culzean castle
Ayr Ayrshire

Ayrshire Day Trip – Culzean Castle and Robert Burns Museum

Today was an early start as I was catching the 7.30am 900 bus from Edinburgh Bus Station to Buchanan street station in Glasgow, there is an excellent City Link service from Edinburgh to Glasgow with buses every 15 minutes.  I had pre-booked my tickets in advance as it was slightly cheaper than buying on the day and also managed to get an NUS discount too (got to love the student life!). The bus takes around 1hr 20 minutes and on arrival in Glasgow and by the time I arrived in Glasgow the sun was out and it stayed out for the whole day which was good as there was a bit of walking later on in the day.

After arriving in Glasgow I headed straight to Central Train Station which is only a 10-minute walk down West Nile Street from the Buchanan Street bus station.  I caught my train to Ayr which was on time, the total journey took just under an hour and then I waited for my connecting train at Ayr train station.  I only had a 10 minute wait and then caught my connecting train which was a much older train with green seats and a very retro this is how people must have travelled in the 80’s vibe.

After 10 minutes I arrived in Maybole and the marathon transit journey continued with a 30 minute wait for a bus which would take me from Maybole to Culzean Castle which was my first attraction for the day.  As I walked out the station in Maybole I realised it is a little bit in the middle of nowhere but there is a nice square in the middle of the town!  The first task was to find my bus stop which did take a few minutes to work out as buses which go in both directions apparently stop at the same stop just outside the main square which initially confused me but a quick google check confirmed I was at the right spot.

I purchased a dayrider ticket on the bus as I was going to make multiple journeys this ticket allowed unlimited travel on the local buses for the day and I think that was the best budget option.  The journey time to Culzean was pretty quick as the bus headed further into the literal middle of nowhere, I mean the bus stop was almost in the trees! Although the bus stops close to the “entrance” to the castle there is still a long path which takes around 25 minutes from the road to the castle entrance and a little tip take the road path to the entrance as its more scenic than the actual footpath which goes down the exit route.

The first building I came to after the long walk was Home Farm where there is a very nice restaurant, gift shop and courtyard area.  This is a good spot to catch lunch either in the restaurant or if you brought a packed lunch then just outside on the grass bank which overlooks the Firth of Clyde .  I was not quite ready for lunch so I decided to keep on walking which took me past the bookshop along the footpath and eventually to the castle entrance.

Home Farm Culzean

The castle has a very striking appearance which is owned to its chief architect Robert Adam who on behalf of the 10th Earl of Cassilis created a elegant stately home in the late 18th century.  There are guided tours of the castle at set times during the day, I kinda arrived between the tour times so went on a self-guided tour of the building.  There are written guides in the main rooms who provide background information on the rooms and the main features such as famous painting and fixtures.

There are multiple levels inside to explore and it is a bit of a maze inside with loads of rooms and a lack of corridors, one room pretty much leads onto another room!   The rooms I thought were fairly sparsely furnished and for me there lacked a real stand out room with the main attraction inside probably being the staircase which was a central figures and a significant architectural feat as it makes excellent use out of minimal space. The round drawing room was also a unique feature with its round shape and fantastic views of the firth outside.

The castle took me around 35 minutes to get through every room and read the cards which I was surprised at as the size and number of rooms would suggest a longer time would be required but to be honest I felt underwhelmed by what was inside.  It is more of a country house than castle and the main attraction is probably the exterior rather than the interior.

Culzean Castle

If I was a little disappointed by the inside then the exterior and the extensive grounds more than made up for that as there is plenty to see outside.  I got a map when I entered and used that to navigate around the grounds and to do so involved a lot of walking so I was glad for the good weather.  I firstly explored the front gardens of the castle and then headed through the old arch where a path lead to a walled garden.  I am not really a garden expert but to me there seemed to be a lack of flowers there which i was surprised at (maybe I was out if season!?!)  although there were plenty of apple trees with fresh apples hanging off the branches.  There is also a beautiful apple tree tunnel which leads on to one of the woodland paths through the grounds.

After spending some time in the gardens and doing a fare share of walking I was a but peckish so I rested on one of the many picnic benches which are outside the deer park to enjoy a quick lunch, I enjoyed the scenic surroundings which included trees in the background and some deer, lamas and highland cows roam to the front.  At this point I noticed a truck that had been whizzing around with people sitting in it, after reading my map I found out that apparently a shuttle service runs between the Home Farm, Arch, Walled garden, Swan pond and Main entrance!  A useful service for those who are unable or unwilling to walk the 15,000 steps which I had racked up to that point.

After lunch and a rest I headed back towards the entrance as on my way in I had noticed some tents on my way in and during my tour of the grounds I had heard random intermittent gun fire in the distance.  It turned out that this was an annual Forces in the Field event which gives a historical overview of the armed forces with demonstrations of rifle shooting, an army assault course and some target practice with air guns.  It was free to explore and the rifle shooting with old guns was quite impressive and also pretty loud!  I spent around 20 minutes wondering around but then had to head back to the bus stop as I had other sites to visit and the bus only comes once an hour so I made sure not to miss it.

I caught the local  Stagecoach 60 Ayr bus towards to Alloway as my next stop was the Robert Burns Museum.  The bus at that time of day didn’t stop outside the museum which meant a 25 minute walk from where I got off to the museum and this involved walking through a housing estate and hoping that Google maps was accurate because it felt like I was walking into a dead end!

The Robert Burns Museum is pretty unique, it is has a single large open plan room with black walls and dark lighting and it has a large collection of burns related items with everything from hand written letters to furniture from his former house.  There are also displays which provide more background information on his famous works such as Tam O’Shanter and To a Mouse which resonated with me as I had to learn that poem for primary school many many years ago!

Robert Burns Museum

After spending touring round the museum I headed out to some more sites which form part of the Burns heritage centre.  I started by heading to the Auld Kirk where Robert Burns father is buried and apparently where he got inspired to write Tam o Shanter.  Then next was to the gardens and burns monument which is just a couple minutes down the road, that was a little disappointing as the monument is actually under repair so although i am sure it is impressive all i could see was scaffolding!

The gardens were pretty nice with benches and views looking over to brig o’Doon and the River Doon which was my next stop and only a minutes walk from outside the gardens.  The old stone bridge dates back to the 15th century and it features in Robert Burns poem Tam o Shanter, it also very picturesque as you look out over the river and towards the hotel with its sculptures hedges.

Brig o'Doon

The destination was Burns Cottage which was about 10 minutes walk away, there is a path which leads from outside the museum to the cottage and there are a couple of sculptures along the way.  The Cottage was were Robert Burns grew up  on a small farm and it looks pretty cool from the outside and is pretty small on the inside.  There was an area for the livestock and then a couple of rooms for the family, it must have been pretty cramped to live in and I dont think it would have been for me!  It doesn’t take long to explore the house and then there are some gardens outside where I sat and rested before my bus was due to Ayr.

Robert Burns Cottage

The bus to the town centre leaves from just outside the cottage and its only about 15 minutes to the railway station on the bus where I caught the train back to Glasgow and then the bus back to Edinburgh.  All told today I walked around 30 km and its safe to say I was a little tired by the time I got back to Edinburgh but it is a really nice part of Scotland that I got to see.  Alloway is all about Robert Burns even as I was waiting on the bus I noticed the sign below, it is a small but picturesque part of Scotland.

Alloway

Costs

Transport: MegaBus – Edinburgh to Glasgow (£7.90 & £3.75), Train – Glasgow to Maybole Day Return (£12), Bus- Stagecoach West – Dayrider Ticket (£10.40) / Attractions: Culzean Castle – Adult £16.50* , Robert Burns Museum – Adult £10.50* / Lunch: Sandwich Wrap £2

*National Trust Attractions – Free entry with membership

The megabus ticket to Glasgow was purchased in advance which was a few pounds cheaper than buying on the day.  The train ticket was a day return to Maybole via Ayr, it was cheaper to get the ticket to Maybole even although I actually returned from Ayr (which was allowed on the ticket).  I had a National Trust Membership which allowed me free entry to the two attractions (£57 per year) and finally I opted for a packed lunch by picking up a wrap from Sainsburys before I left.

Edinburgh to Ayr itinerary

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