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Trip Report Scotland: Little trips - South Ayrshire

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These days I spend a lot of time fondly remembering places I’d visited over many years. It is an age thing. I’m closer to 80 than 70 (!) and a bit frustrated at not being able to easily re-visit, mostly because my mobility is restricted. Earlier in the year, I’d been chatting the memories through with my oldest nephew Drew who suggested we do short day trips to my favourite places possibly every few weeks, when and if his work schedule permitted. I’m pleased to say that’s just what we’ve done and I can do what I think are my first-ever trip reports.

If you come along with me, all are by car out of Glasgow. If you wish to do the same and are starting say, in Edinburgh add an hour or so extra driving time.

The first trip was down to South Ayrshire one of my favourite areas of this beautiful country but sometimes not too often visited by tourists.

PLACES: Ayr, Alloway, Dunure, Electric Brae (Maybole), Culzean Castle, Crossraguel Abbey & Barr Village.

It was a crisp April morning when we left Glasgow taking the M77 then the A77 direct to the bonnie town of Ayr. The motorway cuts through the Fenwick Moor, looking as unwelcoming as ever, and past some little villages plus, what seems, very many golf courses! This isn’t a long part of the journey and in less than an hour we were taking in the sea air.

AYR: I still enjoy this town although it has changed hugely since I last visited. What hasn’t changed are the wonderful displays of spring flowers and the friendly people. The air is fantastic. Bracing and fresh. If you visit, I recommend a gentle stroll along The Esplanade. Here we found some wonderful old town buildings, well cared for gardens and spectacular views across to the Isle of Arran, which on the day of our visit looked great. Here too we found one of the longest sandy beaches in Ayrshire. Oddly I did feel the town has a very 1950’s to 1960’s look about it but that’s not a criticism because I enjoyed the kind of old-fashioned feel of the place. If you wish, you can also take the train direct from Glasgow to Ayr (the station is in the town centre). Journey time will be around 50 minutes and the cost, off-peak times (After 9am and before 4.30pm) £10. Robert Burns our national poet described Ayr as being for honest men and bonny lasses. Who am I to disagree?

ALLOWAY : I have a real fondness for Alloway because of the connection with Robert Burns. Although it is only around 2 miles south of Ayr town centre when we arrived outside the Robert Burns Cottage & Museum it was very different. The road was empty, there was nobody on the local streets but the contrast to the town centre was welcome.

Even if you are not a Burn’s aficionado I so recommend a visit to the thatched-roof cottage and museum both looked after now by the National Trust. The little booklet I got there tells me it was built by his father in 1757 and Robert was born there in 1759. They have done a great job in looking after this beautiful old building and contents. It really felt like stepping back in time. Also, a big thanks to them for looking after anyone with a wheelchair. It was a real pleasure being able to move around without having any problems. Entry cost for me was £7 (concessionary) and my nephew £9.

Burns Cottage site: http://www.burnsmuseum.org.uk

When we left, I asked if we could also pass the Auld Kirk in Alloway. This was where the witches danced in the Burns poem Tam O’Shanter. It was always one of my all-time favourite poems, drummed into us at school and never to be forgotten. Finding the little church and graveyard was no problem as it is only minutes from Burns Cottage. Built in the 16th century it is a ruin and now without a roof. Unfortunately, the day we were there some work was going at the entrance and I couldn’t get access although my nephew did walk around it and took some pictures. If anything, visit for the atmosphere and enjoy how pretty and quiet this little church and cemetery are.

‘But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You sieze the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white--then melts for ever;’

Alloway Auld Kirk: https://www.visitscotland.com/info/see-do/alloway-auld-kirk-p250781

DUNURE: From Alloway we drove down the coast road (A719) to Dunure, which took around 35 minutes. Off that main road, we turned right just at the village signpost and continued down to the castle that stands on a small promontory at the beach. Although the castle is in ruins, it is interesting and there are small display boards close to it giving you historical information. It was very cold though possibly due to wind coming in off the sea. We both agreed it wasn’t a day to hang around for too long.

ELECTRIC BRAE: Half way along the road from Dunure to Culzean Castle (the A719), around 8 minutes journey time, we visited and laughed at this strange phenomenon. It is sign-posted and please, if you have kids, take them with you for this. It’s an optical illusion and a wonderful one at that. You drive half-way down the hill and stop the car. Release the hand-brake and be amazed as the car starts to move backwards and UP the hill. It does feel very odd and hopefully you’ll enjoy reading about it here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_Brae

CULZEAN CASTLE: Close to the town of Maybole, and only 10 minutes south of the Electric Brae is this huge country-house style castle, its architecture by Robert Adam. It sits on the cliff top and has very extensive and beautiful gardens. Nothing I can write can do it justice. In 1945 it was passed by the Kennedy family to the National Trust who still manage it. One of its apartments was given to and used by Dwight D. Eisenhower in recognition of his work during WW2. I had a good time making my way around its grounds which, if like me and you enjoy gardening, then you will love this. Most of the gardens are suitable for wheelchair users as is the castle. Drew spent an hour inside the castle and is still talking about it! He would not tell me how much it cost but I’ve now checked and it is £15.50 to get into both the castle and the country park.

The castle website is at: http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Culzean-Castle-and-Country-Park

(As a small aside, when I was a teenager I worked on a farm located a few miles out of Maybole village and close to Culzean. Those were happy days and were responsible for me finding and regularly returning to the next ancient monument. It is one of my special places, not too often known about or visited by folks. What they are missing!)

Leaving Culzean Castle we turned right onto the A719 and then left at the Morriston junction onto the A77, then left again at the Kirkoswald junction. In a few minutes we reached my ‘special place’, the 13th century Crossraguel Abbey. It’s only about 6 miles from Culzean and the coast.

CROSSRAGUEL: Almost every day when I worked at the farm close to the abbey, I walked past this beautiful place. It’s steeped in history and is one of the most complete ancient abbey developments in Scotland. Its borders are complete, as is its ancient dovecot and most buildings are in ruins but not all. This was a large, hugely important abbey until the reformation in the mid 1500’s when its monastic status was removed. We spent around 2 hours here, longer than anywhere else. It was my nephew’s first ever visit and he was already saying as we walked around that he will bring his wife and kids here too. Historic Scotland manages the abbey ruins and they’ve done a good job. I was a bit frustrated as wheelchair access was slightly restricted and I couldn’t, of course, get inside the dovecot or some of the little medieval houses used by the monks. Tickets were less than £5 each but I cannot remember the exact amount. We were its only visitors.

Its site address is: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/crossraguel-abbey/

As a special favour, Drew drove me 15 miles south of Crossraguel to a little village called Barr. I recommend you do it too. It has always been a place I’ve loved and again, it felt like stepping back in time. Travel south from Crossraguel, turn left this time at the Kirkoswald Junction and stay on that road past Dailly village. You will come to a junction at Penkill where you keep left until you reach Barr. Journey time was around 30 minutes.

It had been such a great day and although we did have plans to go further south, we didn’t. There are plenty of other days (and trips reports) to do just that.

From Barr Village back to Glasgow took us close to 1 hour and 45 minutes more or less on the same route as the outward journey.

Next: Travelling to Argyll


Bill

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