Ayrshire is known for its coast line, where the coastal path doubles as a challenging (not to mention, long) hike for those who are eager to discover more of its beauty. The path runs for nearly 100 miles with great views of the Isle of Arran, but take note of the tidal times, as some paths may be impassable because of the tide. Because of its proximity to Glasgow, most tourists flock here to see nature that’s different from the Scottish Highlands.
Best times to go
Without a question, the best time to go is during the summer. Not only is the weather mild enough to do hiking and cycling, and the sun sets late than usual. The ferry services to Firth of Clyde Islands (Arran, Butae, and Cumbrae) are available, making travel to these islands a reality. Note that if you do go during the summer, you’ll have to make reservations in advance. These sleepy towns suddenly become very active during this time, as the population balloons with tourists.
Because Ayrshire is basically comprised of small towns dotted around the mainland and a few islands in the distance, you can either choose to stay in the mainland for a few days during your stay and cycle or hike your way through the trail, stopping by small towns along the way for accommodation or to stock up on provisions. You can also just opt to rent a car and drive yourself through the coastal town.
To get from the main land to the little islands that dot the coast, the only way is by ferry. These ferries run continuously during the summer, but you may have to be more flexible when it comes to other months as ferries tend to be cancelled during bad weather. If you’re on the island, you can try to hitchhike your way around – it’s safe and is accepted.
Places to See:
In Isle of Arran:
- Brodick Castle – a fortress and garden area (fortress only open during the summer) owned by the National Trust. You can actually see it in the bank of a Scottish bill made by the Royal Bank of Scotland
- Machrie Moor – Ancient stone circles (there’s 6 of them) near the Machrie settlement.
In Ayrshire, you can opt to take the castle trail. You’ll get a chance to see the following sites (you have to realize that back in the day different clans have claim to different lands, so to protect their assets, they built these fortresses):
- Rowallan Castle – ancient castle (but still intact) owned by the Muir family, built in the 16th
- Dean Castle & Country Park – home of the Boyd family, and was built in the 14th Still intact and can see inside.
- Dundonald Castle – a ruined castle, built on the site of three medieval castles.
- The historic town of Ayr – where you can visit the Wallace Tower, a homage to William Walace (the historic figure from the movie Braveheart)
- The village of Maybole – a town with magnificent architecture and has a great market
- Culzean Castle – a very beautiful castle, former home of the Marquess of Ailsa. Currently owned by the National Trust of Scotland, and is depicted in the five pound Scottish note issued by RBS.
- Turnberry Castle – what used to be an impressive castle ordered to be destroyed by Robert the Bruce in 1310. What you see now are fragments of what remains from nearly 800 years ago.
What to Eat:
Food here is the same all throughout Scotland. However, try the Ayrshire Bacon – apparently one of the best tasting bacons in Scotland. Try also the Ayrshire whisky that they make from the island. These whiskeys differ based on the water and ingredients they use so connoisseurs can tell them apart from one another.
Where to Stay
Hands down our family would recommend the Trump Turnberry, a Luxury Collection Resort. Check out their reviews on TripAdvisor. We stayed here for 5 nights of luxury. The view is to die for at this scenic coastal resort. We were greeted by burly doormen in kilts who quickly grabbed our luggage from our hands. These guys take your breath away! You will find yourself completely pampered in every way during your stay here. From scrumptious food, to an exquisite high afternoon (one of my trip highlights), to a prestigious golf course on the coast, the Trump Turnberry is definitely a high end splurge we highly recommend. I can’t wait to return someday to Scotland’s coast and to the Turnberry! It has since been recently renovated since our stay in 2013. I can’t imagine it even better than it was for us but I’m sure it is!