IT was once a luxurious retreat for well-heeled and prosperous travellers looking to sample the charms of the Scottish seaside during the heyday of the Age of Steam. 

Yet now its grandeur has faded and all that remains is a crumbling shell and the echoes of the triumphs of the past.

But the Ayr Station Hotel is still loved, though campaigners say that time is running out for the Victorian red sandstone building as years of neglect take their toll.

This week a wide no-go zone was extended around the hotel after contractors brought in by the local council found it was damaged far worse than anyone knew. 

Councillors now say the problems "present a significant and immediate danger to people and places around the station", and rail passengers face disruption until the matter can be resolved. 

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Trains have now been affected

A crunch meeting is to be hold today to discuss the future of the building, with conservationists calling for it to be compulsory purchased from its Malaysian owners and redeveloped into flats, a smaller 'bijou' hotel, and a community centre.

But the local authority says that all decisions must be put on hold until the results of a survey are made clear after the hotel became subject to a dangerous building order in June. 

It is estimated that demolition the rambling, 75-bedroom structure could cost £3 million and take months to complete.

Esther Clark, Chairwoman of the Station Hotel Action Group, believes that the building deserved to be saved, despite its precarious position, and could have a bright future with the right investment.

She will head up the meeting in Ayr this evening, which will see councillors and the public discuss ways to safeguard the local institution.

Mrs Clark said: "When the hotel was built in 1886, it was described in one newspaper as 'A Castle in Ayr'. It is a very beautiful and important B-listed building which is of national importance today.

"It is also important for the community to have some sort of shared resource because so many of the local facilities have closed down around here in recent years.

"When the hotel first opened, it was very, very successful. It was once a grand old building, and it could be again."

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The interior of the building is crumbling. Pics: OS 

The hotel, which dates to 1886, was built by the Glasgow and South-Western Railway Company for £50,000, and catered to newly mobile Scots looking for a holiday.

Boasting marble-clad interiors made by the same company which decorated the Glasgow City Chambers, it offered seawater bathing, golf excursions and Robert Burns tourism package tours.

Its success,spurred the company to build the Turnberry resort  - now owned by President Donald Trump - to capitalise of the same market.
But as the crowds drifted away to other destinations and the days of railway holidays came to a close, its corridors became empty and it was sold on to foreign investors in the 1970s.

Having since become the property of a business in the Far East, the chateaux-style hotel was abruptly closed in 2013 and now lies forlorn and abandoned with bushes and shrubs growing from its stonework. 

South Ayrshire Council issued a Dangerous Buildings Notice to the hotel owners on March 28, 2018 and set up the first exclusion zone around the building in the summer.

The local authority said it is working closely with Network Rail and ScotRail as work progresses to address the dangers presented by the hotel.

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Eileen Howat, chief executive of South Ayrshire Council, said: "Unfortunately, we're having to take urgent action to extend the exclusion zone in place at the station after contractors identified crumbling and exposed roof areas that present a significant and immediate danger to people and places around the station.

"This is not action that anyone is taking lightly, but is wholly designed to keep people safe, and not put them at risk as a result of the failure of the private owner of the building to address the safety concerns we have highlighted time and time again.

"Network Rail and ScotRail have been fully involved in the discussions about this and - as a result - a reduced service will be operating between Glasgow Central and Ayr, supported by rail replacement buses.

"Our priority right now is to continue to work with Network Rail and ScotRail to keep their passengers, staff and the public safe, before continuing discussions regarding the next steps that need to be taken to address the dangers of the Station Hotel building."

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A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We are liaising closely with South Ayrshire Council and are committed to helping the local authority as it works to resolve the long-standing issues around the condition of the privately-owned Ayr Station Hotel property.”