Ayrshire is a place with plenty to boast about. It’s the region that gave us our National Bard Robert Burns, a golfer’s paradise with near to 50 golf courses to choose from, charming countryside towns and scenic coastal shores. Aside from Ayrshire’s obvious draws you can also explore the hidden gems scattered throughout the region. Here, we highlight 13 fantastic places, products and services that showcase why Ayrshire is a great place to visit and live.

Kelburn Country Centre

The iconic graffiti design and breathtaking landscape that surrounds the Kelburn Country Centre is just some of the impressive features you will find here. 

Based around a 13th Century castle that's had its amazing makeover courtesy of a team of Brazilian artists, the estate near Largs, Ayrshire also has dramatic walks, scenic gardens and many features of historical interest.

One of Kelburn’s most outstanding features is its glen. The Kelburn Glen with its waterfalls and deep gorges is regarded as one of Scotland’s most beautiful woodlands and leads to spectacular views over the islands of the Firth of Clyde.

Whatever the weather there's always something to keep the kids occupied at Kelburn.  One of the most popular attractions is the Secret Forest, a complex of woodland paths and raised walkways with surprises at every turn.

The Adventure Course is great for 7yrs plus and is currently undergoing a makeover. Their fortress-style Wild West Saloon, with a 20ft high tower and Playbarn, a softplay maze of tunnels, slides and dens offers further areas for kids to explore.

Kelburn also possesses some incredible venues and a professional events team that routinely host a wide variety of events. Within the Country Centre you will also find an equestrian centre, café and shop.

Kelburn Country Centre is the ideal spot for family days out over the sunnier seasons. Beauty, adventure and fun are all to be found on this very special estate.

Visit www.kelburnestate.com to keep up to date with all the exciting events happening over the coming months.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Geraldo’s

Have you seen the new-look Geraldo’s in Largs? There’s plenty of reasons to visit this Bank Holiday weekend.

In-store tastings are a regular feature in this 4-star tourist shop throughout the main tourist season and this bank holiday why not visit the shop and hear from Scottish Gin Distillery of the Year, Arbikie Highland Estate, with their award-winning range of ‘field to bottle’ spirits all on offer to taste and try from the distillery’s brand ambassador in store from 12.30pm on Sat, 5th May.

HeraldScotland:

After a two-year programme of rebranding and a full shop refit the new-look Geraldo’s, situated near the ferry terminal on Largs’ seafront, now has a stunning contemporary new look with the focus on artisan ice cream, handmade chocolates and premium spirits.

Phase I was completed in Oct 2016 with a Gin Festival brand launch party to over 250 guests attended by 16 Scottish gin producers, all of which are featured in the shop along with an additional 50 to choose from. It’s a gin lovers paradise and owner, Toni Dawson, who founded the business 18 years ago has expanded on the range of spirits to include single malt whiskies and world spirits including rum, cognac and liqueurs. The shop has a programme of mini events too with their annual gin festival in November always a sell-out and masterclasses for those who want to know more about their favourite tipple.

Whilst gin is a big thing, ice cream for this family is really where it’s at and is manufactured on site to a recipe handed down from Toni’s mother.  The flavours offer a twist on traditional classics with a few unusual combinations such as Lemon & Ginger or Gerry Berry with Balsamic Vinegar. You can choose a Deluxe Sundae to go topped off with warm Nutella sauce running from a giant tap right at the window.

HeraldScotland:

Inside the shop you’re faced with a beautiful display of over 70 handmade chocolates. Toni chooses to select the best she can find and work with artisan chocolatiers in Scotland, England, Belgium and beyond.  Take a look at the new range from the House of Visser in the Netherlands including the exclusively commissioned ‘Royal Wedding Cake’ chocolate inspired by the cake itself.

The Geraldo’s website gives full details of upcoming events.  Their luxury chocolates can be purchased online along with a select gift range with the premium spirits following later in May.

Visit them in Largs or take a look online at www.geraldos.co.uk

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gailes Links Golf Course

For world-class links golf set within the beautiful West Coast of Scotland, Gailes has it all.

Opened in 1892 by Glasgow Golf Club, it is the 9th oldest golf club in the world. Designed by esteemed golf architect, Willie Park Jnr of Musselburgh, it has hosted major championship tournaments over the years.

Attracting players from across the world, its West Coast setting makes it an ideal course for both summer and winter golf in Scotland. This championship links course is also close to Open venues at Royal Troon and Turnberry.

HeraldScotland:

After enjoying a round of golf, players can then relax in the comfort of the clubhouse or outdoor terrace, which overlooks the course. The clubhouse remains open all day, serving breakfast, hot and cold dishes and lighter options such as soup and sandwiches. For special events, specific menus and golf groups of 12 or more can be catered for through prior arrangement.  

The Ayrshire links course also benefits from a professional shop, which has equipment to rent including golf clubs, buggies, electric powakaddy and trollies. Experienced caddies can be booked for individual play and to enhance corporate golf days, and a professional coaching team are on hand.

HeraldScotland:

Find Gailes Links Golf Course at Gailes Road, Irvine, KA11 5AE or to get in touch call 01294 311 561 or email bookings@gaileslinks.co.uk

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Corton Plants/ The Coo Shed

Set up in 2004 by Alison Kerr, Corton Plants in Alloway has flourished from a single poly-tunnel to a thriving plant nursery, home to over 200 plant varieties. Situated on the family dairy farm at South Corton, the beautiful location is a quiet gardeners haven ideal for browsing the wide selection of quality plants.

Thanks to the success of Corton Plants, in April 2017 the family business expanded by opening The Coo Shed next door. With a warm and inviting interior, The Coo Shed has proved a popular coffee shop for locals and visitors alike to catch up over hot and cold drinks, homemade food and delicious cakes. Open daily from 9.30am – 4.30pm with last orders for hot food at 4pm, the café provides the perfect spot to relax and indulge in some treats.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmgK_MqK6-4

The friendly and knowledgeable staff at Corton Plants and The Coo Shed strive to make every customer experience a happy one and will go out of their way to answer any questions.

The Kerr family are excited to introduce a new milk vending machine, due to be installed at the end of May. Making it only the second one in Scotland, the machine will allow visitors to fill up glass bottles or their own sterilised container to buy milk fresh from the farm. Expected to be available from 7am to 7pm, it will mark a new and convenient way of picking up milk.

To visit Corton Plants and The Coo Shed, find them at South Corton Farm, Alloway, Ayr, KA6 6BX. Visit www.cortonplants.co.uk or www.thecooshed.co.uk to find out more or call 01292 442 392.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lyon Tours Scotland

Ayrshire is crammed packed with hidden gems, one person who can prove the truth of this is local tour guide Noreen Lyon. As a fully qualified Blue Badge guide, Noreen provides a tour service that caters to her clients need and interests.

HeraldScotland:

“My job is to guide people in a variety of different ways. I can work from an itinerary provided or I can make and manage one myself based on what people are looking to get out of the tour,” said Noreen. 

“There are lots of gems I can take people to. There’s plenty to explore around some of the villages, and lots of beautiful beaches along the Ayrshire coast.

“I don’t overload my tours, we keep the mood relaxed and fun throughout. I like to celebrate the area with everyone…in fact, around 99 per cent of my tours we all sing Auld Lang Syne or any music related to Burns.”

Noreen has lived in Ayrshire for over 40 years and her unique and personalised tours cover the extensive parts of the area from the north to the south.

She worked as a Geography teacher for over 35 years which only heightened her love of Scotland and travelling.

Covering local favourites such as Turnberry or the coastal routes, Noreen can also guide clients on special tours including any looking to research genealogy, boat trips to Ailsa Craig, and tours of Arran.

HeraldScotland:

She said: “There is plenty to see and I like doing different things… it’s always a fun day out.”

Call Noreen on 07815 197748 or email her on lyontourscotland@gmail.com. For more information visit www.lyontourscotland.com.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Belleisle Conservatory

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.

The original Belleisle Conservatory was built in 1879 and replaced in 1955. In 2005, due to its poor structural condition the conservatory closed its doors.

In 2010, an ambitious community group set up Belleisle Conservatory Ltd to transform a much loved but derelict B-listed conservatory back to its former glory.

HeraldScotland:

This group of dedicated volunteers applied for - and received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the conservatory.

The group also secured a 25 year lease from South Ayrshire Council.

As a result, in July 2016 the restored conservatory once again opened its doors to the public. This beautiful structure can be found in Belleisle Park in Ayr for any visitors to explore the impressive listed building.

HeraldScotland:

The conservatory comes into its own during the sunnier months, with an array of beautiful floral displays in the well-kept surroundings. The conservatory is also available for private or commercial hire. Open 365 days of the year, and used for its educational use, bee observation hive, with free access all year round. 

For more information or to support Belleisle Conservatory Ltd visit 

www.belleisleconservatory.com/gallery.html 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Wilson Auctions

Wilsons Auctions is a family owned business, established in 1936 by William J Wilson, now directed by his son Ian, the company has grown from a single auction site in Northern Ireland to become the largest independent auction company in the UK and Ireland.

The auction company has 18 sites across Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, England and Wales as well as its Scottish branch in Dalry, which is celebrating 20 years in business this year.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VLl7dwhXso&feature=youtu.be

Managed by Gareth Wilson, Wilsons Auctions Dalry has grown its offering since it opened its doors in 1998. Holding approximately 20 auctions each month, the auction house can sell everything from cars and vans, plant and machinery, land and property, liquidation and disposal items as well as managing online auctions and larger off-site auctions to facilitate vendor’s needs.

Everyone is welcome to the auctions and there is always a friendly face willing to help any new auction goers who might not be too sure on the process of buying or selling at auction.

With over 350 members of staff, Wilsons Auctions is the only auction company in the British Isles to offer a national coverage allowing it to draw on experience, resources and ideas from all its branches.

Wilsons Auctions holds over 1000 auctions annually, auctioning everything from cars to vans, plant and machinery, land and property to general goods, as well as the more luxurious items including planes, yachts, gold bars, supercars, designer goods and prestigious watches.

There really is something for everyone at Wilsons Auctions. Visit www.wilsonsauctions.com to find out more.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ayr County Show

The gates will be opening on Saturday, 12th May for the spectacle that is the Ayr County Show. This year being a special year for the show with it being their 175th Show in their 181st Year; with its winning formula of celebrating the traditional and embracing the future the Ayr County Show has earned its place as a ‘must do’ event on the calendars of both the farming community and families looking for a good value day out.

HeraldScotland:

The event includes exhibition & competition of many types of animals, Trade Stands, Crafts, Vintage Tractor Display, Sticks & Crooks, SWI Competitions, Young Farmers Competitions, Family Entertainment, Music, Children’s Marquee and TRUCK AYR Lorry Show. Food & Drink is very much part of the event creating the very important link ‘Field to Fork’.

The Ayrshire Agricultural Association are committed to keeping this event going forward with a good range of attractions throughout the show field whilst not losing the true agricultural roots of Ayr County Show.

For the kids they will have The Wearable Art Company Face Painters, Rainbow Twisters – Balloon Twisters & Glitter Tattoo’s, Daffy Dill Entertainment, Bunny Luv Mobile Petting Zoo, Ayr Beekeepers, Hannahston Alpacas, Craigievern Poultry Display and the great Royal Highland Educational Trust (RHET) with a focus on all things woolly this year!

In the Main Ring fantastic entertainment from James Dylan Stuntworld; a Motorcycle Stunt Show performed motorcycle shows that include Ramp Jumps, Wheelies, Stoppies and many more remarkable motorcycle stunts that need to be seen to be believed. All this around a central core of hilarious banter from the commentator.

HeraldScotland:

All of the above plus Owl Magic, Donkey Rides from Jenny’s Donkey’s, Chainsaw Carving displays & demonstrations, music from Irvine Pipe Band, Catering Facilities, Bar, Children's Bouncy Slide and Funfair rides makes Ayr County Show a great day out for the whole family.

The Show is held at The Racecourse, Craigie Road ‘Gate A’, Ayr, KA8 0HA and opens at 9.00am

Admission Charges: Adults - £15, Children (aged 14 & under accompanied by an adult) – FREE, Car Park - £4 per car, Dogs: Well behaved dogs on leads are welcome at Ayr County Show

For more visit www.ayrcountyshow.co.uk

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dundonald Castle

Here at Dundonald Castle and Visitor Centre we have an enthusiastic and passionate team which delivers a fantastic service to all of our visitors. This has helped us to earn the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence for the last two years (2016 and 2017) and we hope to achieve this prestigious award again this year. Dundonald Castle has a very long and complicated history which we are learning more about as we continue to investigate its past.

HeraldScotland:

People have been utilising the location of castle hill for as long as 3000 years (and maybe even before). The current castle is thought to have been built in 1371 for King Robert II, the year he ascended to the throne. In August this year we are holding archaeological excavations which will help us to delve into the history of the castle even further and, more importantly, these excavations will be open to the public who will be able to come along and help.

The Castle is run day to day by the Friends of Dundonald Castle SCIO who act as the keyholders for the castle. They staff the Visitor Centre, Café, Shop and Museum, provide guided tours of the castle and also host a range of full and varied events throughout the year. This year some of the events we are particularly excited about are: the return of the Three Inch Fools, who will perform their rendition of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (July 28th) and our fantastic concert at the Castle event Minstrels and Mayhem 2018 (August 4th).

Last year we launched a Community Heritage Project to engage the local community as well as our very popular Education Programme. Our Education team have developed an inspiring programme of curriculum-based workshops and activities, for all ages and stages. With over 100 visits each year,  teachers and pupils rate their experience as excellent, and are returning again and again for more. We tailor every education visit to the group’s needs and wants and have covered every topic from Knights and Castles to the Titanic and the Weather. There really is something for everyone here.

HeraldScotland:

We are also very lucky to be able to offer a venue for weddings here at the castle. The picturesque interior and surrounding landscape make it a perfect place to tie to knot. We have a dedicated weddings coordinator who will work with you to help create the perfect day for you and your partner.

For more details about anything we have mentioned, please feel free to contact us on 01563 851489, email us at info@dundonaldcastle.org.uk or check out our social media and website.

www.dundonaldcastle.org.uk

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stagecoach

Stagecoach West Scotland provides local bus services in Ayrshire & Arran, Dumfries & Galloway, Glasgow and parts of Lanarkshire. They operate a fleet of 405 buses and, in the past year, they have invested over £6m in new buses for local areas, all of which are fully accessible and meet the latest Euro emission standards. The buses run on ultra low sulphur Diesel with 30 per cent sustainable bio content. In addition they use high tech fuel additive Envirox to further reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

HeraldScotland:

To find your way around Ayrshire on their services download the Stagecoach app where you can plan your journey, find real time bus information and even buy mobile bus tickets. You can also find a wealth of information on the stagecoachbus.com website where you can buy weekly and other long term tickets such as the Ayrshire megarider which allows you unlimited travel for seven days on all services within Ayrshire. It has never been easier to plan and buy tickets for your bus journey.

If you are exploring Ayrshire their 585 service winds along the coast from Ayr all the way to Greenock passing through the picturesque craft village of West Kilbride, then through Largs with its mouth watering cafes and ice cream parlours and Wemyss Bay with its famous Victorian station.

HeraldScotland:

In the other direction you can catch the 58 service from Ayr down through Girvan and Ballantrae to Stranraer or explore Burns Country around Ayr, Kilmarnock, Mauchline, Tarbolton and Kirkoswald on local buses such as the 361, 43 and 60. There is so much to see in Ayrshire and the bus is an ideal way to help you explore.

Explore West Scotland with Stagecoach Bus

https://tiscon-maps-stagecoachbus.s3.amazonaws.com/Timetables/West%20Scotland/WestScotland_Visitor_guide.pdf

Stagecoach Website

 www.stagecoachbus.com

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Cook School Scotland

The Cook School Scotland is the ultimate venue to experience new tastes and try different cuisines. From hands-on cookery classes and fabulous Demo and Dine evenings to private and corporate events, The Cook School offers something for everyone.

The Cook School pride themselves on providing a fun, stress free and informal environment where guests can learn how to create effortless cuisine in their state of the art kitchen, which is fully equipped with Miele appliances. Led by the Head Chef, the team make cooking fun and informative and pass on plenty of new tips and ideas as well as sharing some tricks of the trade, and of course encourage lots of tasting throughout the class.

There are over 15 different themes to choose from for day or evening classes including home baking, Italian, Thai street food, Scottish fish and seafood, Mexican, Spanish tapas, steak nights, curry, knife skills and many more. Upcoming new Demo & Dine evening classes include French Cuisine and Scottish Street Food, where guests will enjoy ubiquitous Scottish classics including a mini fish supper and deconstructed Mars bar. If you’re celebrating a special occasion or you’re just looking to do something different with a group of friends, then The Cook School is also available for private use from just £50 per person.

The Cook School is also home to a brilliant custom built Kids Kitchen where budding little chefs have the chance to learn about the wonderful world of cookery with one of the chefs. Kids classes run throughout the school holidays and are available for children aged from 5 up to 16 years. The Kids Kitchen is also available for birthday parties for up to 14 children where everyone gets the chance to decorate their own chefs hat before creating the birthday boy or girls chosen menu.

The Cook School offers an on-site shop packed with an extensive range of meat, cheese, dry goods, food to go, kitchenware and giftware. The shop sits alongside the café and takeaway, Braehead Fresh Express, which has now been operating for three years and offers a range of hot and cold food to takeaway or sit in, plus buffets.

For more information please visit www.cookschool.org or call 01563 550008.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Harbour House

Nestled in the South West corner of Dumfries and Galloway, the Harbour House offers contemporary accommodation, with eight bedrooms and three self-catering apartments, designed with comfort and quality in mind. Our onsite restaurant not only provides a hearty start for our Bed & Breakfast guests, but also serves a fresh and home-made menu of British pub classics for lunch and dinner for visitors and residents.

HeraldScotland:

Situated on the waterfront in the picturesque harbour town of Portpatrick, The Harbour House Hotel is a great location from which to explore the region. There is plenty to keep you entertained during your stay, from sporting activities, coastal walks, sub tropic botanical gardens, or perhaps back to basics to relax with the quintessential seaside getaway. Take a look at our local information for inspiration during your stay.

Whatever you get up to during your holiday, the Harbour House is the perfect retreat. Refuel in our bar after a day on the fairway, or retire from the rock pools and sandy beaches to watch the sunset from our conservatory. Enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep in our welcoming, modern rooms, ready for the next day’s adventure.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A Scents of Scotland

A small family-run business based in Ayrshire, A Scents of Scotland offer a range of unique gifts and home fragrance products that are inspired by and made in Scotland. Since starting up in April 2014, the team have strived to offer quality items at affordable prices. After opening a shop in Kilmarnock in 2015, customers can now buy goods both online and in-store.

HeraldScotland:

Finding a gift that will be appreciated is not always an easy task, but thanks to their wide range of Scotland-inspired products, they make finding something special that bit easier. As the only official online retailer of The McKelvie Candle Company and The Toddy Man, A Scents of Scotland offers some unique and admired products. McKelvie candles create an atmosphere that’s welcoming, calm and sometimes even nostalgic, whilst The Toddy Man offers easy to make drinks packed with flavour.

A Scents of Scotland are also a trusted retail partner of The Scottish Fine Soap Company and Heathergems jewellery and have partnered up with many more fantastic brands.

HeraldScotland:

Whether you’re looking for a wee treat for yourself or for a gift likely to impress a friend or family member, A Scents of Scotland has the perfect item for any occasion. Thanks to great relationships with suppliers, the business can often provide great deals and an ever-growing range.

To peruse the wide selection of stock, visit www.ascentsofscotland.co.uk