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Culzean Castle and Country Park (Maybole)
Member Name: xmum2threex
Culzean Castle and Country Park (Maybole)
Advantages: Lots to do, lovely day out
Disadvantages: Expensive for a family, lack of bins
We are lucky enough to live in Ayrshire which has a number of attractions and family activities. Yesterday looked like it was going to be a lovely day so we decided to head down to Culzean Castle for a visit. We have been before once before but that was when we first moved here nearly 6 years ago. The thing that puts us off is the price. There are a number of country parks and castles within a 20 mile radius of where we live that offer free entry. This usually puts us off paying as we can still have a great day out at any of the free options, but sometimes a change of scenery does you a world of good.
The castle sits in the town of Maybole which is just outside of Ayr. We found it was very well signposted once you actually hit Ayr and it is very easily accessible by car. The number 60 bus also runs from Ayr to right outside the castle gates. There is a mile walk down to the castle if you take public transport, but if you're visiting Culzean you should expect to walk a number of miles through the day anyway.
The castle was built in stages between 1777 and 1792 and extended a smaller drum tower that sat on the Ayrshire coast. It was designed by the Robert Adam one of the most successful and fashionable architects in the country at the time. The castle was built for the Kennedy family who enjoyed it as their home, before they then gifted it to the National trust of Scotland who take care of the castle today. There is no doubt that this castle looks stunning sitting on a cliff overlooking the sea, and everywhere you turn there are stunning views. Inside the castle there are a number of rooms dedicated to both the Kennedy family and Robert Adam so you can learn a little more. You can either pay for entry to just the grounds, or pay an extra £5 to gain entrance to the castle as well.
Admission Prices - Summer 2013
Thursday 29 March until Sunday 27 October 2013 inclusive
Combined Castle & Country Park Ticket -
Adult - £15.00
Child / Concession - £11.00
Family - £37.00 (max 2 adults and up to 4 children)
Single Adult Family - £29.00 (max 1 adult and up to 4 children)
Country Park 'Only' Ticket :
Adult - £10.00 Child / Concession - £7.00
Family - £23.50
Single Adult Family - £17.50 (max 1 adult and up to 4 children)
We were greeted by some lovely ladies who took our admission fee and gave us leaflets with information about the grounds and gaining access to the castle. The map made it look as though everything was spread as far apart as possible. It explains that to walk from the castle to the play area is a good 25 minutes. We decided to do everything backwards. We visited the play are first and then worked backwards to the castle.
Parking is included in your entrance fee and there are a number of different areas you are able to park. The visitor centre, Swan pond, Silver Avenue and walled gardens all have their own parking area. We managed to find a spot with ease and loved that you could drive to the different areas rather than having to walk. The walk from the castle the swan pond is around 25 minutes one way. With young children we found it useful to be able to explore one area and then drive to next before exploring again.
There are toilets situated in all areas apart from the walled garden. We made a few visits throughout the day and found them to be clean and functional. There is also a kiosk at the Swan pond which we found helpful. You can purchase juice and ice cream but there was limited choice when we were there. There was only one lady serving and a huge queue that passed the door, but it was so hot we were all desperate to cool down. The prices were fair at around £1.20 for a small ice cream (which was actually very large) and juice around 80 pence.
There are a number of trails that you can take. Each one is labelled, signposted and there are posts detailing which are suitable for the type of walk you wish to take. There are lots to choose from and it really is a lovely way to see some wildlife. There are shorter walks for those who want a leisurely stole, or a trail that follows the acres of land for the more adventurous. We only followed the main trail around the swan pond and then towards the walled garden. We then walked back to the parking area at the swan pond, drove to the visitor centre and followed the path to the visitor centre and castle.
The castle and visitor centre
Of course the Castle itself is the main attraction. It is a very large and impressive castle that wows straight away. Once inside you can follow the information boards to find out about the years of history related to Culzean, or you can talk with a member of staff who is happy to talk to you about it all. You can prearrange a tour of the castle, which I believe costs a little extra but we found walking around ourselves suited us best with five young children.
Inside the castle are details about the connection to the Kennedy family, and the architect Robert Adam. There are items belonging to the Kennedy family, suits of armour, art and general information about the history of Culzean. The rooms are grand and the huge amount of armour and tapestry's on display are fantastic. There are different rooms with different expeditions on show so you can get a full idea of the past of this beautiful castle. It is visually stunning to look at, and we found the information to be interesting and engaging.
There are treasure hunts like find the Lego Man to keep children interested, but to be honest my children were just too young and itching to get back to the grounds. Our walk around the castle was brief for this reason, but we would like to return when the children are a little older, and hopefully a little more interested. I do think you could spent a good hour or two looking at the different pieces in the castle, but after around 30 minutes we returned to the castle grounds. There are sometimes guided tours to the caves beneath the castle, but as this relies on good weather and the Castle is located in Scotland, as you may expect the tours are very rare.
The visitor centre and castle hold the larger number of shops. The visitor centre is basically a huge courtyard. On one side you have the restaurant, and while we did not enter as we had prepared our self with a picnic, but it smelt lovely, and the prices seemed to be reasonable. As you would expect there is also a large souvenir shop that had everything from calendars, to T shirts. Again we took a miss on the shop and continued up to the castle. Finally in the same courtyard is a toy shop that also sells juice and ice creams and some toilets. We were looking forward to visiting the second hand book shop, which is just around the corner from the visitor centre but unfortunately it was closed when we got there.
Play area, Swan pond and Walled garden
As we started backwards the first thing we came across was the play area. It is a fantastic size and has a number of activities for children both large and small. On one side of the park is a small climbing frame area for younger preschool children, which includes an assault course, a climbing frame, slides and large caterpillars to sit on. On the opposite side of the park is the area designed for over five. It is very similar with a maze, a large climbing frame, slides and a zip slide. We visited in the school holidays, on one of the hottest days of the year and they were still able to play fairly freely, only waiting a minute or two for certain parts like the Zip slide.
The walled garden was my favourite part of our visit. It is absolutely beautiful and so tranquil. I think the title is self explanatory, it is a garden contained between some very large walls. There are everything from beautiful vibrant flowers, to a vinery and a vegetable patch. It is a large area that we managed to spend around 30 minutes exploring. Again we could have taken a lot more time admiring the range of offerings available, but my children became a little bored and wanted an ice cream, so we headed back down to the swan pond. I do think this is best enjoyed on a lovely summer day as the light just seems to make the whole area magical.
The swan pond is located right next to the play area which seemed fitting. There is a huge picnic area separating the two areas, so it is perfect for little ones to run wild in the park, then on to lunch in the picnic area, and finally we moved on to the pond with the spare bread from lunch. While it is called the swan pond there were no swans in sight. In fact the only wildlife we did manage to catch a glimpse of was the ducks eagerly swimming towards us for our leftovers. We did walk around the pond which was lovely, and feeding the ducks was also nice, but it's the appearance of the whole area that really pulled us in. It is just beautiful. As mentioned before it was a beautiful day when we visited, and the sun just makes everything glow and shimmer. Along the trail around the pond you can expect to see a huge amount of wildlife, but sadly I think my children were just too noisy and scared them all away.
When we first arrived at Culzean we were a little overwhelmed staring at the map we were given after paying our entrance fee. It seemed as if the different areas are set miles apart, but once you begin walking you realise that it is not actually that far at all. We decided to explore back to front, by starting at the play area and making our way to the castle at the end of the day we seemed to miss the crowds. I managed to walk the main trail in a pair of flip flops, but it had been very warm for a few weeks so the trails were dry and clear. I would opt for some more sensible shoes for future visits as there is a lot of walking to be done and some of the side trails would have been more of a challenge.
There really is something for everyone. My husband and I enjoyed the castle itself and the walled gardens the most. The views from the Castle overlooking the sea really are breathtaking. The sun made the walled garden look like a paradise and the walk really was relaxing and gives you time to enjoy your surroundings. My children on the other hand loved the play area, picnic area and swan pond. They could spend time burning off their energy, refuelling with a picnic lunch and then feeding the ducks with the leftovers.
My one downside is the lack of bins. We finished our picnic and set off to find a bin to get rid of our rubbish. I searched everywhere and was unable to find a bin anywhere around the play area, Swan pond or the walled gardens. We ended up having to put our rubbish underneath our pushchair until we reached the visitor centre where I finally found a bin. Considering how far they are apart it makes you wonder how many people really want to walk miles with leftover lunch in their arms.
We have found Culzean to be a great day out for the whole family. There are trails for everyone and you can choose one to suit you. The Swan pond is perfect to take a stroll around on a warm day and with the play park right next to it the children are entertained too. The walled gardens are fantastic and seemed to appeal to everyone, and the gorgeous views from the castle will really make you take a step back and wonder. The amount of history and character this castle has is endless and it really makes an interesting day out.
Summary: A great day out for the family