Established in 1205, the town of Ayr has some serious history to explore. With the ruins of an ancient tower playing a precarious balancing act at the top of a cliff, the original birthplace of Scottish poet Robert Burns open for you to visit, and a beautiful Victorian esplanade beside a long stretch of sandy beach, this charming seaside town has all the history you could hope for. No list of best things to do in Ayr would be complete without these historic gems!
1. Rozelle House Galleries
Once the family home of a wealthy plantation owner, this 18th-century mansion is now open to the public as an exhibition and art gallery space. The regularly changing exhibits feature local and national artists, and there is a permanent collection containing paintings from a cycle of work by Alexander Goudie illustrating Robert Burns’ poem “Tam O'Shanter.” You will also find an exhibition of Yeomanry with a series of uniforms, artifacts, and photographs on display, but the highlight of your visit will be the beautiful country style gardens which are lovingly cared for. Admission is free and there is a charming tea room serving homemade refreshments when you have finished enjoying the art and gardens. If the weather is nice, don’t miss the opportunity to have a cup of tea in the sunny courtyard.
Rozelle House Galleries
Address: Rozelle Park, KA7 4NJ Ayr, UK
Website: Rozelle House Galleries
2. Culzean Castle
A castle on a cliff by the sea, tales of ghosts, wild woodlands to explore, formal gardens, exotic greenhouses and an adventure cove for children to unleash their imaginations in, what more could you want from a day out? Now owned by the Scottish National Trust, Culzean Castle is an impressive structure full of historic treasures displaying the story of the people who once lived here, some of whom are said to haunt the castle and grounds! The castle itself is open from April to October, and daily guided tours start at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., but if your trip doesn’t coincide with the opening season you can still visit the grounds and country park as they are open all year round.
Address: Culzean Castle & Country Park, Maybole, KA19 8LE South Ayrshire
Website: Culzean Castle
3. Burns Cottage
One of the properties owned by the Robert Burns Birth Place Museum, this tiny but immaculately preserved thatched cottage is the humble building that Scotland’s iconic poet was born in more than 200 years ago. The two simple rooms are kept as accurate to the time as possible, with discrete sound effects helping to complete the ambiance. Burns Cottage is just a 10-minute walk from the museum itself, and although small, is an important part of Scottish history that you shouldn’t miss.
Address: Murdoch’s Loan, Alloway, KA7 4PQ Ayr, UK
Website: Burns Cottage
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4. Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
Robert Burns is a cultural icon of Scotland and this museum is dedicated exclusively to this fascinating man and his work. An interactive museum with many of Burns’ original manuscripts on display, you can spend hours here immersed in the world that so inspired the man that Scotland voted the greatest Scot who ever lived. Outside there are beautifully maintained gardens and Poet’s Walk for you to explore.
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
Address: Murdoch’s Lone, Alloway, KA7 4PQ Ayr
Website: Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
5. The Scottish Industrial Railway Center
You will need to plan your visit carefully if you would like to visit this attraction, but it is well worth the effort. With some of the best-preserved examples of steam and diesel locomotives in the country, this is a living museum that will appeal to all ages. The open season is from April to September, but because it is run by volunteers, the operating days are mostly limited to Sundays, so be sure to check their website to avoid disappointment.
Scottish Industrial Railway Center
Address: Dunaskin, Dalmellington Road, Waterside, Patna, KA6 7JH Ayr, United Kingdom
Website: Scottish Industrial Railway Center
6. Burns Monument and Garden
Lovingly maintained, the gardens surrounding the Burns monument are an easy place to spend a lazy afternoon and it’s free! Burns had become so famous and was already so important to the Scottish people that in 1820, just 24 years after his death, a competition was held to decide who would have the honor of designing and building the monument that still stands today. Slightly run down but no less impressive, the monument is home to a bust of the famous poet. For an added bonus, follow a path that winds down through the gardens until you reach the Statue House. Inside you will find a display of life-sized statues created by Sculptor James Thom depicting characters from Burns’ poems.
Burns Monument and Garden
Address: Murdoch’s Lone Alloway, KA7 4PQ Ayr, Scotland
Website: Burns Monument and Garden
7. Ayr Beach and Seafront Park
The sandy beach at Ayr is the reason this town became a resort destination in the Victorian era and it is just as beautiful now as it ever was. A perfect spot for a picnic or building a sand castle, you owe it to yourself to at least take a short walk along the beach before you leave. On the opposite side of the road is the seafront park: a massive children’s play area, complete with pirate ship climbing frame and a putting green for crazy golf! If you have children, this is a light-hearted and budget friendly (yep, it’s free!) way to enjoy the historic town of Ayr.
Ayr Beach and Seafront Park
Address: The Low Green | Seafront, KA8 8BH Ayr, Scotland
Website: Ayr Beach and Seafront Park
8. Walk the Lang Scots Mile
The Lang Scots Mile came in 9th on a list of top 40 things to do in Ayrshire and it’s easy to see why! This is a beautiful walk along the seafront with views over the Firth of Clyde, Arran, and Kintyre. It runs along the beach front and is flat and paved, making it the perfect way for those who are less able to enjoy this stunning beach.
The walk is clearly marked and runs between the Miller’s Follie and Blackburn carparks. Parking is free, and there are many places along the way to sit and admire the view. The name is an homage to Robert Burns, who references the Lang Scots Mile in his poem “Tam O'Shanter.”
The Lang Scots Mile
Website: The Lang Scots Mile
9. The Bachelor’s Club
This tiny little cottage once served as the venue for the Tarbolton Bachelor’s Club which was co-founded by Robert Burns. In danger of being demolished, it was saved by the Burns Federation and the Scottish National Trust and the interior was restored to what it may have looked like when Burns and his friends used it as their clubhouse. A fascinating insight into the secret world of a men’s only club, this free museum is well worth a visit whether you are a Burns fan or not.
The Bachelor's Club
Address: Sandgate St, KA5 5RB Tarbolton, UK
Website: The Bachelor’s Club
10. Hike up to Greenan Castle
Balanced precariously on the top of a cliff are the ruins of Greenan Castle, and although you can’t go inside them, you can still climb the hill for a closer look. The tower was built in the 17th century, but legend has it that it is the site of a far more ancient fort. Make it to the top of the hill and you will be rewarded with a spectacular view over the town, the long sandy beach and, on a fine day, the islands out to sea.
Address: KA7 4HX Ayr, UK
Heritage and history
The pride that Ayr has in its heritage and history is evident in the loving way it has preserved its monuments, buildings, and gardens. Just a short train ride from Glasgow, no trip to Scotland would be complete without visiting the birthplace of ‘Scotland’s favorite son.’
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