The historic county of Ayrshire, located on the western shores of Scotland is a stellar place to explore some historic sites. One can find stone age structures and medieval castles, ruins of past glory and Victorian memorials. Not only are the many of the buildings fascinating, but the countryside will provide a stunning backdrop. Many of the sites on our list can be explored with walks that are highly recommended. The county truly has something for everybody.
Here are 10 of the best historic sites in Ayrshire.
1. Culzean Castle
The majestic Culzean Castle can be found near the town of Maybole. It is unquestionably one of the most famous estates in Scotland, with its buildings hugging the dramatic cliffs of the west coast. The main building was constructed in the 18th century for the Kennedy family, one of the oldest clans in the country. In 1945 the castle was given over to the National Trust for Scotland, while stipulating that one of the rooms be given to Dwight D. Eisenhower for his role as supreme commander of Allied forces in World War Two.
Culzean Castle is open to the public who can enjoy its magnificent interiors and lush gardens. Their Home Farm Kitchen provides food to anyone hungry, with some ingredients coming from the castle grounds directly.
2. Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is the best place to explore the origins of Scotland’s national poet. The complex includes the original cottage were he was born, the new centre which houses thousands of artefacts and the Brig O’ Doon (a 15th century cobblestone bridge). One can find the museum in the village of Alloway.
For younger visitors the centre provides them with a fun play area in the museum gardens. The museum cafe makes sure that no visitor will go hungry.
Although previous structures existed at the site, the house as we know it today was built in the 1750s for William Dalrymple, 5th Earl of Dumfries. The architects were Scottish brothers John and Robert Adam, who developed the 18th century ‘Adam style’ of neoclassical interior design, with their work including Edinburgh City Chambers and Hopetoun House in West Lothian.
Dumfries House is now open to the public all year round and offers guided tours around its impressive interiors. These tours showcase both the architecture of the house as well as the collections of art, antiques and in particular the furniture of Thomas Chippendale, a leading 18th century Scottish cabinet maker.
4. Brodick Castle
Historically in the county of Buteshire, but now in Ayrshire, Brodick Castle was constructed in its current form in the 18th century, but the site has been the home of a fortification for centuries. One can find the estate on the Isle of Arran, surrounded by gorgeous gardens, ponds and waterfalls. The interiors of the castle are open to the public, who can enjoy its rich Victorian era decorations.
The estate provides entertainment for both children as well as to adults. The Isle Be Wild adventure play park is perfect for the little ones, from toddlers to older children.
5. Machrie Moor Standing Stones
This ancient site was erected some 4,000 years ago, though excavation works have shown human activity in the region long before the creation of the Machrie Moor Standing Stones. Roughly 500 years before the stones were put in their place, timber circles occupied the exact same spots. The site has been associated with stone and bronze age religious activities, before becoming a burial place in later centuries.
The Machrie Moor Standing Stones can be found near the village of Blackwaterfoot on the Isle of Arran.
6. Dalquharran Castle
The ruin was once the splendid 18th century Dalquharran Castle. It belonged to the Kennedy clan until 1930, when it was put up for auction. In the coming decades it would change regularly ownership until a Produce Merchant from Girvan bought it and stripped its roof. From 1967 onwards the structure was left to wither away. One can find the estate building near Culzean Castle.
7. Crossraguel Abbey
The once magnificent Crossraguel Abbey was founded in the 12th century by Duncan of Carrick, who later became Earl of Carrick. It was one of the only two Cluniac monasteries in Scotland. Most of the buildings seen today are from the 14th and 15th centuries. The monastery was dissolved in 1560 following the arrival of Protestantism in Scotland. Following centuries of decay, the medieval buildings have become scenic ruins.
8. Wallace's Monument
9. Greenan Castle
The romantic early 17th century ruin can be found sitting atop a cliff close to the town of Ayr. The tower house belonged to the Kennedy family, though it is unclear if the family built the whole structure or just extended it. In the modern day only the main tower remains, with the foundations of a larger structure right next to it.
10. Dean Castle
The lovely fortification originates from the 14th century and was the home of Clan Boyd for over 400 years. The Boyd Family came into possession of the grounds of Dean Castle in 1316, when Sir Robert Boyd was rewarded the lands of Kilmarnock and West Kilbride by King Robert I – Robert the Bruce – for his services at the Battle of Bannockburn. Until the early 18th century the structure was known as Kilmarnock Castle.
The estate is surrounded by a beautiful park, which is open for free to visitors. For younger explorers, the grounds have an adventure playground and a farm with animals. There’s also a handy local cafe with great views over the Country Park.