Culzean Castle and Country Park
I'm going to put it out there, Culzean Country Park and it's instantly recognisable castle is one of my favourite Scottish attractions. I've been visiting this National Trust for Scotland property since my early childhood and 3 decades later not much has changed. There have been a few improvements and alterations here and there but overall this timeless classic of a park has pretty much remained the same giant playground for adventurers of all ages that I nostalgically remember.
The Robert Adam designed clifftop castle is no doubt the sparkling gem of this Ayrshire crown but the surrounding grounds offer an array of natural and historic twinkling jewels which compliment it perfectly.
The castle is open to the public and you can choose to tour the beautifully furnished room at your own pace or as part of a guided tour. The armoury is particularly impressive as it holds one of the world's largest collection of swords and pistols.
The manicured gardens below the castle with the groomed green lawn, ornate fountain and palm trees makes a perfectly picturesque lunch spot.
Another popular picnic place for visitors is the 13 acre Swan Pond where you can find a large variety of birds and of course the local swans. A flat circular walk takes you round the pond and provides plenty of wildlife photo opportunities.
There is also a children's adventure playground and small takeaway cafe. This is a particularly busy area on a sunny day and ideal for families. If you are wanting a quieter place to enjoy your lunch there are plenty of other options.
Another favourite is the pretty walled garden full of colourful flora and fauna. A stroll around is a feast for the eyes and there are some lovely scents wafting around which help immerse you in the experience. I personally enjoy walking under a little stone arch which brings you out at a quirky tree.
With a choice of woodland or coastal walks, rockpools and beaches to explore there is always somewhere to get lost in nature. For the really adventurous you can make your way along the rocky shore to the smugglers caves below the castle. A preserved reminder of a time when this part of the coast was a haven for illegal antics.
The beauty of Culzean is that there is something of interest around every corner. Some other things you can see as you travel around include a red deer park, a pagoda completed in 1814 (also known as the monkey house), the gas house which was used to power the castle and now houses an exhibition, visitor centre and courtyard with restaurant and a small hidden cemetery where members of the Kennedy family, the previous owners of the castle are buried.
I have visited alot of castles and country parks in Scotland and I have yet to find one that comes close to offering the beauty and variety of treasures found at Culzean and if it's all about location then that box is firmly ticked too. There is a reason that I return here time and time again and still feel the same magic now that I did in my childhood.
There is so much to see at Culzean that a day won't be enough to see everything but it will be enough for the main highlights. It's proximity to Glasgow makes a perfect day trip (approx 1hr by car). A bus from Ayr ( Stagecoach number 60/360) takes you to the park entrance but be aware that there is a mile walk from the entrance to visitor centre.
If you are looking for some unique holiday accommodation in Scotland then you may want to stay at one of the unusual properties within the park including the former brewhouse or the luxurious top floor castle apartment specially created for use by General Eisenhower.
The entry into Culzean is £15.50 for an adult and £38 for a family which in my opinion is worth it for what you get in return. However National Trust of Scotland members get in free and I highly recommend joining if you visit their other properties as the saving can be huge.
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