Newest Review: ... There is an honesty box to make a donation on route. This walk is relatively easy and takes around 10 minutes bringing you out at the s... more
A wonderful day out steeped in history
Culzean Castle and Country Park (Maybole)
Member Name: GaiaAngel
Culzean Castle and Country Park (Maybole)
Date: 11/11/10, updated on 11/11/10 (121 review reads)
Advantages: History, Ghosts, Beauty, Wildlife, Fun ... what more can I say!
Disadvantages: Expensive, can involve alot of walking - wear comfey shoes!
This is one of my favourite places to visit, not just in Ayrshire, but in the UK as a whole. Being an Ayrshire lass perhaps I am bias but I feel Culzean castle is unique with expansive grounds, breathtaking views and even residential ghosts! Culzean, once owned by the Kennedy's (one of scotland's oldest families) is now a national trust property. It is a relatively modern and grand castle which was designed by Robert Adams in the 1770s and is typical of this architect's grandiose style both inside and out. It lies on the coast approximately midway between Ayr and Girvan. It can be accessed from Ayr by bus (Stagecoach No 60 - Ayr to Girvan via Maidens), or by car either via the A77 at Maybole, or if you have a little more time, the A719 coastal road from Ayr/Girvan is quite beautiful. As a side line if you are coming from Ayr on the A719 do not pass the opportunity to stop at the Electric Brae (signposted) this is an optical illusion where the lay of the land makes it appear you are going uphill when you are really going downhill. Quite disconcerting when you stop the car and feel it sliding uphill!
The only downside I can see with Culzean is the entry cost which differs in summer and winter. Entry is free to national trust members. In summer it is very expensive £8.50/adult or £16/family for entry to the grounds alone and £13/adult or £32/family for the grounds and castle. In winter, with the exception of special events, the castle is closed and the entry cost to the park is £3/Adult and £1.50/Child. As a tip - you can enter the park (but not the castle) free of charge via the caravan park at the seafront at Maidens. There is an honesty box to make a donation on route. This walk is relatively easy and takes around 10 minutes bringing you out at the swan pond, also note that the swan pond is a further 10-15 minutes walk from the castle so entering via Maidens results in alot of walking
The castle is very grand, think embellished ceilings, ornate furnishings, huge portraits and antique furniture. While visitors do not have access to the entire castle they do get to see plenty of rooms, the library, armoury, state bedroom, dining room and kitchen to name but a few. Perhaps the most spectacular is the oval staircase - take a minute to look down when you are on the upper levels - you wont be disappointed! Each room has written information and also there are guides who are well informed and friendly. Okay all this sounds a little boring if you are under 8 years old ... but Culzean really has thought of everything. There are little legomen hidden throughout the castle. This certainly kept my kids (4 and 6 years old) entertained and gave their boring parents time to take in the rooms and read the information in relative peace.
Like alot of scottish castles, Culzean also has its spooky side. Paranormal investigations have allegedly caught a ghost on camcorder not to mention various premonitions of ladies dying in childbirth in one bedroom and girls dancing down the oval staircase. The investigation is well worth a read:
Should you be brave enough, and rich enough, you can actually stay (or EVEN get married!) in the castle in one of the six suites. Of these the Eisenhower suite is the most dramatic - and YES! Eisenhower really did stay in this very room in the 1940s.
The gardens at the actual castle are beautiful with expanses of grass - great for picnics and a large fountain for the kids to enjoy. There are several sets of steps up from here to the castle - and from this upper level you can look down on the gardens. While these gardens are beautiful, the Walled Gardens are even more so. In summer they are literally a mass of colour. They have a great array of flowers and trees and last summer I counted 6 different species of butterflies from this area alone!
Eating and shopping
There are two main places to eat: The visitors center (5-10 minutes from the castle) open year round, and the Old Stables Coffee House (maximum of 5 minutes walk from the castle) open during the summer only. The coffee house offers light snacks, coffees and scones while the visitor's centre offers a wider range of self service cooked meals (priced about £5-£6). Food is basic but hygenic and scones are fabulous! Both locations have inside and outside eating areas. In addition, you can get icecream and sweeties at the deer park and icecream/coffee/snacks at the Swan Pond.
The visitors center and the surrounding courtyard offer some retail opportunities. There is quite a nice toy shop which has lots of pocket money toys in addition to more expensive toys. The visitors center sells a number of quite tasteful scottish gifts (e.g. Books, Ness Purses, Arran Aromatics products) and local foods. Finally there is also a second hand bookshop, on route from the castle to the walled garden. This I have never been in so I am afraid I cannot comment on it.
The Swan Pond
The swan pond is a 10-15 minutes walk from the castle, although you can drive also. There are several walking routes from the castle to the swan pond. I would most recommend the coastal path which delivers delightful views of both the castle perched on its hillside, and the coast line of Ayrshire. The swanpond is actually a large pond which was made by flooding a meadow. It is home to a large number of waterbirds, however, the surrouding paths can be goose poopy so watch your feet. The monkey house, a rather out of place looking japanese pagoda, which, in its hayday was home to monkeys, can be found nearby as can an aviary and toilet! There is a large grass field (excellent for picnics) and a well equiped playpark suitable for all ages of children.
EVENTS AND CLUBS
Culzeans hosts a number of events during the season and these are well worth attending. We have experienced an easter egg hunt, princess and knight day, pirate day and fairytale christmas in the castle (the later was absolutely delightful). Culzean has a naturalist club for younger children and an ECOS club for older kids. It also has a garden and wildlife club for adults. Of these I only have experience of the naturalist club - kids explore rockpools, caves and ponds appealing most to kids who love being outside and don't mind getting dirty!
Culzean offers alot to those interested in natural history, there is a deer park with red deer, a wildlife garden and ranger led walks. For those wishing something a little more wild Culzean supports an ancient coastal deciduous woodland which forms part of a SSSI, and a designated wildlife area. Many birds can be found in Culzean including fulmars, rockpipits, woodcocks, treecreeper and barn owls.
Summary: A fabulous day out for old and young alike.
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