Located on the southeast coast of Scotland, Ayrshire is probably best known as the home of one of Scotland’s most famous sons – the poet Robert Burns. It’s also where you’ll be able to sample delicious fresh seafood, see where Vikings once landed, and play golf; there are more than 50 golf courses in Ayrshire.
One of best ways to see this stunning county is on the Ayshire Coastal Path – a 100-mile path which skirts the Scottish coastline, with views over to the Isle of Arran. If you want to get to know the county’s rich history better, take your pick of visiting one of the 185 castles in Ayrshire. Here are some of the best and most beautiful.
5 castles to visit in Ayrshire
1. Dalquharran Castle
Dalquharran Castle is a tale of two castles which stand within sight of each other by the Water of Girvan. The ruins of the old Dalquharran Castle were listed as a world heritage site in April 1971, but both castles are now in a ruinous state – despite the latter being a Category A listed building.
The ‘new’ castle is based on Culzean Castle and has an impressive entrance hall and spiral staircase. Both castles were listed for sale for £800,000 in 2019. They’re located in the rolling green countryside of Ayrshire and are a pleasant surprise to stumble across on a walk.
When: 15th/18th century
Style: Castellated family home
Open for Visit: Yes. Open 24 hours.
2. Dunure Castle
This picturesque castle has a dark history behind it, despite its stunning location. Looking out over the Firth of Clyde, it was built in the 13th century by the Kennedy Clan. It later fell into ruin and disuse from the 17th century.
One of the castle’s darkest tales includes a man, Alan Stewart, who was roasted over a fire by the earl Gilbert Kennedy in an attempt to sign nearby Crossraguel Abbey in a land grab in the 16th century. You may recognise Dunure Castle if you’re a fan of the TV show Outlander – it was one of the filming locations from season 3.
When: 13th century
Open for Visit: Yes. Access at all reasonable times
3. Eglinton Castle
Eglinton Castle is part of Eglinton Country Park, and the castle is perhaps best remembered for the medieval style Eglinton tournament in 1839. It was attended from far and wide, with a railway line being built to the small village. Unfortunately, torrential rain ruined the proceedings.
Despite the current ruined incarnation of the castle being built at the turn of the 19th century, it was built on a 16th-century stronghold. Nowadays, all that remains of the castle is a single corner tower (there were originally four) and some low walls after the house was partly demolished in 1973. You can still see the Montgomery Family Crest on the façade.
When: 19th century
Style: Gothic castellated
Open for Visit: Yes. Part of a public park
4. Greenan Castle
The ruined tower house of Greenan Castle is southwest of one of the principal towns in Ayrshire – Ayr. It is at the head of a cliff overlooking the Firth of Clyde. Initially, the castle was a promontory fort which was converted to a motte and bailey in the 12th century.
What can be seen of Greenan Castle now was built by the Lords of The Isles before being passed onto the Kennedy Family. For those who are planning to visit the castle, there is a car park nearby, near the beach at Doonfoot. It’s possible to climb the castle, but sturdy footwear is recommended. On a clear day, there are beautiful views over to Arran.
When: 15th century
Open for Visit: Yes.
5. Lochranza Castle Arran
Located on a spit of land jutting out into Loch Ranza, this castle is an L-Plan tower house which can be accessed from the nearby village of Lochranza, on the north tip of the Isle of Arran.
The castle was originally built in the 13th century in what was an unusual design at the time. It changed hands many times in the following centuries, before being occupied by Cromwell in the 1650s. Lochranza Castle fell into disuse in the 18th century. It’s said to be the inspiration for the castle in the comic The Adventures of Tintin: The Black Island in the 1960s.
Where: Lochranza, Isle of Arran
When: 13th century
Open for Visit: Yes.
6. Portencross Castle
Overlooking the Firth of Clyde, this fortified tower in East Kilbride is a scheduled ancient monument that holds events throughout the year. The area is rich in myths and legends. Portencross is said to be the last resting place of the Kings of Scotland, who lay in state at the castle here before being transported to the Isle of Iona and buried.
The site has been fortified since the 11th century, but the current tower is thought to date from the middle of the 14th century. Although only officially open during the summer season, it’s possible to arrange visits outside of those times.
When: 14th century
Open for Visit: 11:00 – 16:00 June to September.