It is, of course, increasingly difficult to dispute the assertion that Ayr town centre is a shadow of its former self.

Boyhood memories of the high street, walking with grandparents or parents, are of packed streets and thriving shops, noise, and traffic.

There has since been much pedestrianisation of the high street, so much of the traffic has gone. Sadly, so too has much of the footfall.

Many premises which were once the heart and soul of the place lie vacant. Department store Hourstons, for so long a stalwart, is just one of the big names to have closed.

The town centre proved very resilient for much longer than many elsewhere but for years now its prosperity or lack thereof has been the subject of much discourse locally.

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Against such a backdrop, it can be easy to lose hope when it comes to what the future might hold.

However, such attitudes can create a vicious circle of decline.

What is required is a positive, although importantly not unrealistic, view of what can be achieved.

Ayr has some great advantages over many other places.

It has a superb beach, from the pier point out to beyond Greenan Castle. The town has its association with national bard Robert Burns, who was born in Alloway, and moves in recent decades to promote this heritage have been impressive.

Ayr also has its racecourse and Somerset Park, one of the most characterful grounds in Scottish football and home of Ayr United. 

It has fine golf courses run by South Ayrshire Council.

And there is the grandeur of Wellington  Square.

The challenges for Ayr are of course similar to those faced by many towns the length and breadth of Scotland, and indeed the UK.

The explosion of online shopping has, to say the least, not been helpful. Out-of-town shopping centres have also created difficulties, with the likes of Silverburn within easy reach. You get the impression that many people  who have moved to Ayr in recent times barely set foot in the town centre, which is a very different situation from the old days. The coronavirus pandemic has made things worse, further reducing footfall.

Ayr has had some specific problems to deal with over the decades. If you go back far enough, the surge in overseas travel was among the factors that forced the town’s tourism sector to reinvent itself, with it being many decades now since the town saw a temporary leap in its population with a mass influx of holidaymakers from the likes of Glasgow during the peak summer weeks.

However, there are many positives. Ayr has some fine hospitality businesses.

And, if people doubt that town centres can thrive, a few miles away Prestwick looks to be doing much better than many other places, with many independent retailers and hospitality businesses along what is a very long main street.

And we should remember that many businesses continue to enjoy success in Ayr town centre.

Newmarket Street is a good example of a part of the town that is thriving, with coffee shops and an attractive retail offering, including many independents.

The street is a fine place to wander.

And it perhaps gives a glimpse of what could be achieved with will and energy to revive the very fine town of Ayr.