Robbie Burns Scottish poet
Robbie Burns is as famous a Scottish poet as it gets. He mentions Ayr in his famous poem Tam O’Shanter and it is described as ‘Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a town surpasses for honest men and bonie lasses.’ Quite a flattering description really.
I visit Ayr for the first time and stay with a friend living above the Robbie’s Drams whisky shop. The shop is on the Sandgate, the main road through the western coastal town and deep in Robbie Burns country.
Apparently the council are considering renaming the airport Robbie Burns airport rather than Prestwick airport as it is currently known. A much better name in my opinion. I’ve never been to this part of the world before and there is plenty to do here. We set off to explore all things Scottish in and around the town.
I do like the way some places paint their buildings different colours – why can’t we do more of it I’ve often thought? It would make our grey brick and concrete towns and cities so much more attractive.
Where to go in Ayr
Ayr high street has some great pubs to be sampled. You can wet your Whistle at Willy Wastle’s, or bevy a bottle at Billy Bridges. Jim the bar man at the cosy establishment of Billy Bridges has worked there for forty years!
This coastal part of Scotland is also well known for its seafood. We have a lovely meal in the Tree House restaurant one evening on Ayr High Street. It has a lively bustling atmosphere. The next day I sample seafood linguine with white wine at the Dunure Inn in Dunure harbour. My trip did involve a fair amount of eating and drinking it has to be said.
There is downside to this coastal location though. Giant seagulls rain their guano (seabird poo) down on everything and everyone. It can corrode your paintwork or ruin your outfit. These are bold birds and they can also deprive you off your Gregg’s cheese savoury sandwich before you even get it to your mouth if you’re not careful.
We visit Culzean Castle (pronounced Colleen Castle apparently) with its dramatic cliff top location and saw the largest collection of working flintlock pistols in the world. The armoury was definitely impressive as was the rest of this stately home which is a top attraction in Western Scotland.
Overlooking the Firth of Clyde, the castle is the former home of the Marquess of Ailsa. She is the chief of Clan Kennedy but the castle is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. There are some small cannons on the ramparts decorated with sea creatures. The Marquess used to have one of these cannons fired into the sea every morning at eight o’clock sharp. The cannon balls were never recovered unless the tide washed them up. There may still be a lot of balls out there to find. What did he do if he wanted a lie-in I wondered?
The kitchen range of the great house carries a sign with a very Scottish sentiment ‘Waste not Want not.’ We wasted no time in moving on to our next stop – the birthplace of Scottish hero Robbie Burns.
On the trail of Robbie Burns
The birthplace of Robert Burns is the cottage location where Robbie Burns grew up. It is a lovely interpretation of the very rural life he led for the most part of his life. Film and sounds and relics represent a much simpler life of days gone by.
The nearby museum of Robbie Burns is equally well done. It houses the largest collection of Robbie Burns artifacts anywhere. It is thoughtful, interactive and fun. You can upload your own vocal version of Auld Lang Syne onto the website or make a musical selection on the Robbie Burns jukebox!
Robbie had thirteen children by five different women. As poets the world over, Robbie was a lover – not a fighter.
Next we called in at Brig O’ Doon another famous location in Tam O’ Shanter poem in which Tam gallops over this very bridge to escape a witch. The bridge also inspired the 1954 musical Brigadoon by Lerner and Loewe starring Gene Kelly.
This classic film tells the story of a mysterious Scottish village which appears only one day in a hundred years. In a spooky coincidence as we drove away from Brig O’ Doon the song ‘The Whole of the Moon’ by the Waterboys came on the radio. This popular song features one of my all time favourite song lyrics ‘I saw a rain dirty valley – you saw Brigadoon!’ That really made my day.
What on earth is the Electric Brae?
We stop next at the famous ‘Electric Brae.’ This is a section of bend on the 719 coast road which causes an optical illusion for drivers and confused passengers. If you stop your car and turn off the engine (put your hazards on) you will feel as if your car is rolling uphill! Other people watching your car will see the same thing too!
In actual fact you are rolling down a slight hill. I didn’t really understand the effect I confess. Despite having a few goes – we weren’t sure whether we’d been optically illuded or not.
There is plenty to keep you occupied around Ayr, and the countryside in the spring is absolutely stunning. It looks like some kind of giant emerald Brigadoon, winding its way along the coastline.
The Isle of Aran would have been visible off the coast if it hadn’t been so misty. Time was short and we never even got started on the whisky tasting tour, probably just as well on reflection.
Check out my cycling tour of the five ferries cycling challenge around Arran and the other highland islands..