Culzean Castle & Country Park

Top choice in Southern Scotland

The Scottish National Trust's flagship property, magnificent Culzean (kull-ane) is one of the most impressive of Scotland's stately homes. On approach the castle floats into view like a mirage. Designed by Robert Adam, encouraged to exercise his romantic genius, this 18th-century mansion is perched dramatically on a clifftop.

There's a great play area for kids, which recreates the castle on a smaller scale, as well as a recreation of a Victorian vinery, an orangery, a deer park and an aviary.

Robert Adam was the most influential architect of his time, renowned for his meticulous attention to detail and the elegant classical embellishments with which he decorated his ceilings and fireplaces.

The beautiful oval staircase here is regarded as one of his finest achievements. On the 1st floor, the opulence of the circular saloon contrasts violently with the views of the wild sea below. Lord Cassillis' bedroom is said to be haunted by a lady in green, mourning for a lost baby. Even the bathrooms are palatial: the dressing room beside the state bedroom is equipped with a Victorian state-of-the-art shower.

If you really want to experience the magic of this place, it's possible to stay in the castle from April to October. There's also a campsite at the entrance to the park, offering grassy pitches with great views.

Wildlife in the area includes otters.

Stagecoach buses running between Ayr and Girvan stop outside the gates, from where it's a 1-mile walk to the castle itself.