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A Personal Account of Ayr by Neil Hilton Back

The only Butlins Holiday Camp to be built in Scotland was based at a scenic location at the Heads of Ayr just outside the town of Ayr. The site chosen south of the resort sloped gently down to sea level and the perimeter of the camp was only a stones throw from the sea at this point. The camp was easily identifiable from the approach road heading south from Ayr. The large familiar buildings and chalet rows occupying an otherwise rural landscape along with the chairlift could be spotted on the horizon a few miles from the camp itself. Apart from its obvious popularity with the Scottish holidaymaker the camp proved to be an attraction with those South of the border and a large number of English and Welsh chose to holiday here in this most beautiful setting on the mild shores of Scotland's West coast.

Ayr was another well laid out camp with all the facilities for which Butlins became famous. It was a colourful and attractive camp with well stocked flower beds and gardens. Just like Pwllheli its borders and gardens featured rock and stonework which made the surroundings look authentic. More buildings were added since the original construction and these were built in the typical Butlin style full of windows and colour.

The original chairlift here was a different design to the usual cage type chairs/cabins and like Barry Island they were more solid in appearance. These were later exchanged for the cage type chairs found at most of the other camps. There was a large indoor heated swimming pool, outdoor roller skating rink and a large funfair. The indoor pool was furnished with decorative jungle plants and a parrot even hung from the ceiling at one point. All were artificial of course. During the 1960's the camps amusement rides included two big wheels sited alongside each other, dodgem cars and a white knuckle ride called the Whip. A mini car track, carousel and miniature railway were also frequented by the younger element. Along with a kiddies park the camp was ideal for the family young and old alike.

The outdoor pool was situated next to the indoor pool with two large fountains cascading water. At night these were illuminated with floodlights and looked very attractive. An extensive green area made the front of the camp very open and spacious looking. The entertainment buildings were centrally located and accommodation was built towards the back of the camp. Most of the chalets sloped gently down the site towards the sea in long lines separated by parallel pathways. The beach could also be accessed via a purpose built gate at the back of the camp.

Accommodation here was a mixture of single storey and two storey chalet blocks. During the 1960's and 1970's the ends of the chalet blocks were decorated with fancy Tudor artificial windows and doors. The camps roads were decorated with the famous striped illumination lanterns and hanging coloured light bulbs. These features quickly vanished from all the camps in the early 1970's when it was realised that electricity from new sources such as nuclear power was not going to be 'too cheap to meter' after all. The Ayr camp was well located with many tourist attractions and country retreats nearby. Ships and boats could often be spotted sailing along just off the coastline here. The island of Arran was also clearly visible to the West on a clear day.

I was just eighteen months old, a wee baby, when I first visited Butlins at Ayr and it was my first taste of Butlins as a child. The cine film taken by my parents captured images of Britain at its best and these were very happy times for society enjoying the so-called Golden Age. Butlins was at it's peak and the investment in the business was clearly visible. Sir Billy also built a Scottish theme into this camp naming some of the buildings and bars after famous Scots such as Stuart and Burns. The large Beachcomber Lounge Bar and Continental Bar were also very popular and provided a retreat from the traditional surroundings. The licensing laws here at Ayr also differed from those exercised South of the border.

Despite an ongoing investment programme and improvements in infrastructure the Ayr camp was not to survive as a Butlins Holiday Camp ultimately. Along with Pwllheli, the Rank Group chose to transform the site to an All Action Haven Holiday Park during the winter of 1998/99. Its scenic location was used to establish an attractive large capacity caravan and holiday park as part of the Haven brand.

Again the environmental impact of the site was taken into consideration and many new shrubs and trees were planted as part of the transformation programme. Most of the old attractions were removed and many of the original buildings were demolished. Those retained have been substantially refurbished. Extensive asbestos roofing was removed and steel corrugated roofing has replaced it. Vast areas of old chalets have also been demolished and these have been replaced by areas of luxury static caravans. Some two storey chalets which were modernised have been retained and these are now half board apartments for guests on catered holidays.

The chairlift at Ayr operated until the camps closure in late 1998 and was therefore the longest serving chairlift ride at Butlins. All the other amusement rides and facilities have also vanished. The overall transformation is very impressive but the scaled down holiday park is now just a shadow of the former major holiday destination. The new holiday park has been named Craig Tara and is based on the same theme as Hafan y Mor in North Wales. These two parks are the largest parks in the Haven collection.

Over the years Ayr has provided countless holidaymakers with memories they can keep forever. This website is dedicated to preserving some of those memories. I am dedicating this particular account of the Ayr camp to my dear late brother Paul who featured in the aforementioned cine films of our first holiday at Ayr in 1966 and subsequent films at Pwllheli, Barry Island and Minehead. Along with the Butlins Camps he will never be forgotten.

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