Oot and Aboot: Ayrshire


From the Gaelic Ihbhir Air  meaning Mouth of the River Ayr. Nowadays it is simply known as Ayr. The 12th most populous settlement in Scotland with a rich history to show for itself.

It became a major marketplace and harbour during the medieval period after King William the Lion ordered a castle to be built between the two rivers (Ayr and Doon) located around Montgomerie Terrace that later grew into the footprint it has now. The first bridge across the river Ayr was built in 1237 and made of timber.

On the Southern Bank of the river and near the beach is the ramparts of a Citadel constructed by the forces of Oliver Cromwell during the mid 17th Century.

With the explosion in railways in the 1840s Ayr became a major tourist destination especially with Glaswegians from the North coming down for a day at the beach. They were not the first visitors, nor were they the most violent. Norwiegan forces attacked in 1263 and English soldiers occupied the town for 16 years during the Scottish Wars of Independence. In 1298 forces under the command of Robert the Bruce destroyed the castle of King William and 1315 he held a Parliament of Scotland at St. John’s Tower by the sea (located in Cromwell’s Citadel).

But this place is not new to us, certainly not to Karen who is from Ayr, so why are we blogging about it? To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca –

Of all the beaches in all the towns in all the world…you had to blog about mine.

 Home deserved a post!

The Lang Scots Mile Walk

A Scottish Mile was longer than an English Mile. That’s according to Robert Burns in his famous poem ‘Tam o’ Shanter’

…While we sit bousing at the nappy,

An’ getting fou and unco happy,

We think na on the lang Scots mile…”

After the Acts of Union in 1701 the English enforced the standard measures of units and distances on the Scottish and the ‘miles’ were aligned. There were about 100 yards difference between the two.

In 2002, South Ayrshire Council decided to add another strand to the deep relationship between Burns, his work, and the local area by creating a “measured Scots Mile” walk along the Ayr Promenade. When we visit Ayr over the years this has always been a great outdoor activity. Karen normally runs it as she is training for a race of some sorts. On our last trip we decided to do the walk again with an open mind and equally open camera lens.

First of all, we must comment on the views. These are spectacular on a clear day. You can see over the Firth of Clyde to the island of Arran, The Mull of Kintyre and the twin islands: The Cumbraes.

As you make your way south from Cromwell’s Citadel the beach gives way to a grassy embankment teeming with wildlife and plant life that abruptly ends at the mouth of the Doon River. If you are lucky you will be able to catch a glimpse of ducks and even swans out for a mid-morning swim.

Crossing the little bridge you can continue the walk all the way up to Greenan Castle. Built in the 16th Century this tower house was held by John Kennedy of Baltersan in the 1600s. An famous event transpired here and nearby in 1602. After spending the night visiting his brother,Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culzean and his servant Lancelot Kennedy were ambushed and murdered in nearby Maybole. This event and the subsequent trial of the guilty parties inspired Sir Walter Scott to pen the play “An Ayrshire Tragedy”.


Dumfries with that?

We drove south in the rain (sounds like the start of all our Scottish Blogs! ), our direction was Cumnock, but our destination was elsewhere.

Located in a large walled estate 2 miles west of Cumnock is Dumfries House. It’s a large country house now owned by a charitable trust (headed by Prince Charles) and is built in the Palladian Style (Symmetry and perspective similar to classical temple architecture of the Romans and Greeks).

It was built in the 1750s for the 5th Earl of Dumfries (William Dalrymple) by the brothers Adam (John and Robert). Their other works include Royal Exchange in Edinburgh and the Adelphi District in Westminster, London.

As the only newbie in the group to visit the House my first impression was that “this is fecking massive”.And it was. Set in  2,000 acres of land surrounding a large mansion house it was the equivalent of 1800 football pitches. Most of those pitches would comprise the Woodland Walk and it was here we began our journey.

We crossed over the recently refurbished Avenue Bridge before  being forced to take shelter from the downpour under the pagoda roof of the impressive Chinese Bridge. An alternative crossing for the Lugar Water, the bridge’s design was taken by an original drawing by Scottish architect Robert Weir Schultz in 1899 before taking almost 120 years to be realised with it’s construction in 2016.

The zone we were in was the Arboretum, a vast expanse of woodland trees and scrub. In the centre was an impressive wooden ‘tower’ that was created by students of the Prince’s Foundation. Walking through it on that misty morning reminded me of all those travel tiles in Baldur’s Gate (minus the Kobold’s of course).

The woodland ended abruptly at an old brick wall with a single double gate. This was the recently refurbished Queen Elizabeth Walled Garden, a flagship projection of the Estate’s restoration. Within the five-acre area was crammed every colour and shape of flower and tree interrupted by walkways, statues and fountains.

As we delved deeper into the garden we came across another section. This was the Education Garden with vegetable and fruit patches overseen by an army of silent guardian flowerpot men. On the back wall was a large ‘Wicker Man’ bust.

Trivia: I used the ‘Wicker Man’ as reference to the weaved head bust on the wall of the Vegetable Garden as a throwaway comment but research has revealed that it might be a nod to that famous movie. The 1973 version (Starring the amazing Christopher Lee) was filmed in Dumfries / Galloway and Ayrshire.

We finished up our trip with some lunch at the Coach House Café. Sitting adjacent to the Visitor Centre this café has been transformed from the stables it once was, with horse stalls being re-case as intimate alcoves for our dining experience.

On the way back to the car we stopped by the ‘Harmony’ outdoor play park and like the big kids we are, had a go at the various engineering exhibits.



One comment

  1. […] but as soon as he is back in Europe he switches to Tea. And there was the now obligatory visit to Dumfries House. – It really is something […]


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