In search of a laid-back location with fresh local food, wide beaches and castles? Try the Scottish county of Ayrshire.
The county of Ayrshire sprawls across the south-western coast of Scotland, commanding stunning views over the Firth of Clyde.
It’s an area bursting with local produce – strawberries, fresh seafood and the famed Ayrshire ‘tatti’ (a hybrid of a potato cake and a scone).
It’s also the birthplace of Robert Burns, who is celebrated throughout Scotland with whisky and haggis on Burns Night.
But house prices in Ayrshire are also worth celebrating. In north and east Ayrshire, the average price sits at just £134,000. Click on the links for the latest prices in north, east and south Ayrshire.
Living in Ayrshire: what to expect
Life in Ayrshire encourages you to spend time outdoors. Rolling hills beckon cyclists, hikers, climbers and riders, while the flat sandy beaches are great for sailing, kitesurfing and kayaking.
The open countryside also lends itself to a lot of golf. One of the most famous courses is at Prestwick Golf Club, the original home of the Open Championship.
If the weather isn’t behaving itself, Ayrshire is littered with castles and stately homes.
Where to start your property search
Property in Ayrshire ranges from the new-build to the rustic. Warm sandstone cottages are interspersed with contemporary detached villas and grand Victorian terraces, and for those who want a sea view, new apartments are cropping up all along the beach front. We’ve broken it down.
Urban: Ayr and Prestwick are two of the main urban centres and therefore command slightly higher house prices. If you have a tighter budget, look to areas such as Irvine and Kilmarnock, which tend to be more affordable.
Ayr was a popular resort in the Victorian period, so there is plenty of Victorian property on the market here. Take a look at the grand sandstone terraces with striking gabled roofs on Montgomerie Terrace, the red stone bungalows on Robsland Avenue and the sizeable Victorian terraces on Quail Road.
Search Prestwick for large Victorian villas, such as those on Burgh Road, or opt for a pint-sized one-storey cottage on Gardiner Street. If your budget can stretch, pick a grand period detached home on Ayr Road.
For a sea view, search the harbour in Irvine for apartments and town houses. If period charm takes higher priority, take a look at properties on roads such as Bank Street, some of which have beautiful stained glass windows. Or, opt for the new four- or five-bedroom villas on the Perceton estate.
If your budget is more limited, scour the market in Kilmarnock. Here you will find flats within converted houses on Loanhead Street or charming sandstone properties on South Hamilton Street. Twentieth-century terraces can be found on roads such as Mackie Place.
Rural: If you’re looking for a countryside Ayrshire home, you’ll find plenty of villages scattered throughout the county.
In the east, the most sought-after include Fenwick, Sorn, Kilmaurs and Stewarton. Fenwick and Sorn are very pricey areas and feature chocolate-box villas and cottages along their main roads. Kilmaurs and Stewarton also have some stone-built properties as well as barn and mill conversions on their outskirts.
In the south, the village of Coylton is a desirable location but with a smaller price tag than its eastern counterparts. Look here for modern and 20th century houses and easy access to the town of Ayr.
To the north, Fairlie and West Kilbride are among the attractive villages. Many properties boast sea views from Fairlie. Take a look at the modern apartments on Bay Street or secure a blonde sandstone villa on Main Road.
Getting around Ayrshire
By rail: Coastal services run from Glasgow to Kilwinning, crossing through Paisley, Gilmore St, Johnstone, Milliken Park, Howwood, Lochwinnoch and Dalry before separating to serve different coastal areas.
A secondary line serves the inland towns and villages of Kilmarnock, Stewarton and Kilmaurs.
From Ayr, residents can reach Glasgow in one hour and Edinburgh in less than three hours.
By car: The coast in north Ayrshire is served by the A78, while the A737 heads inland towards Paisley. The primary route through the southern half of Ayrshire is served by the A77, which heads east and links to the M77 towards Glasgow.
By air: Glasgow Prestwick Airport offers international flights to popular European destinations such as Barcelona, Ibiza and Rome. Flight providers include budget airline Ryanair.
Residents can also fly from Glasgow Airport, which has domestic as well as international flights. Flybe, easyJet and Ryanair all operate from here.
Things to do in Ayrshire
History: Familiarise yourself with Robert Burns by visiting the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum complex. There are six sites in the village of Alloway including where the cottage where Burns was born. You can reach the different sites by wandering along Poet’s Path and stopping at the monument and gardens dedicated to the poet.
At 18th Century stately home, Dumfries House you can follow a guided tour and walk around its ancient woodland.
There’s a pick of castles in Ayrshire – but Culzean Castle and Country Park is a favourite with its secret gardens, cliff top views and 600 acres of lush forest and fields.
Cultural: Burns night, on 25 January, is a big deal in Ayrshire. So be prepared to celebrate with haggis, whisky and recitals of Robert Burns’ best-loved works.
Take advantage of the dark skies with the Dark Sky Park observatory that lies nestled in the Galloway Forest. You’ll find two large telescopes through which you can see far-flung stars and planets. You can even book a star-gazing evening.
In September, you can get a boat across to the Isle of Cumbrae to witness the Millport Illuminations, an event that has run since 1934, and involves fireworks and street performances.
The Palace Theatre in Kilmarnock is popular putting on regular music, comedy, drama and dance.
For a side-order of social activism, show your support for The Gaiety. It’s the home to Borderline, an award-winning Scottish touring company, and hosts pantomimes, ballet and musical theatre.
Outdoors: Long, wide Prestwick beach is beautiful and offers some of the best views of the Isle of Arran. Maidens Beach is more famous for watersports.
Ayr beach – which has earned a Seaside Award – is great for bucket and spading. If you’d rather be on the water, you can hire a boat to fish for skate, haddock and cod.
Ayrshire’s islands are always worth exploring. Catch a ferry across to the Isle of Arran where you’ll find moors and granite ridges. You can hike up Goatfell there – the largest mountain on the island – or opt for a more laid-back tour of Arran Distillery.
Shopping: Ayrshire, as a county, is renowned for its local produce, so it follows that farmers' markets are part-and-parcel the lifestyle here. There's several markets dotted all over the county, some of the largest including Ayr, Fairlie, Irvine and Kilmarnock. The markets are usually held on a given Saturday or Sunday within each month.
In terms of retail shopping, the Ayr Central Shopping Centre in Ayr is a major hub. The undercover mall carries all the major stores including Top Shop and Debenhams. You'll also find big retail chains at Burns Mall Shopping Centre in Kilmarnock or Rivergate Shopping Centre in Irvine.
Food and drink: Book a table at Braidwoods Restaurant. It is the only restaurant in Ayrshire to hold a Michelin Star. Tuck into some Scottish lamb and local seafood, served with a modern twist.
Fine dining can also be had at Sorn Inn in the village of the same name. Make sure you try the seasoned cuts of aged Scottish lamb and the black pudding potatoes.
Life by the sea means access to fresh seafood. Sample the best of what Scotland has to offer in Fins Restaurant. Take your pick of Cullen Skinik or salmon fishcakes, or go all-out with a seafood platter.
The Ayrshire Real Ale Festival is held every October in Troon, a small town on the Scottish west coast. There's usually around 150 real ales and 30 ciders on offer.
Nardini’s, on Largs is Scotland’s most famous ice cream parlour. You can choose from more than 30 flavours and sit and eat it looking out over the Clyde.
5 reasons to live in Ayrshire
Coastal living on sandy shores
Appealing house prices
Fresh local produce
Good commuting into Glasgow
Sandstone cottages and villas as well as new-build houses
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Have we forgotten any other selling points? Let us know in the comments below…