Explore Ayrshire’s Famous Castles and Cottages
By Anita Draycott
Ayrshire, the poetic heart of Scotland offers a range of unique visitor attractions, including Culzean Castle and Country Park, the jewel in the National Trust for Scotland's crown. Here are a few visitor attractions to explore:
- Dean Castle Country Park
Dean Road, Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire
Dean Castle Country Park is an excellent free day out for all the family. The Country Park boasts a 14th-century castle, beautiful woodland walks, adventure playground, pet’s corner, visitor centre, tearoom and shop. Steeped in history and housing displays of world-class collections including historic weapons, armour and musical instruments, Dean Castle is a fascinating day out for all ages.
Visit the urban farm and meet some of the residents including the charismatic team of llamas and the majestic herd of fallow deer. Not forgetting Scott the Clydesdale horse and the donkeys - Timmy and Pip - the noisiest members of the urban farm. The Country Park covers 200 acres, providing g a variety of beautiful walks for all ages and abilities.
- Souter Johnnie's Cottage
Main Road, Kirkoswald, South Ayrshire
Visit the fascinating cottage and home of John Davidson, the original Souter Johnnie in Robert Burns' famous poem Tam O' Shanter. Scottish literature comes to life in this 18th-century thatched cottage in the heart of Kirkoswald. The house also offers a taste of how the Davidson family would have lived and worked. Inside the cottage, there is a reconstructed shoemaking workshop crammed with Souter Johnnie’s original tools and a living quarters with period furniture. In the attractive garden behind the cottage sits a restored thatched alehouse. This is home to beautiful life-size statues of Tam o' Shanter, Souter Johnnie, the Innkeeper and the Innkeeper's Wife from the poem Tam o' Shanter, which were carved in sandstone in the 1830s by the sculptor James Thom.
- Bachelor’s Club
Sandgate Street, Tarbolton, South Ayrshire
In this 17th century thatched house, Robert Burns and friends formed a debating club in 1780.
Scotland’s national bard learned to dance, debate and even became a Freemason. A visit to this authentically restored house, now converted into a museum chronicling the formative years of one of Scotland’s greatest literary talents, is a must for any Burns enthusiast.
- Alloway Auld Kirk
Monument Road, Alloway, Ayr\
The eerie setting for Robert Burns' famous tale of Tam O'Shanter, Alloway Auld Kirk dates back to the 16th Century. Sitting just 300 yards from the famous River Doon, Alloway Auld Kirk is a must see for anyone interested in Robert Burns and his poetry. This is where poor Tam O'Shanter saw the witches dance before they gave chase. It is within close proximity to Burns Cottage and the Burns National Heritage Park. Burns' father, William Burness and his sister, Isabella Burns Begg are buried in the kirkyard.The church itself was a simple structure, a stone built rectangle with gabled ends. Today it is a roofless ruin. Within the church is the elegant sarcophagus of David Cathcart, Lord Alloway, and a mortsafe - a cast iron shield temporarily buried with a coffin to discourage body-snatchers, who supplied fresh corpses to anatomists. It is worth searching out several exquisitely carved gravestones, heavy with symbols of death and resurrection.
- Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
Murdoch's Lone, Alloway, Ayr, Ayrshire
Ayrshire was also the home of Scotland's National Bard, Robert Burns, who took poetic and musical inspiration from its people, towns and countryside. His life and works are celebrated at The Burns National Heritage Park at his birthplace in Alloway, south of Ayr.
The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum offers a truly unique encounter with Scotland's favorite son.
The museum comprises the famous Burns Cottage where the poet was born, the historic landmarks where he set his greatest work, the elegant monument and gardens created in his honour and a modern museum housing the world’s most important collection of his life and works.
- Culzean Castle and Country Park
Maybole, South Ayrshire, Ayrshire
A remarkable vision of turrets and battlements, Culzean Castle is surrounded by surging seas, lush forests and secret gardens. The Castle is the perfect place for a day out whether you're a keen walker, enjoy admiring gardens, have an interest in architecture or just enjoy soaking up some history. Standing on a dramatic cliff top overlooking the Firth of Clyde, the castle has been associated with the Kennedy family since the 14th century and was converted by Robert Adam between 1777 and 1792.
Culzean also has a strong link with President Eisenhower. The top-floor apartment was presented to him for his lifetime in recognition of his role during World War II. The property is set in nearly 600 acres of stunning countryside and miles of waymarked paths lead visitors through majestic woodland and past secluded ponds. Head for the Deer Park, the cliff top walk or explore the beaches and seek out the park's hidden treasures such as the ice houses, the Camellia House, the pagoda or the caves.
- Dumfries House
Dumfries House Estate, Cumnock, Ayrshire
Dumfries House is one of Britain’s most beautiful stately homes and best kept heritage secrets. Admission to Dumfries House is by guided tour only. There is no charge for admission onto the Estate. Saved by the intervention of HRH the Prince of Wales in 2007, Dumfries House combines the architecture of Robert Adam with the furniture of Thomas Chippendale and leading 18th-century Scottish cabinet makers. The house and original contents, which include nearly 10% of Chippendale’s surviving work, represent one of the most important documents of the Scottish Enlightenment. Recently having been fastidiously restored to its original splendor, the house is open to the public all year round. Visitors can take one of the expert guided tours around the stunning interiors and savour the delights of this now resplendent 18th century stately home. The Dumfries House Estate retains much of the original 18th-century landscape design and is open to walkers daily from dawn to dusk.
- Dundonald Castle
Visitor Centre, Winehouse Yett, Dundonald, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, KA2 9HD
Built in 1371, Dundonald Castle is a splendid example of a medieval tower house, with a fine barrel-vaulted ceiling in the lower hall. Sitting on a prominent hilltop in Dundonald village, Dundonald Castle commands fine views over the Firth of Clyde. The castle was built on the site of earlier castles belonging to the High Stewards of Scotland and can be regarded as the cradle of the Stewart Dynasty. Explore the high-vaulted halls and gloomy dungeons of this splendid stronghold, perched on a hill above the village. The main tower was built in the 1370s by King Robert II to mark his succession to the throne. Its heritage is explored in the visitor centre. The castle visitor's centre includes an exhibition illustrating the history of the site and a display of some of the artifacts found during archaeological excavations on the hill. There is also a souvenir shop and a small cafeteria. There are scenic walks through the woods on the hillside to the west of the village within the vicinity of the castle. Guided tours for group parties can be arranged provided prior notice is given.