The message was simple yet heartfelt. “My parents brought me here when I was a boy and I loved it. Now I’m here with my son who is the age I was.” The thread of shared experiences links generations so that people can recall their memories and let their children experience the same wonderment.

In a changing world it is reassuring that there are landmarks in our lives that alter little over time and can be the memories of future generations as well.

That succinct message about returning to where his parents brought him is written in a visitors’ book just inside the door of what we would call, when we reach for an overly polished cliche, a hidden gem.

Certainly it is hidden from obvious view. Take the Racecourse Road out of Ayr - it refers to the old racecourse not the current one, so that’s confusing enough - with the coast on the right, heading in the general direction of Alloway - and on your left is Belleisle Park. It has two golf courses, but also a children’s play area, acres of grass, and trees providing shade for holidaymakers needing a pause from the sand, wind and hubbub of the beach.

My parents would take me there when I was young, tempting me from the beach with tales of fairies hiding sweets in the trees which proved to be true, although how my father managed to secrete the toffees without me catching him I’ll never know.

There is a slight feeling of melancholia as the Belleisle Hotel in the park is boarded up and fenced off, although there are plans to reopen it. Go past the disused hotel and in a hollow behind it is a structure that could qualify as a gem as it shines and reflects light in the sun as if it was a gemstone itself. It is the Belleisle Conservatory, a large glasshouse, built by the same company which rebuilt the famed Kibble Palace in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens.

But the story of Belleisle Conservatory is not just about a stunning structure and the myriad of plantlife and serenity within it. It is the story of a group of individuals who got together in a pub one night, and decided that the wreck of the conservatory, boarded up, overgrown, and with broken glass scarring the roof like a smile with missing teeth, should not remain abandoned.

One of those at the meeting, Professor Gordon Wilson, told me about the history of Belleisle Conservatory. The original was ordered by industrialist William Dixon in 1879. William was the ironmonger whose furnaces lit Glasgow’s south side and were known as Dixon’s Blazes. With his wealth he had bought the Belleisle Estate from the owner of sugar plantations, and enhanced the property with gardens and the conservatory.

The estate changed hands though, and the conservatory lost its lustre. Ayr Burgh Council bought the estate in 1926 for a sizeable £25,000, and after the conservatory was repaired it became a popular attraction for visitors to Ayr. But as Professor Wilson explained: “By the early fifties the conservatory was once more causing concern as it had become increasingly dilapidated during and after the war years.”

The council carried out a major reconstruction which led to what Gordon called the “second golden age of its popularity” until it declined again, and a cash-strapped council closed it in 2005, leaving a boarded up and fenced off shell of a building.

That could have been the end if it were not for the public meeting in 2010 where an organisation of volunteers was set up to save the conservatory. Easy to say, but it was a huge undertaking with over a half million pounds required to return the conservatory to a pristine condition.

The Heritage Lottery Fund eventually provided the bulk of the money, and the conservatory is now reopen for future generations to enjoy. But again, it is not that simple.

Plants have to be bought, a part-time gardener has to be employed, heating and lighting has to be paid for. It costs £40,000 a year to run the conservatory, so the fund-raising has to continue ad infinitum.

So is it worth it? Well of course judge for yourself by taking a trip to Belleisle. As volunteer Karen Watson, who has helped source much of the plantlife in the building, put it: “The space is impressive, but there is something soothing happening here as well. People need space, room to think, room to heal if they have had difficulties in their lives. And to have plants all around you can help you heal.”

There is colour everywhere just now. I am unlucky, or perhaps lucky, to have just missed the brief flowering of the Amorphophallus, Deboarah the gardener tells me, which smells, apparently, of rotting flesh during that short flowering period.

Attached to one wall, with a tube for ingress and egress, is a glass-sided beehive which has always been a popular attraction as it allows you to get up-close to bees without risk. In case any fly in through the door, there are signs urging “Don’t step on a bee”.

Another comment in the visitors’ book asks: “Where is the black lady?” a reference to the plaster statue of a half-naked black woman carrying an amphora above her head which stood in the centre walkway.

Unfortunately she fell off the fork-lift truck when the council put her in storage, but after extensive repairs, she will return to the conservatory soon.

Karen is right. There is something very relaxing about strolling through a greenhouse, looking at the plants, letting the tranquility seep into you.

Says Prof. Gordon: “This is part of our legacy. Without sounding pious or high-minded, it has meant a lot to a lot of people over the generations.”

I’d recommend you go. It is a wonderful place, even though I never found any toffees this time.

Loading article content