Ayr is a popular seaside resort in south Ayrshire and is about 35 miles (55 kilometres) south west of Glasgow, Scotland. It’s original Scottish gaelic name of Inbhir Àir translates to Mouth of the River Ayr, and this river flows out into the larger Firth of Clyde estuary. From the coast you can see the Isle of Arran and if it’s very clear, the northern tip of Northern Ireland, which had played a significant role in Ayr’s history.
Before it became a settlement, the areas surrounding modern day Ayr were known to have been occupied 5,000 years ago. There is also a Neolithic (4500-2000BC) standing stone at the end of Stonefield Park in Doonfoot, which is believed to have been placed there for sun worship in the stone ages, more than 9000 years ago. Ayr was established as a Royal Burgh in 1205 and remained the central marketplace and harbour for centuries, exporting goods such as fish, hide and wool and importing salt and wine. The town has recorded the largest population in Ayrshire for centuries and it is also registered as the is the 12th most populous settlement in Scotland.
On the southern bank of the River Ayr can still be seen the ramparts of a fort built by Oliver Cromwell’s men after they arrived in the city in 1652. This was around the time that Ayr played a pivotal role in the Plantation of Ulster when a significant number of people from Ayr settled in present-day Northern Ireland. In 1691 The separate village of Alloway to the south-east of Ayr, the birthplace of Robert Burns, was also annexed by the town in 1691. In 1839 the railway came to Ayr, connecting it to Glasgow, and from there the rest of Britain. With the first trains running in 1840, Ayr’s tourist industry expanded due to its attractive, sandy beach and links to Robert Burns, born in 1759. Separate train lines were built to export iron and coal from the area in the following 40 years.
What to see and do in Ayr
Since the railways came to town in 1840, Ayr has remained a popular tourist resort thanks to its long sandy beach, charming seafront and its links to golfing and Robert Burns. Areas south of the River Ayr incorporate a mixture of affluent Victorian residential suburbs and modern suburban developments. This is in contrast to more deprived and industrial areas to the north of the river. The Ayr Racecourse, which dates back to the 16th century, runs many Flat and National Hunt meetings throughout the year and is famous for being the venue of the Scottish Grand National steeplechase since 1865, the Ayrshire Handicap and the Ayr Gold Cup. Ayr has also hosted the Scottish International Airshow annually since 2014.
In Ayr’s southern suburb of Alloway is the birthplace of Scottish poet Robert Burns where there is now a Robert Burns Birthplace museum. The Bachelors’ Club, a humble house where Robert Burns learned to dance, is now owned by the National Trust and is still used for annual Burns Suppers and other events. One of the ‘10 Rules of Membership’ written by Burns, includes one that members must be single, male and from Tarbolton. The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is a cottage that houses more than 5,000 Burns artefacts including his handwritten manuscripts. You can even enjoy haggis, neeps and tatties in the museum café.
Culzean Castle & Country Park offers a wonderful day out to include woods, beaches, secret follies, a play park and a cliff-top castle. There are 40 buildings and follies across the estate, including the magnificent 18th century castle full of treasures. The armoury room has an impressive display of pistols and swords, and you can also learn of President Eisenhower’s links to the castle at the end of World War II. The opulent park is planted with conifers and beech, and includes a swan pond, an ice house and fruit-filled glasshouses.
Where to stay in Ayr
There are a range of places to stay in Ayr, perfect for weekend breaks, shopping days, golf breaks at famous championship courses and for exploring the beautiful Ayrshire coastline. There is an abundance of self-catering accommodation, bed & breakfasts and some excellent hotels. Ideally located in the heart of the historic seaside town, the Mercure Ayr Hotel is just one mile from Ayr railway station and 2 miles from Prestwick airport and includes a swimming pool, sauna, steam room and spa pool. The Enterkine House Hotel is a privately owned, luxury four star country house hotel offering the very best in accommodation, fine dining and relaxing views.
The Savoy Park Hotel will immediately make you feel welcome and at home. The Savoy Park Hotel has been under the stewardship of the Henderson family for over fifty years. You’ll experience genuine hospitality, friendly, professional service and excellent fresh homemade food, with a full Scottish breakfast included. Afton Villa Bed and Breakfast is a five-minute walk from Ayr Racecourse, making it a popular choice for guests enjoying a day at the races. The rooms are spacious and well-furnished. The breakfasts are excellent quality and included in the tariff rate at no additional cost.
If you want grandeur, stay at Culzean Castle, perched on the Ayrshire clifftop. Your accommodation could either be the circular former brewhouse, added in the 1780s, which lies in the castle’s West Wing. This used to supply the estate workers with their staple drink of beer until the 3rd Marquess of Ailsa changed it into a wine cellar 100 years later. Dine alfresco in the private garden, enjoy spectacular sunsets over the bay and let the crash of the waves lull you to sleep. The other option is the castle’s sandstone stable block.
Ayrs & Graces has recently been awarded a 5* Gold, for its luxury bed and breakfast accommodation, offering 3 luxury rooms each with individual interior design & Designer bathrooms. 5 Star Gold is the ultimate accolade and there are only 27 in all of Scotland, out of 4000+ Bed and Breakfasts. It is also possible to stay at nearby luxury caravan parks, hire a camper-van or stay in one of the many Air BnB offerings in town.