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Ayr facts for kids

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Administrative centre and town
Ayr river bridges and Town Hall spire
Ayr Harbour
Newton Tower
Burns Cottage
Wallace tower
Place De Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Ayr Beach
Robert Burns statue

From top, left to right: Ayr river bridges and Town Hall spire, Ayr Harbour, Newton Tower, Burns Cottage, Wallace Tower, Place De Saint-Germain-en-Laye fountain, Ayr Beach, Robert Burns statue
Ayr Coat of Arms.svg
Coat of Arms of Ayr
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Population 46,260 (2020)
Urban 62270
OS grid reference NS 33853 21445
• Edinburgh 66 mi (106 km)
• London 330 mi (530 km)
Council area
Lieutenancy area
  • Ayrshire and Arran
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town AYR
Postcode district KA6-KA8
Dialling code 01292
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
  • Ayr
    (SNP – Siobhian Brown)

List of places
55°27′29″N 4°37′44″W / 55.458°N 4.629°W / 55.458; -4.629

Ayr ( Scots: Ayr; Scottish Gaelic: Inbhir Àir, "Mouth of the River Ayr") is a town situated on the southwest coast of Scotland. It is the administrative centre of the South Ayrshire council area and the historic county town of Ayrshire. With a population of 46,780, Ayr is the 15th largest settlement in Scotland. The town is contiguous with the smaller town of Prestwick to the north.

Ayr was established as a Royal Burgh in 1205. It served as Ayrshire's central marketplace and harbour throughout the Medieval Period and was a well-known port during the Early Modern Period.

On the southern bank of the River Ayr sits the ramparts of a citadel constructed by Oliver Cromwell's men during the mid-17th century. Towards the south of the town is the birthplace of Scottish poet Robert Burns in the suburb of Alloway. Ayr has been a popular tourist resort since the expansion of the railway in 1840 owing to the town's fine beach and its links to golfing and Robert Burns.

Ayr is one of the largest retail centres in the south of Scotland and was recognised as the second healthiest town centre in the United Kingdom by the Royal Society for Public Health in 2014. Ayr has hosted the Scottish Grand National horseracing steeplechase annually since 1965 and the Scottish International Airshow annually since 2014. The town also accommodates the headquarters of the Ayr Advertiser and Ayrshire Post newspapers.


Ayr Coat of Arms, Old Brig
Ayr's Coat of Arms, as depicted on Ayr's old New Brig
Ayr Market Cross engraving by William Miller after D O Hill
Ayr Market Cross in 1810

The name Ayr can be traced back to a pre-Celtic word meaning "watercourse". The name was used before the establishment of the Julian calendar as a name for the River Ayr. Ayr was founded as a market burgh town in 1205 by King William the Lion. It was formerly named 'Inverair' or 'Inverayr', meaning "mouth of the river Ayr", yet this was later abbreviated to 'Ayr'. Elements of the former name remain present within the Scottish Gaelic name for Ayr – Inbhir Air.

Since 1261 annual fairs were held in the town. At this time the town had a recorded population of 1,500 and served as a major port on the west coast. The town was occupied by England from 1301 until 1312 as part of the Scottish Wars of Independence.

On 26 April 1315, a Parliament of Scotland was held in Ayr by Robert The Bruce at St. John's Tower by the sea. Later, in 1652, the town was used as a base and fortress for some of Oliver Cromwell's men. Cromwell established a large fortress along the mouth of the River Ayr and erected walls around the area just south of the River's mouth - most of these walls remain present to this day. St John's Tower, which sat around the centre of the fortress, was originally part of a large church yet this was knocked down during the construction of the fort with the tower being used for military practice; it is now protected by "Friends Of Saint Johns Tower" (FROST) residents in the "Ayr Fort Area" which sits atop the former site of the citadel. A permanent military presence was established in the town with the completion of Ayr Barracks (later known as Churchill Barracks) on the citadel site in 1795.


Ayr is a coastal town which lies on the mouth of the River Ayr. The river then flows out into the larger Firth of Clyde estuary. From the coast the Isle of Arran can be seen, and on a very clear day, the northern tip of Northern Ireland. It is within the region of Strathclyde. Much of the land in and around this area is very flat and low lying, used for rearing dairy cattle. Towards the south of Ayr however the land is higher than most areas in the county of Ayrshire, an example of this being the Brown Carrick Hill which is situated due south of Doonfoot. Ayr lies approximately 35 miles (55 km) southwest of Glasgow.

The urban area which encompasses Ayr is defined by the General Register Office for Scotland as the adjoining localities of Ayr and Prestwick − this is the 12th largest urban area in Scotland.


Areas of Ayr

Bungalowland - - 244262
Bungalows in Old Belmont
  • Alloway:

- Laigh Glengall
- Rozelle

  • Belmont
  • Braehead
  • Castlehill
  • Craigie
  • Dalmilling
  • Doonfoot:

- Bellisle
- Greenan

  • Forehill:

- Glencairn

  • Fort
  • Hayhill
  • Heathfield
  • Holmston
  • Kincaidston
  • Lochside
  • Masonhill
  • Newton-On-Ayr:

- Woodfield

  • Old Belmont:

- St Leonard's

  • Seafield
  • Wallacetown:

- Hawkhill

  • White City
  • Whitletts


The nearest official Met Office weather station to Ayr is Auchincruive, about 3 miles (5 km) to the north-east of Ayr town centre.

Climate data for Auchincruive 48m asl, 1971-2000, Extremes 1960-
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.4
Average high °C (°F) 6.7
Average low °C (°F) 1.6
Record low °C (°F) -11.7
Precipitation mm (inches) 97.3
Sunshine hours 44.3 66.1 91.5 143.7 198.4 178.5 167.4 152.8 118.2 86.2 57.3 37.8 1,342.2
Source #1: MetOffice
Source #2: Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute/KNMI

The area experiences very cool summers and somewhat mild winters. The air is cooler during the summer due to its proximity to the sea as water has a major cooling effect on summer temperatures. During the winter months the reverse happens and the sea air has a major warming effect on the climate. The area rarely ever sees extremes due to the effects of sea air. Rainfall is generally plentiful throughout the year due to Atlantic weather systems sweeping in from the west. Compared with the rest of Scotland, the area rarely sees much mist and fog. This is because the land is relatively flat and low lying and with the wind blowing across the flatter land, this generally hinders fog from developing widely. This has made Glasgow Prestwick International Airport particularly well known as one of the less fog-prone airports in Scotland. Snowfall is rare in this part of Scotland because of the mild sea air.


A77 Trunk Road to the south of Ayr - - 257885
The A77 Trunk Road, here showing part of the road at the south of Ayr, is a major road, connecting Ayr to major settlements such as Kilmarnock and Girvan


Ayr is served by several major roads:

  • A77 – forming the Ayr bypass, part of the trunk route between Glasgow and Stranraer. The bypass was built in 1971.
  • A79 – the former A77 before the bypass was opened, now the main road running through Ayr and linking Ayr with Prestwick and its airport.
  • A70 – running east from Ayr to Cumnock, Lanark and Edinburgh.
  • A713 – running southeast to Dalmellington and Castle Douglas.
  • A719 – running northeast to Galston and southwest along the coast to Turnberry.

Eight local bus services operated by Stagecoach West Scotland serve Ayr and Prestwick. Express coaches to Glasgow Buchanan Street operate every 30–60 minutes. Ulsterbus operate bus services to Belfast via Stranraer Ferry service on Stena Line.


The Ayr railway station has regular services to Glasgow Central station, Edinburgh Waverley, Stranraer, Girvan and Kilmarnock. All services are operated by ScotRail.

The railway station provides rail and sea connections via Stranraer for the connecting bus to Cairnryan for either the Stena Line ferry service to the Port of Belfast or the P&O Ferries service to Larne Harbour connecting with Northern Ireland Railways via Carrickfergus and Jordanstown to Belfast Central and Belfast Great Victoria Street. There is also the connection via Troon on P&O Ferries on a seasonal basis to Larne Harbour.


Glasgow Prestwick Airport, January 2017
Prestwick Airport serves the town and Ayrshire, and is located in nearby Prestwick

The town is served by the Glasgow Prestwick International Airport just 2 miles (3 km) north from Ayr, which offers regional and domestic air services across Europe and the British Isles. Further destinations are available from Glasgow Airport, which is accessible by train to Paisley Gilmour Street for the connecting bus to the airport. In relation to Ayr, Glasgow Airport is 35 miles (56 km) away.


Although the town does not have any ferry services from its harbour, it is in close proximity to ferry services to Northern Ireland. Cairnryan, 60 miles (100 km) south of Ayr, has up to eight daily departures to Belfast and up to seven daily departures to Larne.


The Auld Kirk Of St John The Baptist - - 1020766
The Auld Kirk Of St John The Baptist

The Church of Scotland is the main denomination in Ayr with nine churches spread throughout the town. The Roman Catholic Church has two churches and a Cathedral - previously located at the Good Shepherd Cathedral which has been demolished.

There is also a Baptist Church and Evangelical church in John Street, a Latter-Day Saints Church at Orchard Avenue and the Southside Christian Fellowship in Ayr Town Hall. Ayr is also home to two Orange Lodges.


At the United Kingdom Census 2001, Ayr had a population of 46,431, a fall of −3.2% on 1991. Mid-2008 population estimates placed the total resident population at 46,070 making Ayr the 12th largest urban area in Scotland. The 2011 census found that Ayr's population had grown by around 0.9% since the 2001 census – surpassing the total population growth of Ayr and Prestwick, which only grew by 0.63%, falling short of the national population growth of Scotland of +4.61%.

In 2001, nearly 0.36% (167) people in the town could speak Scottish Gaelic – this fell to 0.34% (161) in 2011. South Ayrshire Council provides no educational support for the language.

Ayr 2011

UK Census 2011 Ayr Ayr & Prestwick Scotland
Total population 46,849 61,750 5,295,403
Population growth 2001–2011 0.90% 0.63% 4.61%
White 98.6% 98.5% 96%
Under 16 years old 16% 15.9% 17.3%
Over 65 years old 21.9% 22.1% 16.8%
Christian 57.9% 58.7% 56.3%
No Religion 35% 34% 36.7%
'British' national identity 28.5% 29.2% 26.7%

Ayr 2001

UK Census 2001 Ayr Ayr & Prestwick Scotland
Total population 46,431 61,365 5,062,011
Population growth 1991–2001 −3.19% −0.07% 1.3%
White 95.9% 97.2% 98.8%
Under 16 years old 17.2% 17.4% 19.2%
Over 65 years old 20.4% 20.5% 16.0%
Christian 69.6% 70.1% 65.1%
No Religion 23.9% 23.8% 27.6%

Culture and community

Gaiety Theatre

The Gaiety Theatre - - 651133
The Gaiety Theatre

Ayr is home to The Gaiety Theatre. Built in 1902, reconstructed after a fire in 1904, its façade remodeled in 1935, and further reinstated after a fire in 1955. In 1995, an annex was constructed, including a new café, box office, dressing rooms and studio space. After a faltering start, which saw several years as a cinema after WWI, the theatre was bought by Ben Popplewell, from Bradford who already had a track record of success running the Pavilion theatre on Ayr seafront. For fifty years the Popplewell family ran the theatre – latterly as part of the Glasgow Pavilion business. During this time the Gaiety developed a reputation as a variety theatre with a 'summer' variety show – the Gaiety Whirl – which ran for 26 weeks at its height. Many Scottish and UK stars appeared regularly on its stage, and several started their careers there. The programme offered more than a summer show however, with several weeks of Shakespeare and regular transfers from Glasgow Citizens theatre, being part of a varied offer.

After seventy years in private ownership the local council acquired the Gaiety theatre freehold in 1974. It then operated as a municipal theatre under direct local authority management. After many years of successful operation the theatre began to lose audiences and the council felt the revenue subsidy it provided and the requirement for capital investment required a new approach. In January 2009 the theatre closed, leaving Ayr without a theatre. The closure was met with considerable opposition and dismay among many Ayr residents, particularly since it appeared that the required capital and revenue investment to reopen the theatre would not be available. A public meeting attracted over 400 attendees, the future of the theatre was a key issue in the local press, many Scottish performers expressed their dismay and there was extensive discussion on social media. In early 2009 South Ayrshire Council invited tenders to take on the theatre management. The Ayr Gaiety Partnership (AGP), a charity formed for the purpose in Summer 2009, secured preferred bidder status. Just over three years later, having secured financial backing from the council and Scottish Government, as well as from local fundraising, AGP took on a 99-year lease of the theatre.


Burns statue, Ayr - - 43193
Burns Statue
Burns Cottage
Burns Cottage

To the north of Ayr is the adjoining town of Prestwick, which is famous for its golf and aviation industries, thanks to the presence of Glasgow Prestwick International Airport. Only 5 miles (8 km) north of Ayr is Troon, a golf and seaside resort which has hosted British Open Championship. Ayr has three golf courses in Bellisle, Seafield and Dalmilling, as well as a private course called St Cuthberts. The area is synonymous as a seaside resort, with the south of the town housing the Craig Tara and Haven (formerly Butlins) holiday parks. The suburban village of Alloway to the south of the town is also well established for its associations with the poet Robert Burns. Further south, the fishing village of Dunure takes in a ruined castle which was formerly owned by the Kennedy family.

In 1973, Ayr hosted the National Mòd.


Ayr is served by three libraries plus a mobile library. These are:

  • Alloway Library (attached to Alloway Primary school)
  • Carnegie Library (main library)
  • Forehill Library

The radio station West FM is based in Ayr and broadcasts on 96.7FM. West FM is the main broadcaster in the Ayrshire area. The Ayrshire Post, serving all parts of Ayrshire, and Ayr Advertiser, serving the towns of Ayr and Prestwick, newspapers are also based in Ayr. The Ayr Advertiser is Scotland's oldest weekly newspaper.

Twin towns

Ayr is twinned with:


AYR - panoramio (31)
Ayr town centre and main shopping high street


The north side of Ayr Harbour still operates as a commercial port, mainly exporting coal, and extensive railway sidings still lead down from the main railway line near Newton-on-Ayr station.


Ayr developed as the central retail hub in the south-west of Scotland after the opening of the town's first department store, Hourstons, in 1896. In the 1970s the opening of stores such as Marks and Spencers and Ayr's first shopping centre, the Kyle Centre (1988), encouraged an expansion in the local economy. Heathfield Retail park, an out-of-town retail park, opened in 1993 with shops such as Halfords and Homebase. Ayr Central Shopping Centre opened in March 2006, housing shops such as Debenhams and H&M and under-parking for 500 cars. In December 2014 Threesixty Architecture received planning permission to refurbish the Kyle Centre by reinventing it as a centre of leisure through the creation of a new cinema complex among other new features. As of 2014 Royal Society for Public Health found Ayr's High Street to be the second healthiest in the United Kingdom behind Shrewsbury. In 2016 research conducted by the Local Data Company suggested that Ayr had among the highest number of shops per head in the United Kingdom at one shop for every 270 people.


Burns Cottage, Alloway 428032
Burns Cottage, birthplace of famous poet Robert Burns, in the suburb of Alloway

During the 19th and 20th centuries, Ayr became a popular holiday resort. This was due to its fine sandy beach and the construction of the rail link to Glasgow which was completed in 1840.

To the north of Ayr is the adjoining town of Prestwick, which is known for its golf and aviation industries thanks to the presence of Glasgow Prestwick Airport. Only 5 miles (8 km) north of Ayr is Troon, a golf and seaside resort which regularly hosts the British Open Championship. Ayr has three golf courses in Bellisle, Seafield and Dalmilling, as well as a private course called St Cuthberts. The area is synonymous as a seaside resort, with the south of the town housing the Craig Tara and Haven (formerly Butlins) holiday parks. The suburban village of Alloway to the south of the town is also well established for its associations with the poet Robert Burns. Further south, the fishing village of Dunure takes in a ruined castle which was formerly owned by the Kennedy family.

In 1973, Ayr hosted the Royal National Mòd.

Ayr has hosted the Scottish Grand National horse-racing steeplechase annually since 1966 and the Scottish International Airshow since 2014.


Kyle Academy - - 579081
Part of Kyle Academy which opened to pupils in 1979
New Ayr Academy, 2017
The new building of Ayr Academy at University Avenue which opened in August 2017
Ayr College Reflections - - 1008194
The Ayr campus of Ayrshire College prior to 2013 when it was still operating as Ayr College prior to merging with Kilmarnock College and James Watt College to create Ayrshire College

Early Years Centres

Ayr has two nursery schools:

  • Cherry Tree Early Years Centre
  • Wallacetown Early Years Centre

There are also several partnership centres and nursery classes held within primary schools within Ayr.

Primary schools

Ayr is served by fifteen primary schools:

  • Alloway Primary School
  • Annbank Primary School
  • Braehead Primary School
  • Dalmilling Primary School
  • Doonfoot Primary School
  • Forehill Primary School
  • Grammar Primary School
  • Heathfield Primary School
  • Holmston Primary School
  • Kincaidston Primary School
  • Newton Primary School
  • St. John's Primary School (denominational)
  • St. Ann's Primary School

Additional Support Needs provision

Ayr has one school which provides education for those with Additional Support Needs:

  • Southcraig Campus

Secondary schools

Ayr is served by four secondary schools:

  • Ayr Academy
  • Belmont Academy
  • Kyle Academy
  • Queen Margaret Academy (denominational)

Prestwick Academy is located within the neighbouring town of Prestwick and provides education to pupils who are resident within Ayr but fall within its catchment area. Mainholm Academy was a former secondary school located within Ayr and was closed due to safety concerns.

Independent schools

Ayr is served by one independent school that provides both primary and secondary education:

  • Wellington School

Further education

Ayr has four further education establishments:

  • Ayrshire College (previously known as Ayr College and prior to that, Ayr Technical College)
  • University of the West of Scotland (formerly known as the University of Paisley)
  • Scotland's Rural College
  • Adult Learning Centre

Notable people

PG 1063Burns Naysmithcrop
Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet, was born in the Alloway area of Ayr.
  • Samuel Aitken, (1878–1930), footballer
  • Stevie Brown, Muay thai European champion WKA
  • Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi (1930–2021), born Ian Dallas, Shaykh of Instruction, Islamic leader, author, actor
  • William D. Brackenridge, (1810–1893), botanist
  • Robert Burns, (1759–1796), Scotland's national bard, poet and writer of songs; born in Alloway
  • William Dalrymple, (1723–1814) minister and moderator
  • Noam Dar (born 1993), professional wrestler
  • Sydney Devine (born 1940), singer
  • James Morris Gale, (1830-1903) civil engineer for Glasgow Corporation Water Works
  • Gavin Gordon, (1901–1970), composer and singer
  • William Schaw Lindsay, (1815–1877), British merchant, shipowner, Member of Parliament, military theorist
  • John Loudon McAdam, (1756–1836), inventor of Tarmacadam road surface
  • Sam McCrory (born 1965), former member of Ulster Defence Association, gay activist
  • Drew McIntyre (born 1985), professional wrestler
  • Alan McInally (born 1963), footballer, TV pundit
  • Thomas McIlwraith (1835–1900), Premier of Queensland, Australia
  • Ewan McVicar, DJ
  • William Maclure, (1763–1840), geologist, drew 1st geological map of U.S., president of American Geological Society
  • Stuart Murdoch (born 1968), singer-songwriter, Belle & Sebastian
  • Sir David Murray (1951), Rangers F.C. chairman
  • Simon Alexander Neil, (born 1979), Lead vocalist, guitarist, songwriter for Biffy Clyro
  • Neil Oliver (born 1967), BBC presenter of Coast and A History of Scotland
  • Alan Reid (born 1954), MP for Liberal Democrats
  • Mike Scott (born 1958), Lead Singer/Songwriter of The Waterboys
  • Robert Shankland (1887–1968), awarded Victoria Cross for his actions at Battle of Passchendaele 1917
  • Ronald Stevenson(1938–1999), first-class cricketer
  • Sir John Wallace of Craigie, Sheriff of Ayr, hero of Battle of Sark, 1448

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