Ailsa Craig is a small rocky island which guards the entrance to the Firth of Clyde. This beautiful island is a true living landmark and a familiar sight for visitors to the Ayrshire coast south of Glasgow. It is a well known landmark and is colloquially nicknamed ‘Paddy’s Milestone’, being situated roughly half way on the sea voyage between Glasgow and Belfast. It is about 1200 meters from North to South and 800 meters from east to west, with its summit reaching about 338 meters high. On three sides it is bounded by sheer cliffs; the Barestack at 190 meters is one of the highest overhanging cliffs in Britain.
The ruined castle stands about 61 meters up the eastern side, In recent years the islands population has dwindled and is now completely uninhabited as the lighthouse has been completely automated negating the need for anyone to stay on the island on a permanent basis.
Ailsa Craig became an RSPB nature reserve in spring 2004 – securing the future of one Britain’s most important and impressive seabird colonies, including 40,000 pairs of breeding gannets. The 104 hectare site, lying 10 miles off the coast of Ayrshire, boasts cliffs hundreds of feet high which provide high-rise nesting tenements for a host of spectacular seabirds. Ailsa Craig has been firmly established as one of the premier gannet colonies in the UK, closely behind St Kilda and the Bass Rock on Scotland’s east coast. Kittiwakes, guillemots , razorbills and gulls also nest on the island along with the colourful puffin – now breeding again after an absence of over a century following a huge rat-eradication programme set in place by dedicated conservationists from Glasgow University.
Not only an amazing site for birds, Ailsa Craig is also home to some of the largest slowworms (a type of legless lizard) recorded in Scotland, most likely due to the absence of predators on the island. Historically the island was famed for its high quality granite, used for curling stones including those used for winter Olympic curling team champions.
No visit to Ayrshire is complete without a visit to Alloway, Alloway is birthplace of its most famous son Robert Burns and there are many attractions and history of this famous village. The thatched cottage, built in 1757 by Burns father has been restored and contains many relics of his time. Burns was born on 25th January 1759 and the event was documented in this verse .
“Our monarch’s hindmost year but ane Was five and twenty days begun, ‘Twas then a blast o’ Janwar win’ Blew hansel in on Robin.”
Towards the River Doon you can visit The Tam o’Shanter Experience and learn about Burns life and work. You can also visit Kirk Alloway and think of Tam o’Shanter as he watched the “Warlocks and witches in a dance;” From the Kirk you can see Burns Monument and the road leading to the legendary Brig o’Doon. Tam o’Shanter managed to flee from the witches over the Brig, as Burns said “A running stream they dare na cross”.
The County town of Ayr, in the heart of the Burns Country is a modern, busy shopping centre. Ayr attracts many visitors throughout the year, the sea -front and its leafy suburbs should definitely be on your Ayrshire places to visit list. Ayr looks out on the Firth, with the majestic peaks of Arran in the foreground and the Mull of Kintyre in the background.
Entertainment in the town includes theatre, a 4-screen cinema, 10-pin bowling, an ice rink and a large swimming pool complex. Ayr Racecourse runs many Flat and National Hunt meetings throughout the year and is particularly famous as the venue of the Scottish Grand National, the Ayrshire Handicap and the Ayr Gold Cup.
Ayr’s streetplan dates back to the 1200s and with many fine buildings from the centuries since, Ayr is a town with a real sense of its history.
Girvan is the largest town in the district of Carrick and the biggest settlement on the coast between Ayr to the North, and Stranraer to the south. Girvan is also home to an active boatyard and harbour. Views of Arran or Ailsa Craig, rising out of the Firth of Forth are simply stunning! Recreational facilities in the town include an indoor swimming pool, boating lake, putting green, children’s play areas, parks, safe places to walk. Girvan has many Public Gardens with attractive floral plantings and colourful displays which are situated in many parts of the town. There are also community groups throughout the town, all contributing to a vibrant community. Wandering around its busy harbour is a joy, here you can watch its still active fishing fleet.
Girvan’s beaches attract a huge amount of visitors, Girvan’s views to Arran or Ailsa Craig, rising out of the Firth of Forth are simply stunning.
The ancient capital of Carrick. Miniboll as it was known it has a recorded history going back to the 1100s. Maybole is situated on the A77 amongst the small towns between Ayr and Stranraer.
Maybole is a small town built on a sloping hillside and overlooks the Southern Uplands with a magnificent view of these rolling hills. The ancient kingdom of Carrick is the part of Ayrshire south of the River Doon. Maybole Castle is believed to be Maybole’s oldest inhabited house, dating back to around 1560. It served as the town house of the Earls of Cassillis and was originally built across the bottom of the High Street.
Located on the West Coast of Scotland and is a neighbour to Ayr and Troon, Prestwick has many places of historical interest including Prestwick Old Course where the first Open Golf Championship was played, Bruce’s Well and the Salt Pans. The town of Prestwick also enjoys beautiful views from the beach and is situated on a wide bay. Flat and sandy in its central part with dunes to the north and a rockier beach to the south, the view from here to the Isle of Arran is stunning! The name Prestwick means ‘village of the priest’ and was founded in the 10th century, now days it is also a central spot for avid golfers arriving for trips in to Ayrshire. The airport itself handles over 600,000 passengers a year, and was originally the transatlantic gateway for Scotland
The Isle of Arran
Arran which means The Peaked Island in Gaelic,is a small island off the West Coast of Scotland. It is approximately twenty miles long and eleven miles wide and lies in the Firth of Clyde. Arran is often referred to as ‘Scotland in Miniature’, and captures many aspects of the beauty of Scotland as a whole, from towering granite peaks inviting hill walkers and climbers to peaceful sandy bays overlooked by palm trees growing in the warm climate of The Gulf Stream, due to the proximity of the Gulf Stream palm trees grow in profusion. The ferry from Ardrossan docks at Brodick, the island’s main town, where there are two roads which cross the Island; the String Road from Blackwaterfoot in the west to Brodick in the east, and the Ross Road, which runs from Sliddery in the south west to Lamlash, one of the larger villages which overlooks the Holy Isle, home to the Eskdalemuir Buddhist Retreat Centre.
The name “Troon” comes from the Celtic word “trwyn”, which means “headland” or “point”. The old part of Troon town was built on the rocky nose that extends from the sandy bays to the North and South. Troon is twinned with town of Villeneuve- sur-Lot in France, Villeneuve- sur-Lot is a little town synonymous with the game of golf.
The Royal Troon Golf Club was the host of the 133rd Open Golf Championship in July 2004. Troon is a busy Scottish sporting venue as it also has a successful basketball team. The Scotland football team uses Troon as its base before international matches.
Troon has many small privately-owned shops offering friendly personal service. And the Port of Troon offers one of the most sheltered harbours on the west coast of Scotland. Troon is now established as a major ferry and fishing port, and is the closest fishing port to the rest of the UK.