Ayrshire is a largely rural area incorporating a number of small towns. The primary attractions for tourists are walks and cycling routes, coupled with castles and other historic sites. Ayrshire's history as a tourist destination stems from its proximity to Glasgow and at one time the coastal towns functioned as resorts for those wishing to holiday during the summer. The large growth in air travel towards the end of the twentieth century has largely put an end to this; however tourists still visit the area to take in the scenery which, though qualitatively different from that of the Scottish Highlands, remains visually appealing.
As with the rest of the UK, English is spoken, but proficiency in foreign languages is very rare. At best you may encounter someone with a grasp of French, but this is to be regarded as an exception.
Ayrshire is served by Glasgow Prestwick International Airport (PIK), which is primarily a destination for a number of low-cost airlines. Prestwick airport can be reached directly from European cities including Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, London, Milan, Oslo, Paris, Rome and Stockholm. The airport has its own railway station, with direct links to Glasgow Central Station (a 45 minute journey) and to Ayr (7 minutes). See below for further information. Passengers arriving at or flying from the airport can get a 50% discount on a rail journey to/from anywhere in Scotland by showing their boarding pass or flight itinerary to the ticket inspector when purchasing a ticket on the train.
By Bus and Train
The towns of Ayrshire are connected by frequent bus and train services from Glasgow. The train is usually the most popular and quickest option in this regard, though bus services can occasionally be cheaper. Additionally, trains travelling on the western rail route from England to Scotland make stops in several towns in Ayrshire such as Kilmarnock. Wikitravel has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
Public transport services are extensive, if occasionally overpriced. All but the smallest villages are connected by rail and virtually all areas have some form of bus service. Nevertheless, most tourists opt to visit a number of small towns and attractions by car. As the distances between attractions is often not very large, cycling can also be a good option.
Virtually all towns have some form of pub in this area of the world and visiting one can give the traveller an interesting perspective on the local culture. Nightlife on the whole however, is not one of Ayrshire's strong points. There are a few nightclubs in larger towns, but the experience is liable to be a disappointing one in comparison to the larger venues in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Due to the rural nature of much of Ayrshire it is unlikely you will encounter any crime if you stick to regular tourist activities. Nevertheless, if in the centre of one of the larger towns such as Kilmarnock, there is the potential to encounter drunken or otherwise undesirable individuals, particularly on a Friday or Saturday night. With this said, it is exceptionally rare that a tourist visiting the area will be the victim of crime.
To the North, Glasgow offers all the attractions of a large city and may act as a gateway to the Scottish Highlands or Edinburgh and the East coast. To the South, there are a number of coastal towns such as Portpatrick which offer a similar experience to that of the Ayrshire coast. Ireland may also be reached from Stranraer and trains run from Kilmarnock to Carlisle and England.