We're spoilt for choice with our fair share of castles in Ayrshire.

So why not make the most of the cracking weather this weekend and tick some off the list.

There's space to stretch your legs, or take the dog with you for a run around, and, of course, it's easy enough to physically distance while taking in these spectacular fortresses.

Culzean Castle, Maybole

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Culzean Castle. Credit:Kieran Dodds NewsquestCulzean Castle. Credit:Kieran Dodds Newsquest

No list of best castles to visit in Scotland, never mind Ayrshire, would be complete without the beautifully preserved Culzean Castle. Situated just over half an hour from Ayr, it is the furthest south on our list and enjoys breathtaking views overlooking the Firth of Clyde.

Within the grounds of the castle and country park there is something for everyone from fun adventure playgrounds and opulent floral gardens to mysterious woodland trails and a Swan Pond. And talking of wildlife, the Deer Park is home to a small herd of red deer and llamas.

The castle was designed by Robert Adam in the 18th century and formerly owned by Clan Kennedy. Guided tours of the castle show off ornate furniture and a rich collection of paintings and old military weaponry, as well as featuring Adam’s masterpiece, the grand oval staircase.

Below the clifftops on which the castle sits is a beach that is perfect for romantic strolls and you won’t go hungry either, with food offerings from Home Farm Kitchen, the Old Stables Coffee House and the Aviary snack house nearby.

Brodick Castle, Arran

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Brodick Castle credit: NTSBrodick Castle credit: NTS

A trip to the Isle of Arran is worth it to see Brodick Castle on its own. The castle experience is interactive and encompasses a Victorian arcade, mood lighting, costumed interpreters and sounds, as well as the opportunity to view a brilliant collection of period furniture, silverware, porcelain, paintings and sporting trophies. In addition to all of this, the park is Britain’s only island country park.

The Isle Be Wild adventure play area is ideal for kids and the whole family can enjoy the Fairies and Legends Trail or a walk through the Silver Garden, home to beautiful flowers and wildlife.

There has been a castle of sorts on the site since around the year 400, but the Baronial-style fortress we see today is believed to have been finished in the 19th century by the Earl of Arran. The island’s hilly terrain makes this a magnificent castle to take in no matter the weather.

Eglinton Castle, Kilwinning

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Eglinton castle credit: John YoungEglinton castle credit: John Young

Located in between Irvine and Kilwinning, Eglinton Country Park is within the grounds of the old Eglinton Castle Estate and is perfect for a family-orientated day out.

The castle itself is mainly a ruin now, with only one of the towers still bearing resemblance to the fortress’s heyday. However, there’s still plenty to see and do, not least one of the two play areas, three walking routes and 11km of bridle paths for horses and ponies.

A stroll around the park could also lead to a walk over the Eglinton Tournament Bridge, named after the medieval re-enactment Eglinton Tournament of 1839, which attracted over 100,000 visitors including future French emperor Prince Louis Napoleon III.

Foxes, roe deer and squirrels can also be spotted if you are lucky and the loch is a fantastic spot for bird watching, and there is space for 18 fishing pegs where anglers can fish for bream, pike and trout. And after all that, the Tournament Café offers tea, coffee, soup, sandwiches and cakes.

Portencross Castle, West Kilbride

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Portencross CastlePortencross Castle

The furthest north on our list, Portencross Castle near West Kilbride is steeped in history and is a stunning place for a picturesque photo-opp.

Grandson of Robert the Bruce, Robert II, is believed to have spent time here and it is said that Portencross Castle was the last resting place of many the great kings of Scotland. Legend has it that they would be laid in state here for a short time before being transported to Iona for burial.

In terms of what to do at the castle today, visitors can gaze across the Firth of Clyde from the rooftop or view the webcam that points towards Arran. You can also grab a picture next to the Portencross Cannon, a Spanish Armada gun recovered from the seabed near the castle and gifted to the hamlet of Portencross.

Dundonald Castle, Dundonald

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Dundonald castleDundonald castle

Nestled on a hilltop, Dundonald Castle overlooks the village from which it takes its name. It has even stronger links to King Robert II than Portencross Castle in that the former royal resided here, and therefore it can be called the birthplace of the Stewart Dynasty.

Within the visitor centre at the foot of the hill is a museum and a café, offering tours to learn about the castle alongside a place to relax. You can also combine a few hours here with a walk along the Smugglers Trail towards the woodlands over Dundonald Burn.

The site also plays host to the famous Dundonald Highland Games.

Dunure Castle, Dunure

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Dunure Castle credit: David LongDunure Castle credit: David Long

If you’re on the way south to Culzean and fancy a pit-stop or want somewhere a bit closer to Ayr, then Dunure Castle is a fascinating option with striking clifftop views.

The tiny fishing village of Dunure is quiet and off the beaten track. However, that didn’t stop the crew of hit series Outlander from finding the castle and using it for filming several times.

The castle ruins can be explored inside offering ample opportunities to learn about its history and steps to a viewing area that overlooks the village. At sunset, these views combined with a walk along the beach are perfect for couples and photographs.

The castle sits next to a playpark and picnic area and is a five-minute walk from the village’s small harbour.

If you travel further south of the village you may encounter the Electric Brae, an optical illusion where your car looks as if it is going uphill when, actually, it is rolling downhill.

Blairquhan Castle, Straiton

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Jonathan Oldenbuck / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)Jonathan Oldenbuck / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

On the other end of the scale, Blairquhan Castle is a luxurious and elegant building in pristine condition and is aimed at wedding parties, corporate gatherings and private stays. Oscar-winning film ‘The Queen’ was filmed here, ten miles from Culzean Castle and just outside the village of Straiton.

Maybole is the closest town to Blairquhan, which is rated as a five-star exclusive use venue by the Scottish Tourist Board and a Scottish Wedding Awards Regional Winner.

Sir David Hunter Blair bought the castle from the Kennedy family and commissioned famous Scottish architect William Burn to build a new castle after the original building from 1346 was neglected and left ruinous. Construction started in 1821 and took three years to complete but it wasn’t until 1970 that Blairquhan opened its doors to guests.

200 acres of parkland make up the castle estate, featuring a walled garden and fruit trees.

Loch Doon Castle, near Dalmellington

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Loch Doon Castle credit: Douglas GrahamLoch Doon Castle credit: Douglas Graham

Although not technically in Ayrshire, within a 45-minute drive from Cumnock are the ruins of Loch Doon Castle. Not only does the historic site provide tranquillity and ample photo opportunities being beside a loch, the nearby Scottish Dark Sky Observatory is a must-visit.

The observatory has access to some of the darkest skies in the UK and two large telescopes through which to view them. There is also an indoor presentation room and an elevated observation deck from which you can view the night sky using the naked eye.

Even closer to the castle is the Round House café. Across the loch a pair of ospreys have made nest and a telescope within the café allows you to view the birds and their chicks.

With activities for both day and night, it’s more than worth the drive.

Sorn Castle, Sorn

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Sorn Castle credit: Craig McCombSorn Castle credit: Craig McComb

Like Blairquhan, Sorn Castle is a stunning wedding and private use venue. Nestling in parkland just outside the village from which it takes its name, the castle was a Tatler Top 10 Wedding Venue in 2017, 2018 and 2019. In addition to weddings, the castle offers game shooting experiences.

The castle was originally built as a keep in the 14th century and sits impressively on a cliff overlooking the River Ayr. The building showcases a blend of Edwardian and Victorian design and there is a music room and a full size church organ indoors.

Rowallan Castle, Kilmaurs

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Rowallan Castle credit: Donald MacLeod Historic ScotlandRowallan Castle credit: Donald MacLeod Historic Scotland

Just outside Stewarton lies Rowallan Castle. Okay, we may be cheating here – this countryside estate has not one but two castles, however the small matter of a championship golf course designed by Colin Montgomerie is the main attraction here.

The Old Castle has its roots way back in the 9th century but the earliest part of the castle structure still intact today was built in the 13th century, and the main part added around two centuries later. The New Castle is a five-star exclusive use venue, and is aimed at weddings, corporate stays and golfers.

Alongside the golf course and the two castles is the Glasshouse Restaurant, with a menu featuring pub grub and fine dining dishes from locally-sourced ingredients.