issue 056

The Friendship Edition

Top Stories


Mention the name Darren Dowling to a group of people and they’ll probably all know him for something different. Some may know him as the local lad who appeared on TV’s Come Dine With Me. Others will have seen his Get Battered or Does It Fry? series on social media. And some may remember him as the nut job from their primary school.


I grew up listening to Engelbert Humperdinck. His vinyl albums (of which there were many) were frequently played on the family record player before being lovingly returned to their protective sleeve and then slotted inside the glossy, cardboard cover.


Fans of the BBC crime series, Granite Harbour, will be familiar with DS Lara ‘Bart’ Bartlett and her quirky wee scarves. But no-one knows her better than the actor who brings her to life.

Isle of Arran


Arran Youth Foundation was established in 2008 for much the same reason that most youth groups are set up: to get young people off the streets.


ArranSound, and, the Isle of Arran’s community radio, is on air 24/7 manned entirely by volunteers, with a variety of information on and about Arran, from an amazing range of contributors, professional and amateur.


“Have we heard yet, Mum?”

The resigned shake of the head ensured that two more days at least would pass before the children dared to ask again.


Arran Mountain Rescue was formed in 1964 and has continued to provide a vital search and rescue service on the island ever since.

Chess takes off on the Isle of Arran!

The Arran Chess Club started in 2012, meeting in a small restaurant in Brodick, with an average attendance of just four players. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed down and it looked as if the club would fold.

A Day inthe Life of…a Head Chef

Wojciech Kozyra is the head chef at Lamlash Bay Hotel, Arran, a role he has held since March 2024. Originally from Kielce in Poland, he has worked at the hotel for three years.


VisitArran is Arran’s not-for-profit destination management organisation. So what does that mean? CEO Sheila Gilmore explains that it’s not about attracting half a million visitors to Arran, it’s about attracting the right visitors: “People who understand our island, appreciate our natural assets, and recognise that we’re a living, breathing community – the lights don’t go off in October!”

issue 056


‘Let’s start at the very beginning’… The Sound of Music may be set in Austria, not Germany, but the film’s song has become a favourite of Scotland’s Tartan Army. Whether we’re in Hampden Park, Amsterdam, even Peru or Mexico, Doe a Deer is a fan favourite.


When David Smith, Owner-Chairman of Ayr United, considered plans to build a new North Stand at Somerset Park, he faced one specific challenge – how could they retain the terracing but still bring the stadium into the 21st century?


Largs Yacht Haven means a lot of things to a lot of people – whether it’s your starting point for adventures afloat, a stopping point on a longer voyage, a favourite destination for food, or a favourite place to watch the world go by.


First established in 2017, Elite Alloy Wheels & Tyres Ltd was taken over by Michael McKeown in June 2024. The family-run business not only provides a friendly, personal service, but can transform the look of your car by giving worn, corroded and damaged wheels a complete refurbishment.


Situated in Boundary Road, Ayr, Premier 1 Accident Repair Centre is a small, family-run business owned and managed by Michael McKeown. Michael set up the business four years ago, bringing over 20 years of experience and expertise to the company.


The picturesque village of Portpatrick is a popular destination for day-trippers and holidaymakers alike. Situated on the west coast of the Rhins of Galloway in the historical county of Wigtownshire, it’s a mere 90-minute drive from Ayr, making it the ideal location for an impromptu getaway.

The Campervan Lifestyle

I recently teamed up with Your Camper Ltd in Giffnock to take some of their luxury campervans out on the road for some mini adventures. The brief was clear: have some adventures within an hour from Glasgow. Challenge accepted.

A Trip at Prestwick’s Pow Burn

Curlew? Or Snipe? Curlew, I think…

I’m on the path which skirts Prestwick Golf Club’s practice range, looking down the steep banking to the Pow Burn, trying to identify the wading bird skulking along the water’s edge and tweezing worms from the wet sand with its incredibly long and slender beak.


I have a thing about castles. There’s something magical about those winding turret staircases, the barred windows, secret doors, and thick stone walls. So I was delighted to be invited to explore Killochan Castle just outside Girvan in South Ayrshire.


“I’ve always wanted to do something that’s not normal.”

Gordon Munro follows this statement with a laugh, and I can’t help but join in as I take in the unusual surroundings. A collection of pink, yellow and grey mushrooms sits in a glass cabinet, beside which hangs a number of pristine guitars.


In the autumn of my life, I have concluded that there are certain immutable laws that I have to live with…

Whenever I wash up, when I am certain I have finished and I empty the washing-up bowl, there will always be one annoying teaspoon left. Any new shirt I buy will have sleeves far too long for me.


Shauni Dunlop grew up on a farm just outside Drongan in East Ayrshire. She admits she wasn’t particularly academic and had no intention of heading off to university. Why bother when she knew exactly what she wanted to do?


Employers need better education, resources and support to address workforce health challenges, according to a roundtable meeting of Ayrshire businesses.

Dains Accountants

Long-standing Ayrshire Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors William Duncan + Co. have recently rebranded following their incorporation into the Dains Accountancy Group.

Bill Costley

Sitting in the beautiful lounge of Lochgreen House Hotel with Bill, sipping coffee and trying my best not to polish off the petit fours sitting pretty on a plate in front of me, I take a moment to enjoy my surroundings before getting down to the business of hospitality. I find myself taking in the paintings which are all around us; a carefully curated collection of classic and contemporary works from well-known artists including some of Bill’s own still life paintings. It’s clear that art plays a significant role in his life.


Characterised by high ceilings, intricate cornicing, and antique elegance, the charm of Victorian buildings endures across generations. Home to perhaps the most extravagant is Glasgow. The city’s sandstone emporiums, landmarks in themselves, have become integral to the character of the streets, reminding passers-by of bygone glamour and the entrepreneurial spirit that defines the city.

Ralston Contracts

We may not be having the spring and summer that we were all hoping for, but on the rare occasion that the sun does shine, you want to take advantage of it in the garden of your dreams. If this isn’t what you see when you look out your back door, then Ralston Contracts is the answer.

Sleep Matters

Nothing impacts our health and wellbeing quite as much as a period of insomnia. You know how it goes: you struggle to drop off then you toss and turn all night or you fall fast and deep only to wake up and realise that far from being time to get up, you haven’t even made it into the next day yet. Over time, lack of quality sleep can be completely debilitating.

The Power of Connections

When it comes to investing in our own longevity, we tend to focus mainly on our physical wellbeing. It’s a focus which starts for most of us in the middle years with the stark realisation that there are more years behind us than there are in front of us. Far from being a morbid thought, though, it’s a powerful driver for change: we are faced with the reality of having to work a bit harder to hold on to the good health which will allow us to live a full, productive life for as long as possible.


I first met Lorna Mitchell, Project Coordinator at South Ayrshire Befriending Project, in 2022. Since then the organisation has rebranded and changed its name to Bfriend, however, it remains the only stand-alone befriending project for children and young people in South Ayrshire and one of only a handful of Scottish organisations to hold the Excellence Award from Befriending Networks.


As the plants flower and the temperatures rise, the allure of summer has finally arrived. It’s a time when we shed our spring layers and embrace the warmth and vibrancy of the season. However, to truly enjoy summer, it’s essential to prioritise our well-being and ensure that we feel good – from the inside out. Let’s go for a mind and body MOT check!


Opened in March of this year, Moka, based in Largs, is the newest addition in this vegetarian and plant-based family. The original café in Ardrossan was established three years ago and as owner, Anmol Panesar, emphasizes, customers don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy their delicious food. Everyone is welcome.

Reel Plaice

The newly opened Reel Plaice, situated in a prime beach front location in Ayr, has been shaking up the world of fish and chips with seaside suppers which show the rest how it’s done. The premises, which were previously the Waverley café, had been empty for over a decade before new owner, Jo Goudie, stepped in and lovingly refurbished what is unarguably one of the best locations in town with sweeping views out to sea. Currently only operating as a take-away (plans are in the pipeline to add a sit-in service), Reel Plaice brings the sea theme inside with décor which includes nautical ropes, divers’ helmets, fish murals and all the shades of blue you could imagine.

Al Dente

Established in March 2022, Al Dente, based in Ayr, is bringing contemporary Italian cuisine with a fast-food focus to the town. Having recently won a Best Scottish Italian Award for its creamy carbonara, it’s easy to see why it’s fast becoming a top pick for pasta, pizza and so much more. Although the restaurant itself is relatively small (you’re advised to book) you can expect a big welcome with friendly service and a warm atmosphere. Alternatively, you can enjoy the many delicious dishes on the menu at home with take-away and delivery services also available.

The Park Hotel

Based in the heart of Kilmarnock, The Park Hotel offers a superior range of dining options for residents and non-residents alike. With formal dining on offer at the Blues – at the park – restaurant (including private dining rooms) and more casual food available in the newly refurbished Pavilion – at the park – bar and coffee shop, the hotel caters for a wide range of tastes and occasions within a contemporary setting.

Heads Of Ayr Farm Park

If you’re visiting Heads of Ayr Farm Park in Alloway, Ayr, it’s not just the animals you’ve got to look forward to, it’s the food too. For families with children, no matter the age, it’s a fantastic day out in a beautiful location with no end of attractions to keep you entertained, including quad bikes, jumping pillows, bumper boats, four themed play areas, and a huge indoor soft play.


Bramley’s, located in the seaside town of Prestwick, is a favourite spot for locals and visitors to the town who like a vibrant cafe which offers tasty treats galore and the warmest of welcomes. For tea lovers there’s a wide selection of Bramley’s own branded loose-leaf teas and for die-hard coffee fans there’s a guaranteed cup of the good stuff served just how you like it.

Marine Troon

Nestled along the beautiful Ayrshire coastline, Marine Troon’s The Rabbit restaurant and The Seal Bar offer views of Royal Troon Golf Club and the Isle of Arran as you tuck into the best of Scottish cooking. Menus champion seasonal ingredients, favouring locally sourced produce such as game and seafood.

The Clocktower

Set in the stunning grounds of the historic Auchincruive Estate in Ayrshire, the lovingly renovated Clocktower Café Bar offers a unique dining experience in beautiful surroundings which, though close to Ayr town centre, are surrounded by countryside. With tastefully decorated dining spaces, upstairs and down, and quirky objets d’art wherever you look, the Clocktower offers a relaxing space in which to enjoy everything from coffee and cake to a luxurious three course meal with hand-picked wines from around the world.

GRO Coffee

Gro Coffee has fast become the place to go for indulgent brunches, gargantuan cakes and laid-back vibes in Ayrshire. Since opening its doors in 2015 with a cosy venue overlooking the harbour in Irvine, it’s offered visitors a comfy couch by the fire with a velvety hot chocolate when it’s cold or a seat in the sun with a fresh frozen smoothie when it’s hot. Visitors of all ages and their furry friends travel from near and far to enjoy outstanding food, big portions, organic coffee and insta ready photo opportunities by the dozen.

The Coo Shed

Established in 2017 The Coo Shed, set on South Corton Farm in Alloway, Ayrshire, has become a popular award-winning destination for locals and tourists alike. With breathtaking views across some of the best countryside in the region and the chance to get up close to the mighty herd of Holstein Friesian coos themselves, it’s easy to see why visitors return time and again to enjoy the good old-fashioned country hospitality they experience on the farm.

The Taj

Taj Bar and Kitchen in Prestwick has been a top choice for authentic Indian food for over forty years, making it the longest running family-owned restaurant in the town’s history. It’s not just a restaurant, though, as the family is keen to point out; it’s a destination which offers more than delicious food alone.


Cecchini’s is a long-established and well-loved family run business which brings a traditional taste of Italy to Ayrshire with second generation Anthony Cecchini now fully operating both restaurants. With Aldo Cecchini winning a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Scottish Italian Awards last year it’s easy to see why both the Ardrossan Harbour and Ayr town centre restaurants are so popular with locals and visitors alike: the authentic food and the warm hospitality reflect the very things we love about the Italian culture.

Trump Turnberry

Trump Turnberry, overlooking world-famous Championship golf courses and some of the most stunning coastline Ayrshire has to offer, has long been the ultimate destination for a luxurious afternoon tea. With a team of pastry chefs at the ready and sommeliers at hand to guide you through a curated selection of specialty teas, each brewed using a traditional samovar, the stage is set for you to enjoy a lavish afternoon indulging in an award-winning afternoon tea.

Tudor Kitchen & Grill

The Tudor Bar and Grill, located in Ayr town centre, serves up traditional hearty fayre daily from 9am – 8pm (8.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays) with sit-in and take-away menus available. With easy access to the shops, the beach and many of the surrounding workplaces, it’s the perfect place to grab that first coffee of the day, enjoy a quick working lunch, pick up some sandwiches for a stroll along the shore or relax after a day’s shopping.

Beijing Banquet

Beijing Banquet in Kilmarnock is one of six branches across Scotland bringing the best of the Far East your way, buffet style. As a family-friendly restaurant committed to sharing a diverse range of authentic Chinese cuisine with customers of all ages, you’ll experience warm hospitality in an environment which feels celebratory whatever the occasion; staff believe every meal should feel like a celebration.

The Smoking Goat

The Smoking Goat is tucked away in the heart of Ayr town centre. Awarded Scotland’s Best Independent Bar in the West 2024, it’s an underground space which serves up craft beers, quality wines and specialty teas and coffees in cellar style surroundings where the exposed brick walls and barrel top nooks and crannies offer visitors cool hideaways in which to enjoy a chilled-out drink and some exceptional bar food.

Lochgreen House Hotel

Nestled in 30 acres of stunning manicured grounds and private woodland on the outskirts of Troon with sweeping views out to sea, Lochgreen House Hotel and Spa is the ultimate luxury destination for food lovers. Whether you’re enjoying some fine dining in the award-winning three AA Red Rosette, Parisian brasserie style Bisque Restaurant, relaxing with a light bite in the new Copper Beech Cocktail Lounge or attending a sumptuous wedding banquet you’re guaranteed an unforgettable 5-star experience.

The Waterside

If dinner with a sea view is your idea of heaven then The Waterside Hotel, on the coast between Ardrossan and Seamill, is the place for you. You can dine al fresco in the covered veranda area while enjoying the panoramic view of Arran, chill with a drink in the beautifully manicured gardens or enjoy a relaxing meal in the restaurant which brings the colours of the sea and the sky inside so you’re surrounded by calming shades of blue wherever you choose to eat.

Arran Botanical Drinks

It’s hard to imagine a more romantic setting for enjoying a gin cocktail or two than on the beach in Arran looking out to sea. Arran Botanical Drinks has stepped off the beaten track to create just such a unique place; Cladach Beach House. As Scotland’s only cocktail bar on a beach it’s a place which is thriving with visitors keen to experience the joy of sipping something from the ever-changing gin and cocktail lists, surrounded by sea, sand and good music.

The Drunken Coo

The Drunken Coo, located on Beresford Terrace in Ayr town centre, is just one of the restaurants in the independent food chain Kitchen 77 which also comprises Arthur Street Kitchen, Hollybush Inn, Stage Door Café and the most recent Silverburn based Stailinn Scottish Kitchen.

Fox & Willow

For the ultimate boutique gastropub experience, The Fox and Willow, situated in the leafy suburbs of Ayr, is the place to be. Whether brunching in the bright and airy terrace, lunching in the relaxed restaurant space, enjoying a couple of drinks with friends in the garden area, or cosying up in one of the domes which offers a unique and private dining experience, there’s a place and a menu for you.

The Kirkmichael Arms

The Kirkmichael Arms is a well-established and much-loved country pub in the picturesque Ayrshire village of Kirkmichael. With renowned chefs, Justin Galea and Callum Dow, now at the helm, the restaurant has recently attracted some well-deserved attention, offering a menu which celebrates their skills in the kitchen and the many culinary influences from their extensive careers.

The Anchorage

Set in the picturesque seaside village of Dunure on the Ayrshire coast, The Anchorage is fast becoming the destination of choice for locals and tourists who are looking for the freshest seafood in town. Owners, Tracy and James, took over what was previously the Dunure Inn (rooms are no longer available but there are self-contained holiday lets on-site – Dunure Harbourside Cottages) in June 2021, transforming the restaurant and pub into a coastal gem where local, seasonal and sustainable produce can be savoured in the most idyllic of locations.


Since the launch of their first restaurant in Ayr town centre during lockdown (a fully licenced establishment), Tempura owners Brandon Van Rensburg and Mark Blake have been on a mission to take their lightly battered and sinfully good food to as many people across Ayrshire as possible.

Drift Coffee + Kitchen

Located a few hundred metres from the beach in the seaside town of Troon, DRIFT Coffee+Kitchen is the perfect pit stop if you are a local, a visitor or a dog walker fresh from the beach with your furry friend in tow. DRIFT offers easy access to the town’s amenities and rail links to the rest of Ayrshire.

Corney & Barrow

Wine and cheese is a match made in heaven, it’s an indisputable fact. And there are lots of reasons why they make the perfect pair.

Food News

When it comes to supporting our health one of the biggest things we can do is increase the number of plants we eat. Aiming for 5 a day is fast becoming an outdated notion with current research showing that it is the range of plants, as well as the volume, which is important for gut health, our gut microbiome being central to all aspects of our wellbeing.

Read All About It

A new and unique library recently opened its doors in the harbourside area of Irvine.

Located on the town’s Montgomery Street in an old shipyard worker’s flat (thanks to a collaboration with the Scottish Maritime Museum), The Nature Library offers the public the opportunity to borrow from its wonderful collection of books on the natural world, conservation, climate issues and environmental topics.


At first, I think my eyes are deceiving me. But no, it’s definitely the German national flag. Just days after Scotland’s 5-1 defeat to Germany in the Euros, I’m a little taken aback.


Never judge a book by its cover.

I’m inclined to agree from a metaphorical point of view but certainly not in the literal sense.

Mica Hill: Spellbound

Mica Hill’s photography journey started before she even realised that’s what it was.

“When I was around 13, I’d walk around local parks and beaches with my phone, snapping a few shots,” she says. “It wasn’t until one of my cousins messaged me and said she really liked my photos that something clicked in my head.”

Finding My Vision Through The Lens

Hello, my name is Derek, and I want to share with you the remarkable journey that led me to become a photographer. My story begins in a small mining village in Ayrshire, where life was tough for my family. In was born in 1984, the start of the decline of the local mining industry, which once sustained the community.


In this special ‘friendship’ issue of Ayrshire Magazine, it seems appropriate to feature an organisation that lists friendship as one of its three core values – the others being inclusion and belonging.

Gillian’s Saltire Appeal

After Gillian Ward from Largs passed away in 2005 at the desperately young age of 40, her husband, Les Ward, and his friends, Brian Tracey and David Ennis, resolved to do something that would honour Gillian’s memory in the best possible way – by helping others.


“Friend” is merely a word to young children. At the start of primary school, the little ones rush home full of news of their latest friends, names varying almost daily. Once they reach secondary school, the approach to friendship is more cautious and can be complex with shyer children.


In 1824, Sir William Hillary founded the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

“And 200 years later, here we are still saving lives at sea.”


Friendship is important at any age, but particularly so during retirement when days become long and empty. Similarly, those who have lost life-long partners may suddenly find themselves socially isolated.


It’s not every day you employ the services of an architect. In fact, for many of us, it’s a once in a lifetime occurrence. So when the need arises, it’s important to find a professional who will not only deliver on your project, but will also work with you to meet your needs and exceed your expectations.


When it comes to hotels on the Isle of Arran, they don’t come much more special than The Kinloch Hotel.

Situated on the seafront at Blackwaterfoot with uninterrupted views across to the Mull of Kintyre, The Kinloch Hotel is the perfect place to relax, unwind and take advantage of everything that Arran has to offer.


To many, the Isle of Arran offers a year-round Festival of food and drink, with its landscape, terroir, climate, farming history, modern day producers and hospitality providers all contributing to the Arran Scran Story.


Search for the definition of true friendship and you’ll find many different results. This is just one of them:

Someone you can trust with your life, who has seen the best and worst of you, and will be there whenever you need someone to talk to.

Prestwick Aviation Tours

It’d be easy to dismiss Prestwick Airport as an underused facility that once briefly played host to a young Elvis Presley as he waited for the aircraft carrying him home from Germany to be refuelled.

Meet Janice Clyne: Gut Health Guru

When it comes to taking control of our own health and wellbeing the key message from Janice Clyne, Scotland’s very own gut health guru, is clear: eat real food.