Looking for some “stay-cation” ideas for 2020? You could do a lot worse than consider a trip to Culzean Castle.
Once Oscar, my second Morris Minor, had been extensively repaired this was one of the first places he went a road trip to.
“This is a place I can relax.” These could easily be my own words, but they’re not. These are the words of former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Eisenhower stayed at the spectacular Culzean Castle on four occasions as a General during the Second World War, and as US President.
Culzean Castle, which began construction in 1777, is perched on the South Ayrshire coastline just a few miles to the south of Maybole. By the way, you should be pronouncing the name of the castle as “cullain”. If you’re saying it with a “z” it’s wrong.
I can’t describe Culzean Castle any better than its current owner, the National Trust for Scotland, so I’m not even going to try. This is what they have to say about it, “Rising majestically from its cliff top location, looking over to the Isle of Arran, Culzean is set amidst 600 acres of beautiful Scottish countryside, with an enchanting terraced garden, charming follies, relaxing woodland walks and inviting sandy beaches.” If that description doesn’t make you want to visit, nothing will.
This is a place that is dear to my heart. I visited it with my family as a child. I have fond memories of running around and playing in the children’s play park and seeing the wildlife. More recently it’s where I proposed to my then fiancée.
You can spend hours wandering around the grounds, from the carefully manicured lawns and striking, colourful gardens to the more natural woodland trails (appropriate waterproof footwear advised following periods of rain). On a pleasant day it’s great just to be still for a moment and slowly draw in the fresh sea air. You’ll hear the birds singing all around and the waves of the Firth of Clyde gently crashing on the shoreline. If you’re close enough to the water lick your lips and you’ll taste the salt from the sea.
The views to the Isle of Arran, often described as Scotland in miniature, are wonderful.
It’s a destination perfect for couples, dog walkers and families alike. There is a large children’s play area, with ice cream and refreshments available nearby, a large pond with swans and ducks, all manner of wildlife and the gardens and trails as described above.
The castle itself is in excellent order throughout. There is now a high quality hotel and restaurant within it, where you can stay in the same room Eisenhower himself used or enjoy some afternoon tea.
Guided tours can be taken of the other parts of the castle to learn about its history. Entry is free to members of the National Trust for Scotland. I believe it’s also free for members of the (English) National Trust).
The coastal roads near to Culzean offer beautiful views to the Firth of Clyde, Ailsa Craig (an extinct volcanoe) and Isle of Arran. Take the A719 if you’re not in a hurry. If you have time you could also stop off at the pretty little fishing village of Dunure.
You’ll find a spot on the A719 called the Electric Brae. It’s sign posted and there’s a small parking lay-by. It’s an optical illusion. It looks like the road goes uphill, but it’s actually downhill. And vice versa. Beware slow moving vehicles there. You can stop your car in the lay-by and take your foot off the brake. It will seem as if your car is rolling up a hill. Some “magic” the kids will appreciate!
Happy road tripping folks (when it’s finally permitted again!).