Create family holiday memories in Ayrshire and Arran

It's not easy being a parent and organising a family holiday that will keep the kids and adults entertained but also conjure up the magic fairy dust that makes a family holiday live long in the memory.

The adventure playground at Brodick Castle. Picture: National Trust for Scotland
The adventure playground at Brodick Castle. Picture: National Trust for Scotland

It's not easy being a parent and organising a family holiday that will keep the kids and adults entertained but also conjure up the magic fairy dust that makes a family holiday live long in the memory.

Step forward Arran, Ayrshire and the National Trust for Scotland treasures of Brodick Castle, Garden & Country Park, and Culzean Castle & Country Park.

Here you will find Scotland at its finest with rolling green landscapes, adventure activities for the kids and enough historical oddities to keep the parents amused.

Brodick Castle. Picture: National Trust for Scotland

Brodick Castle is an imposing fortress whose presence quickly becomes apparent when you step off the ferry onto Arran from Ardrossan.

Once home to the Hamilton dynasty, its trails spread out up to Goatfell mountain – the Isle of Arran’s highest point – and beyond.

Brodick Castle is a place where you can easily get lost for a day.

The Grand National at Brodick Castle. Picture: National Trust for Scotland

Let the kids run free in the adventure playground before letting them loose on the fairy trails which run northwards from the castle.

You can spend a very pleasant and peaceful afternoon walking amongst the lush greenery of the castle gardens which lie sheltered, thanks to a thick defence line of trees, from the Firth of Clyde.

The gardens are home to a host of exotics plants from Burma and India which thrive in the temperate climate provided by the gulf stream.

Once the kids are tired out from their adventure activities, bring them indoors and let them compete on the Grand National which is as far removed from any traditional castle attraction you'll find.

The adventure playground at Culzean Castle. Picture: National Trust for Scotland

You can compete against your kids in a novel horse racing game which sees your jockey progress depending on how many balls you can successfully slot through a series of holes.

Once you claim victory, take a walk through the castle which is a walk back through another age.

Opt for a guided tour and hear how the castle has been lambasted throughout its history in attacks ranging from the Wars of Scottish Independence to the English Civil War.

According to our guide, Sue Mills, Brodick Castle was prized by aggressors because of its strategic position on the Firth of Clyde that allowed them to work their way northwards once they had landed on Arran.

Culzean Castle. Picture: National Trust for Scotland

The castle is also laden with horse-racing trophies, paintings and memorabilia which echo the story of William, the 12th Duke of Hamilton.

The Duke, an earnest gambler, burned through much of the family's reserves on horse racing and yachting excursions.

While he achieved some notable wins, including the Grand National in 1867, it was not enough to prevent a fire sale of the family's assets which became know as the 'Sale of the Century'.

The most atmospheric room in the castle is the drawing room which is kept in a darkened light with piano music playing to create the atmosphere of the castle in its Victorian heyday.

The Auchrannie Resort lies a five minute drive from Brodick Castle and is an ideal bolthole for a family holiday.

It is the perfect place to recover from a day's exploring on the island.

The resort is custom-built for kids and adults looking to unwind with accommodation ranging from luxury lodges to wooden retreats, swimming pools, games hall and lots of dining options.

Why not check your kids into the Playbarn and enjoy a relaxing drink in the comfortable leather-clad surrounding of the Brambles bar?

After recharging at Auchrannie, head back on the ferry at Brodick and take the hour-long drive through the South Ayrshire countryside to Culzean Castle.

Culzean, like Brodick, is a place where you can decamp the troops for the entire day.

It sprawls a massive 600 acres, with around only 10 per cent being easily explored during a day visit.

However, in that 10 per cent you will find winding woodland paths, sprawling ponds, sand dunes and rockpools to explore.

The castle itself is a Mecca of discovery for children and adults alike.

Staff have developed a novel way for children to discover the history of the castle through small Lego figures stashed in various nooks around its grand interior.

Your little one will be equipped with a list of Lego figures to hunt out throughout the day.

The introduction has been such a success that castle staff now have to frequently move the Lego pieces around to account for the eagle eyes of returning children and their families.

The people working at Culzean, like most who work at National Trust for Scotland properties, have an infectious enthusiasm for the work that they do.

Head guide Gordon Nelson said: "When I walk from the car park and the castle comes into full view, I have to pinch myself to remind me that I work here.

"The staff here work hard to bring the history of the castle to life."

When I meet Gordon he is dressed head-to-toe in Victorian costume while some other staff members are dressed as servants.

"When a plane flies overhead, I will look startled and pretend it's a dragon. The kids love the costume and show that we put on. It is all part of the experience."

You can also immerse yourself in Culzean Castle by booking into the Eisenhower Hotel.

General Eisenhower was gifted the top floor of the castle as a thank you for leading the allies to victory during WWII.

He visited four times before his death in 1969 and described it as one of the most peaceful places he had ever been and his Scottish White House.

The antique-laden rooms are accompanied by a drawing room and its own serving staff.

Those staying in the hotel, rooms cost between £250 to £500 a night, will be given a key to their own dwelling and a key to the castle itself so that they can come and go as they please.

National Trust for Scotland family membership starts from £6 per month and provides free entry and free parking at all National Trust for Scotland places. An overnight stay at Auchrannie costs around £150 for a family room per night.

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