Travel review: Kelburn Castle, Ayshire

Kelburn Castle in Ayshire
Kelburn Castle in Ayshire

I have seen some bizzare and wonderful places on my travels. And the eccentric Kelburn Castle in Ayshire has to be in my top ten.

The 13th century castle was impressive enough, majestically dominating 3,500 acres of land, surrounded by the fantastic waters of the Firth of Clyde.

Norman Barrett ringmaster. Photo: circusphotographer.com

Norman Barrett ringmaster. Photo: circusphotographer.com

But then something special happened. A brilliant, but simple idea transformed the south turrets of the castle into a huge piece of street art.

Using the expertise of Brazilian graffiti artists, working alongside Scottish talent, the castle was transformed into a huge mural of vibrant colours.

It has to be seen to be believed as the artwork is so intricate, you need to literally stand and stare. And that’s what Ruaridh (8), Flora (5) and I did.

In 2011, the mural was named as one of the top 10 works of street art on a par with world famous artist Banksy’s work in Los Angeles and its easy to see why, the artists obviously had a great sense of humour as well as talent as the artwork is a mass of strange and quirky creatures, which all seem to blend in without much effort.

The Rastelli Clowns with Piet-Hein Out. Photo: circusphotographer.com

The Rastelli Clowns with Piet-Hein Out. Photo: circusphotographer.com

Once you can tear yourself away from the art, there is so much more to see at this picturesque estate. If you are lucky enough to find the Earl in residence, you can join him for a tour of his lovely home, which is an ongoing project, which must be financially draining, but emotionally rewarding.

The castle is said to be the oldest in Scotland which has been continuously lived in by one family. Visitors can tour the lovely gardens, which feature a children’s one with a floral Saltire, the flag of Scotland and a plaisance (pleasant) garden, both bursting with colour when we visited and much to the children’s delight there was some enormous rhubarb, which had originated from Chile.

A walk up from the castle takes you to the wonderful Kelburn glen, with a cascading waterfall pool at the bottom. There are some lovely walks which afford brilliant views of the countryside and Firth of Clyde.

In 1892, the then Earl of Glasgow was appointed Governor of New Zealand and a small museum was built on the estate in 1898 to house the artefacts he brought back. In 1700 home farm was built on the estate and today the buildings are used for a café, cartoon exhibition depicting the history of Kelburn (which Ruaridh thought was hilarious!) and a gift shop.

There is a play barn for the children to enjoy if the weather is bad and if its good, then there is a chance to enjoy the farm animals as well as the smaller ones, such as rabbits, ride ponies and have a go on the adventure park and all its creaking bridges and rope swings.

And if that’s not enough, there is a secret forest, which Ruaridh and Flora just loved. You meander through a wild wood and discover such delights as a secret grotto, crocodile pool, maze of the green man, a castle with no entrance, a Chinese garden, gingerbread house and a secret way out of the woodman’s cottage. There is also a 25 foot pagoda and lots of other surprises awaiting you!

The Earl and his team always seem to be on the go and have lots of activities on offer throughout the year to bring in the visitors, with a wild west stockade where parents go to jail as the children shoot at them, mountain bike trails, glamping and laser tag. A team or rangers run a lovely discovery centre and there are always special events such as garden parties and wizard days on offer.

And if that wasn’t enough adventure for Ruaridh and Flora, while we were in Ayrshire, so was the world famous Zippos Circus. With ringmaster Norman Barrett, who I remember as a child, he being the man with the incredible performing budgies, in charge we were guaranteed a slick show.

The circus is a mixture of the old and the new, with splapstick comic from musical clowns The Rastellis, Summer’s beautiful Liberty horses, including wee Harry, who Flora fell in love with, the acrobatic Zula Warriors, who Ruaridh liked best and the fantastic finale featuring some dare devil motorcyclists who literally span round a small metal dome. The show is dubbed OMG and it is definitely that!

The performers are super fit and are touring Scotland during the summer before taking to the stage at venues across the UK, if you get a chance to see the circus, do so, because as Ruaridh said: “that was awesome!’

Also, if you are up in Scotland, you can easily travel about and if its water you love, the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond are a must. Cruise Loch Lomond run a host of different pleasure boats which mean everyone who wants to see the loch at their own pace can do so.

There’s the 90 minute Capercaille I cruise which wets the appetitie of what’s to see, to the more adventurous Explorer cruise which allows you to get off and enjoy a hike before being transported back to base by water boat. The cruises depart from several points on the loch and it’s a lovely way to see the magnificent scenery.

What a way to spend the summer!

Factfile:

Kelburn Castle and Country Estate is at the gateway to the lovely seaside town of Largs. It is home to the Earl of Glasgow and his family and famous for its quirky exterior. Log onto www.kelburnestate.com for more information.

Zippos Circus features the world famous ringmaster Norman Barrett and his incredible troupe of performers. For more information on tours, log onto www.zippos.co.uk

From Ayrshire to Loch Lomond and enjoy the water once more. Cruise Loch Lomond has an array of different cruises to allow you to enjoy the views in style. Log onto: www.cruiselochlomond.co.uk