Car-free adventures nearAyrAyrshire
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Robert Burns first wrote the words in 1788 for the Hogmanay song, Auld Lang Syne, now sung at New Years Eve parties around the world. And his Address to a Haggis, often with bagpipes playing and the haggis itself brought in on a silver tray, has been traditional at Burns Night suppers that have celebrated his birthday on January 25th for centuries: Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin'-race! The 18th-century poet was born in a thatched whitewashed cottage in Alloway near Ayr in 1759. His birthplace is now a museum with a Visitor Centre nearby, connected by a Poet's Path. There are regular buses from Ayr to Alloway and on along the Ayrshire coast, past beaches and castle ruins.
1. Burns by bus
Robert Burns is often seen as Scotland’s national poet. The village where he was born attracts poetic pilgrims with several interesting sights for literary fans and curious travellers: as well as the cottage where he was born and a larger museum dedicated to his life and work, there’s an old church, the arched Brig o’Doon and gardens with a neoclassical monument, all connected to the Bard of Ayrshire. Getting there without a car is easy.
- Trains from Glasgow Central Station take an hour to reach Ayr, passing three scenic lochs and the pretty River Garnock. The railway runs through Kilwinnig, home to the Museum of Ayrshire Country Life in an old Victorian Mill, and goes on along the sea to Ayr.
- Come out of Ayr station and walk straight ahead onto Burns Statue Square. Head for the bus stop (rather boringly called Smith Street) outside the Post Office, near the bronze statue of the poet himself, surveying the main road from a tall white plinth.
- Buses for Alloway leave regularly; the most useful for the Burns Museum is the regular bus 361 towards Dunure, which stops right opposite the cottage at Doonholm Road.
- To get from the cottage to the larger museum and café, simply turn right along the road. After 150m, you can follow the Poet’s Path on the left, illustrated with silhouettes of images from Burns’ poems.
2. Dunure Castle
Stroll back to the cottage and hop on the 361 again to ride further into Burns’ country. The bus takes half an hour to reach the ruined castle at Dunure, passing the Heads of Ayr animal park, a favourite with kids.
- The fishing village of Dunure has dramatic views of the mountainous Isle of Arran. The castle perched on a headland with its old Dovecot nearby completes the scene.
- Ride the bus to the end of its route to have a look at the castle and enjoy the views nearby.
- Just a few metres back along the coast path, you will reach the peaceful harbour, with a distinctive round tower on the end of the quay.
- The Harbour View coffee shop, with views across the ocean, is open even in winter and serves warming homemade soups or freshly baked cakes like blueberry crumble loaf so it’s a good place to wait for the bus back, which stops nearby.