IT was once close to being named as a blight on Scotland’s landscape in the notorious and now-defunct carbuncle awards.

Hit by shop closures and a lack of investment, Ayr town centre was in the running for the 2013 Plook on the Plinth award for the most dismal town in Scotland.

But, six years on, the seaside town has turned its fortunes around and is now in the process of massive regeneration.

The transformation and combined effort of locals and South Ayrshire Council has led to the town being nominated for an entirely different award- Scotland’s Most Beautiful High Street.

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The award, run by Scotland’s Towns Partnership and Keep Scotland Beautiful, celebrates the best of the country’s towns based on horticultural achievement, environmental responsibility, and community participation.

Phil Prentice, Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, said Ayr is in the running thanks to a massive amount of investment in the town.

“Ayr is a beautiful former market town with a long history. But a few years ago a lot of shops were shutting down, people just took their eye off the town and it wasn’t getting the investment it needed.

“But moving forward, there’s a massive amount of investment coming, including working with the council on a longer term masterplan for the town centre.”

The masterplan involves splitting the town into three zones - a creative and cultural area close to the water, an evening leisure and social area in the middle of the town, including a new cinema, and a traditional retail area at the top of the town.

Several empty shop units have also been filled, including a large former BHS store which has been transformed into a unique shopping and community space.

Local businessman Alan Moore, who moved to the town from Glasgow four years ago, said that, as well as regeneration, there has been a shift in attitude among the business community.

He said: “I think things have had to get worse before they got better and we’ve hit the absolute lowest and now we’re starting to come back.

“There’s a lot of regeneration happening and there’s a lot of positivity in the town that there wasn’t before.

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“Even just simple things like cleaning gutters, painting window frames, painting buildings, fixing broken windows have made a real difference and have had a huge effect on morale for everyone.”

He added: “The nomination for this award is really fantastic. Ayr is a town worth celebrating, there are great businesses here and it’s great that all of the efforts in recent years have been taken note of.”

The other towns in the running for the award are Innerleithen, Kirkwall, Lerwick, Linlithgow, Lanark, Milngavie and Rothesay.

The public have until November 10 to vote for their favourite, with the winner announced on November 18 to mark the beginning of Scotland’s Towns Week.

Mr Prentice added: “This competition is about celebrating the incredible work of people up and down the country, who give up their time to improve their local places. We’ve been blown away by the strength of the entries this year which goes to show that town centre revival is on the up, and it’s driven by local people.

“There’s a common theme throughout all of the towns on the shortlist and that’s community. Local people have come together through active citizenship to take pride in their own environment and try to make it better.

“They understand that retail is changing, they understand that the public sector doesn’t have as much money as it used to, but they collectively are trying to do better themselves.

“Our high streets and town centres are the beating hearts of communities and local economies, and each has its own unique identity and experience to offer for both residents and visitors. I would urge people to get online and vote for their favourite entry and help us celebrate the success of our thriving town centres.”

Katie Murray, of Keep Scotland Beautiful, added: “For over half a decade we have celebrated the success of communities, through our Beautiful Scotland competition so we know how important competitions such as this are.

“I’d urge everyone to vote - working together we can all enjoy and celebrate cleaner, greener and more beautiful High Streets.”

Anyone looking to vote for the award can do so at