Ayrshire – The Best Destination For Summertime
As a great Scottish summer draws to a close, we have one last stop on our tour of Scottish holiday destinations; the beautiful and historic county of Ayrshire. With verdant hills, gorgeous beaches and exciting islands to explore, Ayrshire is a haven for nature enthusiasts of course. But this south-west corner of Scotland has much more to offer as well. Read on to find out more about the castles, golfing, museums, and music of this wonderful region!
Although Scotland as a whole is known as the Home of Golf, Ayrshire is the birthplace of the world’s oldest, and still most prestigious, golfing tournament; the Open Championship. Originally hosted at Prestwick Golf Course, the Open is now played on either the Turnberry or Royal Troon courses, which amongst them have seen some of the greatest moments in golfing throughout their histories. From the first ever recorded hole-in-one of 1868, to Tiger Woods’ record breaking 8-stroke margin of victory in 2000, the Open Championship is a hot-bed of golfing achievement. As a spectator or a player looking to soak up some of the atmosphere and excellent playing conditions enjoyed by the golfing greats, a visit to Ayrshire is sure to provide you with endless enjoyment.
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It’s not only the Big Three of golf courses which Ayrshire hosts of course; there are many, many other world-class courses throughout the region. One of the newest of these is the course at Rowallan Castle, set in the beautiful surroundings of the 13th century estate from which it takes its name. If the rest of your party aren’t so keen on golfing, this would be a wonderful opportunity for them to spend some time exploring the grounds and buildings to learn more about the history of the Campbells of Rowallan.
There are many castles and other historical buildings of note in Ayrshire of course, among them the famous Dundonald and Turnberry Castles, each the home of Scottish kings. Though partially ruined, Dundonald Castle remains a magnificently impressive stronghold perched high on a hilltop, and can be fully explored and appreciated by visitors who can learn all about the castle’s history as the cradle of the Stewart dynasty, and its erection as a celebration of King Robert II’s ascension to the throne in 1370. By contrast, the older Turnberry Castle is completely in ruins, destroyed by the king who was born there, and dreaded to see it fall into the hands of the English. Robert I of Scotland, better known as Robert the Bruce, ordered this site decimated in 1310, and the castle was never rebuilt. After centuries of erosion from the wind and sea which assail it from three sides, hardly anything remains, but visitors can still explore the area to learn more and appreciate the size and strength the original structure must have represented.
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Ayrshire is not only the birthplace and home of kings, but also of Scotland’s Bard, Robert Burns, along with many other notable Scots. From pioneers of science such Alexander Fleming – the discoverer of penicillin who revolutionised healthcare in the early 20th century – to inventors such as John Boyd Dunlop – whose pneumatic tyres arrived at a crucial time for the burgeoning automobile industry. Even more recently, Ayrshire has been the home to one of Scotland’s most popular rock bands, Biffy Clyro, and the town has a vibrant musical scene culminating in the annual Live at Troon festival each September. Live at Troon has its own Fringe Festival which spills across all of the town of Ayr, featuring Scottish bands, musicians and comedians as well as much more.
When you’re not soaking up the sights and sounds of the festival though, consider visiting some of the excellent museums and art galleries spread across Ayrshire. Two personal favourites as a step away from the traditional fusty cabinets full of dusty relics and small-print placards are the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine’s harbour, and the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum. The maritime museum is an eminently practical exhibition, giving visitors the opportunity to learn a huge amount about the fishing industry which was the regions lifeblood for generations by exploring machinery, tools, boats and much more, as well as touring the tenements flats where workers lived, and boarding the MV Kyles – the oldest Clyde-built boat still floating. By contrast the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum is something of an escape, a step back into a time long since passed. This museum preserves and maintains its collections in traditional island buildings and seeks to teach visitors about the way of life on one of Scotland’s largest islands. Arran lies just off the coast of Ayrshire and is easily accessed by ferry. With a history stretching all the way back to the Bronze Age, Arran has a huge amount to offer, and their small and eclectic museum manages to fits a surprising amount of historical, geological and zoological knowledge into such a small space!
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Ayrshire truly is a wonderful place to visit to learn more about Scotland’s lowlands. If you’ve left it to the end of summer and still not taken that trip to Scotland you were planning on, this region offers so much to see and do you can easily pack in a huge amount of history, culture, and fun into a short space of time! If you haven’t been yet…what are you waiting for?! And if you have, we look forward to hearing about your favourite parts of the experience in the comments!