The vast Georgian stately home of Culzean (kul-LAYN) is celebrated for the gentility of its design, and its marvellously wild and windswept clifftop setting on the Firth of Clyde – and for the arresting contrast between the two.
There have been fortifications of some sort here since the 12th century, but the present structure dates back to an 18th century remodelling by the celebrated architect Robert Adam.
He left much of the exterior to its medieval heritage – with battlements and arrow slits – but the interior is a Neo-Classical tour-de-force.
Adam was particularly renowned for his meticulous attention to details and a multitude of them decorate his ceilings and fireplaces everywhere. But his beautiful oval staircase – bathed in light from a cupola above – is the highlight. The contrast between the opulence and tidy symmetry of the first floor saloon and the wild sea views from its windows is also considered a masterstroke.
The 500-acre country park around the house is equally impressive and many visitors just come for this: to explore its many ornamental features or simply stroll or picnic.
Other food options are a great tea room in the castle and a self-service restaurant in the visitor centre (which also has some good backgrounders on the castle).
To really appreciate Culzean you might like to experience it when most other visitors have left by overnighting in one of six genteel top floor rooms (Tel: +441655884455; April–Oct; doubles from £250).
Finally, to get to Culzean by public transport, the best bet is to take a bus from Ayr, (Mon–Sat; 11 daily; 30min ride) to the castle gates.