Prestwick, which is the oldest burgh in Scotland, having been granted the honour in 987, is just to the north of Ayr, and more or less runs straight into its larger neighbour. Prestwick was the original home of golf's Open Championship, which was played out on its12-hole course in the years from 1860 to 1872. The first tournament was over in a day, involving just eight golfers, all of them professionals, each playing three rounds. St Ninian's church on the south side of town includes a well called Bruce's Well, the reason for the name being that Robert The Bruce was supposedly cured of leprosy by the waters from the well.
Ayr is one of the most popular resorts on this stretch of coast. Its charms were not lost on Robert Burns, who in Tam O'Shanter written in 1791 described the town as "Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a toun surpasses, For honest men and bonnie lasses". Earlier, in the 13th century, William Wallace was too busy engaging in increasingly violent encounters with the English soldiers garrisoned there to notice the area's delights. During medieval times, Ayr was the most prominent harbour town on the west coast of Scotland. By the 18th century the harbour was facilitating trade across the Atlantic, and in the 19th century it became a major industrial port. It was also in the 19th century that Ayr blossomed into a smart resort with attractive parks and golf courses. The town is an essential stopover for Robert Burns fans. Burns was born in the southern outskirts of the town, and his birthplace is now a museum. He was baptised in the 17th century AuldKirk. The Tam O'Shanter pub, which was frequented by Burns, was formerly a museum. As if these were not enough reminders of the town's associations with the poet, there is a Burns Monument, designed in 1820 by Thomas Hamilton. Other leisure activities in the town include sea-fishing trips from the harbour and the town is visited by the Waverley Paddle Steamer. There is a lovely beach in the south of Ayr Bay dominated by the Heads of Ayr cliffs. This area also houses the ruins of the 16th century Greenan Castle, built by John Kennedy of Baltersan and occupying a perilous clifftop location. There is also a popular farmpark in the vicinity.
For a list of events in Ayr and the surrounding area see here.
Map of the area.
©2007 Mary and Angus Hogg, via Wikimedia Commons