks very much to Luxury Scotland for helping me to plan and sponsoring my trip to fabulous Scotland.
Also published on Medium.