The ruins of this Ayrshire abbey in verdant countryside are atmospheric to say the least and well worth a visit. One minute you can be walking through a part of the abbey as the monks would have seen it, and the next forward in time to the shell of the church open to the sky.
The abbey is extensive and in parts well-preserved. You can wander around the 15th century choir building, with its ornate carvings, the tower house and gatehouse with its distinctive addition. There are stairs to the top of the gatehouse, which offers a splendid bird’s-eye view of the abbey and the countryside around.
The priory of Paisley built an abbey here early in the 13th century. Crossraguel was a Clunaic abbey, which was a branch of the Benedictines. The monks became known as the 'Black Monks' from the colour of their habits. The building gradually became larger and more ornately carved and a large abbot's house and houses for the monks added.
The abbey saw its share of turmoil, in 1307 an invading army led by Henry Percy under Edward I sacked the abbey. Rebuilding in a much more grandiose scale followed. The abbey lasted until after the 1560 reformation under the charismatic abbot Quintin Kennedy, who died in 1564. Quintin Kennedy influence in the area must have been considerable to save the abbey from destruction.
Quintin was the last ecclesiastical Abbot of Crossraguel and a layman Commendator, Allan Stuart, succeeded him. The local Earl of Cassilis tried to take over the abbey - by roasting him over a fire until he agreed to sign over the lands and revenue. The monastic life of the abbey ended before the end of the 16th century.
Mysteries abound in the abbey. One is the stone carving of a Pictish bull set into the lower wall of the abbey. It may be part of the carving from the ancient cross from which the abbey took its name. The abbey – especially the chapter house - is also full of mason's marks. Some of these also occur in the enigmatic tapestry in stone in Rosslyn Chapel. This has led some people to ascribe a Templar connection to the abbey, which is possible for they left a trail of connections through Scotland.
Another 'unknown' is the meaning of the hearts carved on to the cross, which surmounts the remains of the church. Perhaps these point to support for Robert the Bruce (Robert the Bruce was known as Braveheart and not William Wallace). His heart took a posthumous journey to the East, where it led his followers into battle for the last time.
The abbey has a green man which represents ‘the capacity for great goodness and the parallel scope for significant evil, and a carving of a mermaid a rare find in a Scottish abbey.
After you have visited and worked out these mysteries you can visit Culzean Castle and Country Park only a few miles away.
Culzean Country Park established in 1969 formed the first in Scotland. It is a leading example of a Picturesque Landscape. The movement was essentially Romantic and was concerned with the emotional response to landscape. Its aim was to recreate the 'sublime' in nature by deliberately contrasting structures with variation and surprise. In this estate the buildings each enhances or contrasts with the setting.
The National Trust for Scotland cares for and preserves this national treasure, the most visited property of the Trust for Scotland. Fortunately as a member I can visit as often as I like, free of charge.
The Castle itself is a showstopper. It started its life as a fortified tower house, which the architect Robert Adam converted for the Earl of Cassilis in the late 1700's into a mansion of lavish proportions and elegance. It appears to cling precariously to the cliff top. Its warm tones of its sandstone walls come out great in photos. Unfortunately the sandstone also weathers easily so requires much upkeep.
For those that like daring do, they can let their imagination run riot for underneath a network of caves created a centre for smuggling during the eighteenth century. A costal path meanders along the cliff top. In parts a screen of trees hides the sea view and only the soft murmur of the sea lapping the rocks suggests its presence. Then through a gap appear stunning views across the Firth of Clyde towards Arran and Ailsa Craig, the volcanic island several miles of the coast.
Although vast numbers visit they vanish in the 560 acres of parklands. In my last visit my walk along the cliff was solitary except for the shrill voices of children echoing through the trees. In the many walks through the wooded grounds ponds, gardens and beaches offer interest. Two favourite destinations are Swan Pond and Happy Valley.
The restored Gothic Camellia House containing camellias is one of over 40 architectural buildings dotted around the grounds which include a striking Pagoda. As well as these buildings you can explore the formal gardens with the well laid out fountain court garden.
Culzean’s other attractions include an adventure play park, aviary, deer park, icehouse, gashouse, orangery, ancient vinery, and an audio-visual guide about the castle and geology of the area. The gashouse contains an interesting exhibition of the history of gas extending from the time when estates like this one had their own plant for producing gas from coal.
Regular summer events, such as battle re-enactments, silver bands, jousting, classic car rallies, open-air concerts, craft fairs, pond dipping and nature walks with the rangers give a constant flow of interesting happenings.
The castle itself adds further interest but unfortunately photography inside is banned. The first room you enter has an unbelievable collection of weapons of bygone days consisting of muskets and swords. The 120 blades forming a star over the fireplace are a fraction of this fearsome arsenal. The oval staircase is nothing short of
For the last 46 years in August Ayr has hosted Scotland's premier flower show. Just a few minutes' walk from the birthplace of Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns, and benefiting from the clement climate of Scotland's west coast, there could be no better place for a festival of flowers. The event features competitions for best blooms, plants, vegetables, fruit, honey, art and crafts. A star turn is the British Begonia Championships held in a large marquee. For children as always there is a special Children's Flower Show for them to enjoy. The event extends from Friday through to Sunday, the day I attended. It attracts thousands of visitors from all over the UK and abroad. Held on the Rozelle Estate, with its centrepiece of the Rozelle Mansion House and Galleries it has a fitting setting.
The show attracted a record number of nationwide entrants competed for top titles in a vast array of competitions. Organisers recorded a whopping 30 per cent rise in entries in the floral art classes and a rise in the number of adult photographic and art competitions.
Highlights this year included three stunning show gardens created by local designers, over 300 trade stands, including scores of Chelsea Flower Show medal winners, and a full programme of demonstrations, music and family entertainment from a climbing wall to bee-keeping and model railway displays.
Being a vegetable grower myself the size of leeks and parsnips astonished me. The Begonia as usual created a riot of colour. Their delicate petals are always a source of wonder for me. The show gardens that caught my eye were two based on recycling. The one had created the figure of a man relaxing in a chair from bits of broken stone strung together. I took a snap of it and it will appear in a photographic exhibition that I enter each year. The other had created a small house from plastic bottles strung together. Crushed glass provided decorative paths.
The kids section as usual was entertaining with their little model gardens created in small boxes. Considerable imagination had also gone into another kids section containing people, animals and coaches made from assorted vegetables. I had particular interest in the woodturning stalls.
I felt the £10 entrance fee was a bargain and I look forward to the next show.
Ayr town & area is nestled on the south west coast of Scotland overlooking Ayr bay at the Firth of Clyde near to the Isle of Arran. Ayr Racecourse & Burns on their doorstep. Other attractions and areas include Tam O'Shanter, Dundonald Castle & Culzean Castle. Golfing in Ayrshire is well known with the likes of Troon Golf Course & Turnberry Golf Course. To find out more information on Ayr accommodation or the Ayr area, please take a look at their web page.
Pls also take a look at scotlandscotour's page
This Georgian castle, built between 1777-1797, sits on 563 acres of land. For the price of about $15 dollars (adult) you can visit the inside of the castle (not all of the castle is open though) and you can also visit the castle grounds. Inside the castle you can tour rooms showcasing furniture, armor, weapons, paintings, etc. If you have seen your share of castles, you can pay about $10 and just visit the grounds, which are quite impressive. There's a large park, a Pagoda, a Swan Pond, a cliffside path running alongside the Firth of Clyde, a kid's playground, and more things I can't even recall. There was an Old Stables Coffee Shop where you can get tea service for 2 which includes 2 hot scones, clotted cream, and jam for only about $3. There's a restaurant and accomodations are available.
The Auld Kirk within the Burns Heritage Park is 'a haunted graveyard' and church...
You will find this church and graveyard near:
Burns National Heritage Park
Murdoch's Lone, Alloway, Ayr KA7 4PQ
Tel: +44 (0)1292 443 700
Fax: +44 (0)1292 441 750
If you enter, you first encounter the grave of father William Burns... father of the most loved poet of Scotland, Robert Burns.
Just outside Ayr is the Robert Burns Heritage Park. You have to go here, it is a nice place with some restaurants, some beautiful site, the famous Brig O'Doon and more.... Close to the park is the Burns Cottage, this is a museum where they ask an entrance fee of I believe 4 GBP, the entrance to the Heritage Park is free...
On their website they write: "Robert Burns' birthplace is brought to life through a mixture of modern technology and unique authentic locations and artefacts. Travel back in time in Robert Burns Cottage and visit the Burns family. See the world's most important Robert Burns collection in the Museum. Walk in the footsteps of Tam o'Shanter in "Alloway's auld haunted kirk" and across auld Brig o'Doon, where Tam's mare, Meg had her narrow escape from the witches. View Robert Burns' beloved Ayrshire countryside from the roof of Burns Monument and experience the humour and excitement of Robert Burns best-loved tale in the Tam o'Shanter Experience. With free parking, gift shops and licensed restaurant, as well as a full programme of events including the annual Burns an' a' That festival, Burns National Heritage Park offers a year-round chance for all the family to experience the pride, passion and power of Robert Burns."
Just south of Ayr, this stunning castle in a beautiful location was lovely to visit. Entry for an adult costs £12! Which at first I thought was a fair cost, for the size of the castle and park. We are members of the National Trust however and didnt have to pay a penny! On our way out I was very glad we didnt pay £12 to get in!!!
The castle is stunning, with great views, but we couldnt find where you could enter the castle, so didnt go inside. The deer park was full of deer. The walled gardens were lovley. And there were only 3 swans on the swan pond. Then we left. A good hour or so spent there. Unless there were specific events on there I wouldnt pay £12 to get in.
We visited the cottage where Scottish national bard Rabbie Burns was born. My son won a prize at primary school for recitation of Burns' poetry, so being in the area, it seemed right to make it a bit more "real" for him. He loved it!
Its interesting stuff with a small museum and very pleasant gardens (looking especially good in early October) as well as the 300 year old cottage as well.
There's other Burns stuff in Alloway as well - the monument and Doon bridge for example - but we didn't have time. Next trip!
Miles of golden sand. No crowds. Peace & quiet. Unwind. Chill out?
Yeh, chill out. Its freezing!
First weekend in December. No wonder its quiet!
Still, all the nutters have gone Christmas shopping, so we must be the sane ones.
You can spend a full day visiting both the castle and the surrounding park; be sure to get a map (I believe one is offered to you at the park entrance; if not, try the Visitor Centre). Here are some of the places I visited within the park -
Fountain Court: At the foot of the castle, a lovely garden and fountain.
Walled Garden: Another tranquil place to walk around. Especially recommended for people with gardening and botanical knowledge; there are many species of plants to see. There's also an Herb Garden with different plots for medicinal and culinary herbs.
Swan Pond: The pond itself is peaceful to look at, though when I was there, I didn't see a single swan (there were lots of sea gulls though). Nearby is a small pagoda, and also a shop where you can buy Arran Ice Cream (very creamy and not too sweet). Be sure to have some midge repellent on hand; the midge situation wasn't too bad when I was there, but sometimes there are small clouds of them.
Cliff Walks: Spectacular. The paths themselves aren't right at the edge of the cliffs, though there are a few points where you can venture off them and closer to the edge. The wind, the ocean, the wild trees... just amazing. Towards one end of the cliff walk you can also get a great view of the castle itself.
Deer Park: A bunch of deer lying around and chewing on grass. Personally I didn't think it was anything special.
There are various other walks through wooded areas. You'll see quite a few ducks; at some point there's also a wooden carving of a stoat. The official park map is pretty clear. Though I didn't get the chance to go there, I've heard the beaches are a good place to visit too.
Culzean Castle, as many Scottish castles, is layered in history, with newer structures built around and incorporating older ones. The castle is best known for the construction and renovations it underwent at the direction of architect Robert Adam, in the late 18th century. Inside the castle you can take a self-guided tour of the various rooms including the Blue Drawing Room, Armory (with its circular arrays of firearms), kitchens, and the grand Oval Staircase, which is considered to be an Adam masterpiece.
Also of interest is an exhibit on Eisenhower, his life and military accomplishments. Eisenhower was given a suite of rooms in the castle in appreciation for his WWII achievements, and it was a surprising delight to discover the connection to Eisenhower while exploring the castle. The exhibit is interesting and informative, with correspondence, maps, and other historical items.
Before you even enter the castle though, it's worth just standing and admiring from the outside. It's perched overlooking the ocean, so from both outside and inside the castle you can get different views of the beautiful water.
Before heading out to the rest of the estate, you can have a quick lunch at the Old Stables Coffee House, which is right near the main body of the castle.
The big lump of granite rock you may well notice popping up from the sea if you are anywhere near the coast [unless its hazy] is in fact a volcanic plug known as Ailsa Craig. Its best seen from further down the coast [between Girvan & Ballentrae] and you can actually take a boat trip out there from Girvan although its something I've never done. Its now a bird sanctuary
The town of Prestwick is pretty much joined onto Ayr. Its another popular seaside town with a lovely beach and some good pubs & restaurants. Not to mention the first golf course to play host to the British Open [the links course just up from the beach].
The International Airport [properly known, annoyingly to us locals, as GLASGOW Prestwick] was once the Transatlantic gateway to Scotland and nearly ended up closing after that right was taken away. However it has seen a resurgence thanks to the low cost airline Ryanair who had a ever growing number of European services from Prestwick. The airport is also known for being the only place Elvis Presley ever set foot on British soil, albeit for only an hour!
If you happen to be down at the beach and want an ice cream then there is a wee cafe at the front that does Mancinis and it is yummy!! :)
I've now been to Burns Cottage a couple of times, both during Doors Open Day. These are the gardens at the back of the cottage. The cottage itself has been restored to look much as it would have when Burns was a child and there is a museum in the adjoining building that follows his life and the songs and poems he wrote and published.