We recently enjoyed a short break in Ayrshire, where we stayed at Elsay May Luxury Hot Tub Lodges near Turnberry. Tourists often overlook Ayrshire, which is a shame as the region has lots to offer. It has great beaches, pretty villages, vibrant towns, rugged coastline, rolling hills and tranquil glens. There’s plenty to see and do there too. From outdoor activities, to castle exploring, wildlife watching, eating out and more – Ayrshire has it covered.
We prefer slow, immersive travel these days and love visiting hidden gems recommended by locals, trying new activities and most importantly – relaxing. And that’s exactly how we spent our time in Ayrshire – exploring on the doorstep of our wonderful base at Elsay May Luxury Hot Tub Lodges.
Day one: Ayrshire itinerary
Axe throwing: Adventure Carrick, Ayrshire
When it comes to trying new experiences on our travels, the quirkier the better. Before checking in at Elsay May we got to try something new and quirky. Adventure Carrick offers a range of activities for thrill seekers and outdoor lovers, including paddle boarding, canoeing and climbing.
We visited their Girvan base to meet instructor Chris for an introduction to axe throwing. That’s right – axe throwing is a thing. An axe throwing range is much like an archery range, but the targets are closer and sturdier.
Chris kicked off our lesson with some safety information, before giving us an axe throwing demonstration. He then let us loose on the range. Axe throwing might sound like something marauding Vikings would do, but it’s a surprisingly relaxing activity.
My technique was a hit or a miss (quite literally) but I loved the whole process of clearing the mind, focusing on the target, then lobbing the axe.
Like anything with a competitive element, Mr G took axe throwing extremely seriously. He tried like a bear to hit the bullseye, which he eventually did. Chris then pointed out two blue dots on the target and explained they were called kill spots. Hitting a kill spot is better than hitting the bullseye. Knowing Mr G as I do, I knew we’d be staying at Adventure Carrick until he hit one. Thankfully, after fifteen minutes or so of frenzied axe throwing he achieved his goal and we avoided an all nighter at Adventure Carrick.
We loved our introduction to axe throwing. Chris was a great instructor and we’ll definitely be joining him for another fun activity when we’re next in the area.
Turnberry beach, Ayrshire
After leaving Adventure Carrick, we headed to Turnberry Beach for a walk. Turnberry is a nice, quiet beach, with a long stretch of sand.
The sea was as still as glass when we arrived and a heavy haze hung over the water. Even the seabirds seemed lulled by the stillness. I watched one bobbing happily on the water. It was a hypnotic scene.
The boy was happy to find himself on a beach, and after a run around he went for a paddle in the sea. Mr G tried (yet again) to teach me how to skim stones. After several failed attempts, I finally mastered the technique. My first ever stone skim only bounced twice, but I was delighted.
Now, it was time to check out our home for the next two nights.
Elsay May luxury Hot Tub Lodges, Ayrshire
Elsay May Luxury Hot Tub Lodges are located on a quiet hillside overlooking the sea. The four individually-styled lodges for over 25s, sit beside a stone farmhouse in a large garden with a pond, ducks and chickens.
It’s an idyllic setting, like a real life version of Tolkien’s Hobbiton.
From the minute we arrived our hosts Margaret and Malcolm made us feel welcome.
Besides the hot tub lodges on site, the couple also have a stylish and fully accessible B&B suite located on the ground floor of their farmhouse.
The Burrow, Elsay May Luxury Hot Tub Lodges
Our accommodation was The Burrow, which had an adorable rabbit themed interior. Think Beatrix Potter meets The Hobbit.
The Burrow was surprisingly spacious, with a large bed, dining table and chairs, two comfy armchairs, a wood burning stove, kitchen area and en suite shower room with toiletries, robes, slippers and a plentiful supply of towels.
There was a bed, towel and bowls for the boy too, but he was more interested in the goodie bag he found waiting for him. He made a beeline straight for it and was delighted to find treats and a ball inside it.
Outside, The Burrow had an enclosed garden with a sea view and an open-fronted wooden shelter with a Japanese ofuro hot tub, steamer loungers and table inside it.
So even if it rained, we’d be able to spend time outdoors.
Once we’d settled in, I lit the fire and Mr G opened a chilled bottle of prosecco that Margaret and Malcolm had kindly left for us. Then, we sat by the fire in our wee fairytale house, drinking wine and blethering (chatting). It felt like we’d been transported to an enchanted land, far away from the turmoil of the real world.
Dinner from Margaret’s farmhouse kitchen
Guests staying at Elsay May Luxury Hot Tub Lodges have the option of self-catering, eating out or ordering home-cooked meals from Margaret’s farmhouse kitchen. We chose the latter and had dinner delivered to our door, fresh from the oven.
We skipped starters and went straight to the main course – Macaroni cheese with chips and veg. It was delicious.
Next came sticky toffee pudding and ice cream. Sticky toffee pudding isn’t something I’m particularly fond of. Or so I thought, until I tasted Margaret’s sticky toffee pudding. It was heavenly.
After dinner, we changed into our swimwear and headed outside for a soak in the hot tub.
Japanese ofuro hot tubs are deeper than regular hot tubs. Think Japanese snow monkeys with their wee heads peeking out of a hot spring.
As we soothed our tired muscles, the boy played in the garden with his new ball.
We spent a blissful couple of hours relaxing outdoors, before heading inside to coorie by the fire.
Day two: Ayrshire itinerary
We woke at 8:30am the next morning. Unusual for me, but unheard of for Mr G. Had the snuggly teddy sheets on the bed made him sleep longer, or had The Burrow cast a spell on him?
Breakfast from Margaret’s farmhouse kitchen
Guests staying at Elsay May can order a cooked or Continental breakfast. We chose Continental on day one of our stay and it was delivered to our door by our fabulous hosts.
It was a veritable Continental feast. There was coffee, fruit juice, pastries, bread, ham, fresh fruit, yoghurt and cereal. We were well and truly set up for the day ahead when we left The Burrow that morning.
Electric Brae, Ayrshire
We made our first stop of the day a few miles away from our accommodation. Croy Brae is one of Scotland’s most unusual tourist spots. Also known as Electric Brae, It’s a favourite of ours, because nothing is quite as it seems there. If you put your car in neutral with the handbrake off, it’ll mysteriously roll uphill.
Don’t believe me? Check out the video below.
Actually it’s not as strange as it seems. It’s an optical illusion, caused by the angles of the surrounding landscape. What looks to be uphill, is actually downhill – so the normal laws of gravity still apply on this freaky stretch of Ayrshire road.
We left Electric Brae singing Eddy Grant’s 80s hit “we’re gonna rock down to Electric Avenue”. Now you’re singing it too, aren’t you?
Dunure Castle, Ayrshire
The pretty harbour village of Dunure is located close to Electric Brae, so we went there next for a potter.
Dunure features in the popular Outlander TV series, together with a number of other Ayrshire locations. It’s a lovely spot for a coastal walk, and if history’s your thing a visit to Dunure Castle is a must. The 13th century fortress was once owned by the powerful Kennedy clan. In its heyday, illustrious guests visited the impressive Ayrshire pile, including Mary Queen of Scots who spent several nights at Dunure Castle in 1563.
Allan Stewart’s (Commendator of Crossraguel Abbey) stay at Dunure Castle during the late 16th century was a tad less enjoyable than Mary’s. Gilbert Kennedy, the 4th Earl of Cassillis who owned Dunure Castle at the time, was keen to get his hands on land belonging to the nearby abbey. He had Stewart kidnapped and brought to Dunure Castle, where he was roasted over an open fire until he signed over the land. Stewart was rescued from the castle and lived to tell the tale, although I’m guessing he wasn’t a fan of spit roasted meat after his ordeal.
Lunch – Balkenna Tea Room
After spending the morning exploring the Ayrshire coast we were ready for lunch.
We’d discovered a great roadside cafe on a previous visit to Ayrshire, so decided to head there for lunch. The menu at Balkenna Tea Room near Turnberry is varied. It includes breakfast classics, lunchtime favourites, main meals and sweet treats. After much humming and hawing we eventually decided what to have for lunch – a raspberry milkshake each and to eat Cajun chicken pasta for me and a Cajun chicken panini for Mr G.
It was a nice day, so we ate our lunch overlooking the sea. Fab food with a view – happy days.
Now we were ready to ramble.
The Barr Trails, Ayrshire
We’ve discovered lots of great Ayrshire walks over the years, but the Fairy Knowe Trail near Barr was a real gem.
Barr is located only 8 miles away from the busy Aryshire town of Girvan. Yet, after travelling through the tranquil Stinchar Glen to reach the tiny village, then beyond to reach The Barr Trails, it feels like you’ve arrived at an incredibly remote location.
There are four sign-posted and partially sign-posted walking trails at Barr. We chose the 3.5 mile Fairy Knowe Trail. It seemed apt, given we were staying at a cute fairytale lodge.
The Fairy Knowe Trail, Barr
The trail started by following the course of a small river (Water of Gregg), before turning and climbing uphill into dense woodland. Bright green lichen, moss and towering pines gave the woodland an enchanted feel.
When we emerged from the trees, we found ourselves on a steep sided gully. It was the kind of scenery visitors often associate with the Scottish Highlands, yet here it was in the south of Scotland without a tour bus in sight.
We continued along the trail, descending into the gully where we crossed a wooden bridge, before climbing up the opposite side of the gully. A waterfall thundered into a burn below us and we stopped to watch it for a while.
Then came the namesake of the trail – The Fairy Knowe. A steep, narrow ridge with stone steps cut into it. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I don’t like heights or unprotected drops but nothing was going to stop me from walking down this unique staircase.
Mr G went first with the boy and I followed cautiously behind. I stopped halfway down to take in the view and listen to the familiar call of the cuckoo. Even though I was standing on a crazy steep hill, there’s nowhere I’d rather have been than in magical Ayrshire at that moment.
Back at ground level, we followed the trail back into woodland and along the course of the Water of Gregg.
We’d been walking for 1 hour and 45 minutes when we arrived back at the car park (give or take numerous photo stops) and we hadn’t seen another soul – heaven.
Another relaxing night at Elsay May Luxury Hot Tub Lodges
Back at Elsay May Luxury Hot Tub Lodges, we planned to spend another relaxing night eating good food and soaking in the hot tub.
This time we’d be doing the cooking, but it wouldn’t involve slaving over a hot stove. We’d ordered an Elsay May barbecue pack, which like our other meals was delivered to The Burrow. The pack included pork sausages, chicken kebabs and beef burgers from a local butcher, plus buns, finger rolls, salad, relish, cheese and homemade coleslaw. There was a BBQ grill, charcoal and utensils too.
I lit the grill straight away, and in no time at all our food was cooked and ready to eat. We rarely eat burgers or sausages, but these were fresh, lean and delicious. It was a fantastic dinner, even if I do say so myself.
Later, we slipped back into our swimwear for another soak in the hot tub. The boy played with his ball and tired to catch a crow, that I swear was taunting him.
Our second night at Elsay May Luxury Hot Tub Lodges was just as relaxing as our first night had been.
Day three – farewell for now Ayrshire
A mystery solved
We woke up at 8:30am again the next morning. Now, I was puzzled. Mr G doesn’t do long lies, regardless of how snuggly the sheets are.
When Margaret and Malcolm arrived at The Burrow to deliver our full Scottish breakfast, they were able to shed some light on the Rip Van Winkle mystery. Margaret told us, guests often report sleeping well. And the reason? Three lime trees outside the lodges. Lime trees were traditionally thought to aid sleep, and it seems there’s some truth in this old belief.
So, if I plant a lime tree in our garden at home, maybe I’ll get peace in the mornings forevermore?
Mystery solved, it was time to tuck into breakfast.
Sitting in The Burrow, eating a bacon butty and drinking a mug of coffee, I wished we could stay in this magical wee Hobbit house a little longer. Unfortunately, it was time for us to leave. We were sorry to say goodbye, but delighted to have found somewhere special that we can return to, to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or when we fancy treating ourselves to a luxurious and relaxing escape.
This post was written as part of a paid partnership with Elsay May luxury Hot Tub lodges. Our accommodation and food were provided on a complimentary basis, however all opinions are my own.
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Until next time…