Situated along the Firth of Clyde shores in the southwestern coast of Scotland, the fascinating region of Ayrshire, Dumfries, and Galloway includes some of the most fertile land in all of Scotland. Top agricultural products include potatoes, strawberries, cattle and swine. Once heavily industrialised, the area was known for its coal mines, steel mills, production-line manufacturing, and carpet and linen textiles. Johnnie Walker Whiskey hails from this region, originating in the East Ayrshire burgh of Kilmarnock. Prestwick has long been a hub of the British aerospace industry and a number of aviation companies are still based in the area.
But Ayrshire, Dumfries, and Galloway aren’t just about agriculture and manufacturing, as the area is noted for its haunting coast and natural beauty. The Galloway Hills are part of the Southern Uplands, and run south from Loch Doon almost as far as Solway Firth, offering some wonderfully rugged countryside, much of it within the bounds of the Galloway Forest Park.
A popular Scottish saying has it that ‘Galloway is contained by the sea to the west and south, the Galloway Hills to the north, and the river Nith to the east.’ Together with Dumfries and their northern neighbor, Ayrshire, this south-west portion of Scotland offers scenic country that is steeped in history, art, and culture.
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Things To Do in Ayrshire, Dumfries & Galloway
True to Scotland’s heritage as the founders of golf, the area remains king of the region’s leisure sports. You’ll find some of the finest golf courses in Scotland, from the most challenging championship links to more relaxed park courses. Royal Troon, Turnberry and Old Prestwick are world-renowned professional links, while Belleisle and Brunston remain very popular scenic public park courses.
More than 40 castles dot the coastline and countryside of Ayrshire, Dumfries, and Galloway. They range from lavishly restored and meticulously maintained castles to historic ruins. Many are open to the public. Just 12 miles to the south of Ayr, the palatial Culzean Castle stands on the brink of 150-foot cliffs. The plush and pristine castle and grounds are maintained by the National Trust for Scotland. By way of contrast, Dunure Castle has been an impressive ruin for more than three hundred years, although recent restoration work has made much of the castle now accessible to visitors. It is also one of many places that can truthfully proclaim that ‘Mary, Queen of Scots slept here’.
Top Destinations in Ayrshire, Dumfries & Galloway
Ayr – A coastal town and port situated at the mouth of the River Ayr on the Firth of Clyde; Ayr was once the seat of the Scotland’s first Parliament. Robert the Bruce held court here in 1315. Later, Oliver Cromwell made the town into a fortress, building a huge wall around the town, the remains of which remain to this day.
Ailsa Craig – One of three islands a short distance off the Ayrshire coast, Ailsa Craig is now a bird sanctuary, and a number of different tour boat companies offer frequent trips around the island. The Waverley Paddle Steamer also visits the island regularly throughout the summer months.
The Island of Arran – Brodick is the largest town on the island, with its impressive Brodick Castle to the north. Once a strategic fortress and stately family home of the Dukes of Hamilton, The Castle and gardens were acquired by the National Trust for Scotland in 1958. The castle is open to the public during the summer, with the park open year-round.
Kirkoswald– This quaint village was made famous by the poet Robert Burns, who attended school here. Burns based several of his Tam O’Shanter characters on village locals. Souter Johnnie, a key character, is thought to have been based on local shoemaker John Davidson. His so-named Souter Johnnie’s Cottage is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.
Kirkcudbright – At the mouth of the River Dee, just six miles from the sea, the town has long been a centre for visual artists and is now known as “the Artists’ Town. Today, skilled artisans of all forms of genre work in studios in or around the village. Kirkcudbright sports an artists’ collective and a Kirkcudbright Arts & Crafts Trail that takes place every summer.
Gretna – The town’s proximity to the English border has given this former customs post its principal claim to fame as an elopement destination. Following a 1753 English Act of Parliament, anyone under the age of 21 required parental consent to marry. Since the Act did not apply in Scotland, Gretna was often the first Scottish village reached by star-crossed lovers. Although a lowering of the age of consent now makes English couples here less prevalent, it is said that as many as one in six of all Scottish weddings still take place in this town. The town played roles in numerous film and literary pieces including Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice and more recently in the Television mega-hit Downton Abbey.