Journey to Scotland

Part IV: Ayr
And the Lands of Castle Culzean

a travelzine by Diann

(Copyright 1996. Please do not reprint without permission.)


Webpage highlights:
Ayr and Castle Culzean -

August 18th:

No breakfast, just a trip to Ayrshire via train. Passed a few gold courses seaside -- the greens were green but the fairways were brown. Looked challenging -- lots of rough, a few streams meandering through, and various clumps of heather or other brush. Many golfers, though. They would be present as well as on the return trip.

Ayr is located on the west coast of Scotland, in the lowlands, perhaps an hour out of Glasgow.

Ayr itself was charming enough, but I wasn't up for the Robert Burns cottage -- remembered it from a previous visit with the parents when I was in high school, and wanted to explore in different directions, seeing things I hadn't seen before.

Robert Burns is the national poet, who hailed from Ayr, in a thatched-roof cottage still maintained more or less like in the days of old. There's a very nice statue of the poet which stands near the train station.

I stopped to eat lamb for lunch inexpensively at the Tudor Restaurant near the train station, and wandered to the waterfront. The land here is flat, and the beach tends to slop outwards gently. Seagulls circled about. It was a quiet area. I wandered about, admiring the stone buildings, and the parks near the ocean. There was a sort of silence here, even though Ayr has a bit of busy-ness about it. Away from the ocean, there are winding streets which were almost confusing for the foot walker, and I glimpsed many intriguing restaurants, of which I made note of with plans for dinner.

After, I caught the bus to Culzean Castle, which lies about 30 minutes south of Ayr. This isn't an official bus stop (I guess most people take tours, or rent cars), and one is let off at the side of the road, and told to be back at specific times so that returning coach drivers can spot one.

From the standpoint of a single woman, this looks pretty deserted, but I had decided this was going to be a good place to visit. So, I left the bus, and entered the extensive grounds of Culzean Castle. There's a stationhouse, where one pays a fee to help with upkeep and maintainance, and in return can see the property. Castle entrance costs a little bit more.

For the foot traveller, who'd already been walking extensively earlier in the week, this hike was fairly exhaustive. Yet, it yielded a worthwhile exploration. I walked through lovely pathways, past ancient trees, past the Visitor's Centre (a large and impressive old building -- indeed, those who see my photos of the trip think THAT's the castle before they turn the page and see the real thing.

The Ruined Arches are at the entranceway to the path to the Castle proper, evidently at one time sentries may have been stationed within.

The walled gardens are beautiful -- although the drought had affected this locale and the grasses were suffering, the flowers had been well-maintained. Indeed, the gardens were spectacular, hosting a wide variety of well-loved plants. In one section, the historical trust sold cuttings and plants. Needless to say, I could not buy anything to bring back to America, leaving aside the issue of how to keep anything alive and uncrushed for that amount of time. Besides the flowers, a fair number of butterflies graced the area.

By the ocean, old cannons point to the sea. To the right stands the castle proper. The castle, unlike the Arches, has been well-maintained. As I walked past one area outside the castle, I could hear a chamber music recital occuring within. I didn't have time (I thought) to explore inside the castle, but looked into the entranceway, where an inordinate amount of cutlery of various shapes was on display, as well as ornate appointments in the front room. One of the simple highlights just outside the main tourist entrance was a sundial formed atop of a bronze of a man's head. Here I rested a bit, definitely enjoying this place, and imagining some kind of formal reception here on the grounds. I then trotted up the road (emphasis on the word "up") to wait for and flag down the coach, discovering I could have taken 20 minutes to see at least part of the innards of that castle. Enjoyed the scenery and setting.

The place is owned now by the National Trust of Scotland, which makes money for renovations and upkeep by the standard admissions fee, as well as renting out facilities for events and receptions, selling plantings, 12 beds of lodging, and probably other things. Castle maintanance is not an easy proposition.

It wasn't until much later that I discovered that I missed the "Cat Gates" on a back entrance to the Culzean property.

I returned to Ayr, where I dined at the Findlay Bar -- beef and garlic bread with cheese (cheddar, not mozzarella). It was a friendly publike atmosphere, perhaps a bit more formal than most pubs seemed to be. The train returned me to Glasgow -- it was still light enough to walk to the hotel -- where I did some laundry and popped downstairs for a dram of Highland Park over ice.

Diann's Scotland Page | London | Glasgow | Edinburgh | Ayr | Arbroath | Highlands-1 | Highlands-2 | Intersection | Cuisine

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 1996