Written by Chris Thornton | 14th of October 2023

Girvan is a lovely wee coastal town in South Ayrshire located between rolling hills and expansive sandy beaches. Originally a small fishing village, Girvan has grown over the years into a town that balances modernity with tradition. Built on the mouth of the River Girvan (also known as the Waters of Girvan), the town has much to offer regarding activities and history.

Our visit to Girvan

For my family and I, our destination for the day was Culzean Castle, found just north of Girvan, but I wanted to check out this town first and get a picnic to have at the castle. It was a horrible rainy day, but it didn't dampen our spirits!

Entering Girvan via the A77, we noted the ASDA Superstore on our right and continued to Girvan Beach Car Park. I knew there was ample parking here and access to the beach and play park.

Girvan Beach

Walking from the car park to the beach, the first thing that caught our eye was the behemothic shape of Ailsa Craig on the horizon. Girvan is the best location on the West Coast to view the famous Ailsa Craig, an extinct volcano home to thousands of seabirds.

The beach has long golden sands stretching north to the lighthouse and south around the bay. A tractor was combing the sands. The beach must be a massive tourist attraction in fine weather; I would love to return when it wasn't raining.

Girvan Beach and promenade one of Ayrshire's main beaches.
Girvan Beach.
Tractor on Girvan Beach.
A tractor maintains the beach.
Girvan Lighthouse.
The small lighthouse is a good place to walk to in Girvan.

A long tarmac walk takes you along the beach, with access points as you go.

Girvan Promenade.
The promenade.

To the north, there is a small pier with a tiny lighthouse, a good place for a photo looking over the beach back to Girvan or of the lighthouse itself at sunset.

Girvan Shorefront Playground

The playpark at the beach is fantastic and includes swings, slides, climbing frames, a zip line and a small boating lake with an island. A small bridge takes you to the island, with more swings and picnic tables. There is no fencing to stop small children from falling into the water, so keep that in mind if you decide to leave the kids while you explore the beach.

The play park at Girvan Beach.
The fantastic play park at the beach.
Kids on a slide.
Lauren and Olivia enjoying the helter-skelter.
Boating pond bridge.
The bridge to the island on the boating pond.
The boating pond at Girvan Beach.
The boating pond is attached to the play park.

Girvan Harbour

You can see boats at Girvan Harbour after spending time on the beach. The harbour has recently received an investment of over £1 million. The harbour offers showers, toilets, and laundry services if you're here for a boating holiday. There are 35 up-to-date docking spots for different kinds of boats. These spots are kept safe with secure access and CCTV cameras.

Girvan Harbour.
Girvan Harbour.

The Quay Zone

The Quay Zone, a leisure centre with a pool, soft play, gym and cafe, is found between the harbour and the play park. We didn't visit on this occasion, but it looked great from the outside.

The Quay Zone. Girvan Golf Course.
The Quay Zone leisure centre.

Girvan Town Centre

Walking into Girvan's town centre, there are many lovely places to eat, the best being "Austins" on Knockcushan Street, a short distance from the play park. Walking down into Dalrymple Street, we found the main shopping street of Girvan. More lovely restaurants here, interesting shops, and even a Greggs if you want to sample Scotland's finest sausage rolls...

The Stumpy Tower

The Stumpy Tower is a historic building in Girvan. It's often considered one of the town's most notable landmarks. Built-in the early 19th century, the tower was initially a prison. Its distinct appearance, featuring a "stumpy" design rather than a taller, more traditional tower structure, gives it its colloquial name.

The tower is built of stone and has a unique architectural style that makes it stand out. In the past, it was used for various functions, including as a place of incarceration for local criminals. Today, it's a museum/visitor centre, providing historical context about Girvan and the surrounding area.

The Stumpy Tower offers a glimpse into the town's history and is a point of interest for both locals and tourists alike. It's a great place to learn more about Girvan's past and how it has shaped the present community.

The Stumpy Tower, Girvan. North Parish Church.
The Stumpy Tower in central Girvan.

Trips to Ailsa Craig

Perhaps the biggest adventure you can have in Girvan is a boat trip to the small island of Ailsa Craig, found just offshore. The island has a castle, lighthouse and amazing sea views.

Boat trips are offered by "Ailsa Craig Trips", and they can be contacted by Telephone: 01465 713219, email:

FAQs on Girvan

Here are a few frequently asked questions on Girvan:

How to get to Girvan?

Girvan is easily accessed from Ayr or Dumfries.

From Ayr (34 minutes):

  1. Leave Ayr, travelling south on the A77.

  2. Pass Maybole and then Crossraguel Abbey, remaining on the A77.

  3. The A77 will eventually arrive at a roundabout just outside Girvan.

  4. Take the second exit to Girvan.

  5. Park at Girvan Beach Car Park.

From Ayr, you can go the coastal route via the A719, taking in Dunure Castle, the Electric Brae and Culzean Castle.

From Dumfries (1 hour, 45 minutes):

  1. Leave Dumfries travelling west on the A780.

  2. Connect to the A75 and continue west.

  3. Take a right, branching off onto the A712.

  4. Travel westerly for some distance, and then turn right onto the A713.

  5. Stay on the A713 travelling northwest, then take a left in Dalmellington onto the B741.

  6. Pass through Straiton, remaining on the B741.

  7. After some distance travelling southwesterly, you will arrive at the roundabout at Girvan.

  8. Take the first exit and park at Girvan Beach Car Park.

What is Girvan known for?

Girvan is known for its long sandy beach, an epic view of Ailsa Craig island, its lovely promenade, shops, restaurants, harbour and the Stumpy Tower/Museum.

What is on in Girvan for kids?

Girvan has loads of activities for kids; the beach, the beachside play park, and the Quay Zone are just a few. There are shops near the beach with arcades and ice cream too! Kids will love Girvan; mine did!

Is Girvan in Glasgow?

No, Girvan is on the South Ayrshire coast.

Does Girvan have a sandy beach?

Yes, Girvan has a long sandy beach, ideal for families or water sports on a sunny day.

Can you swim at Girvan Beach?

Yes, it's possible to swim at Girvan Beach; however, it will be cold at all times of the year. Wet suits are recommended for wild swimming in Scotland.

What else is there to see in the South Ayrshire/Girvan area?

  • Golf courses at Trump Turnberry Golf and Girvan Golf Club.

  • Dalquharran Castle.

  • Turnberry Lighthouse.

  • A. D. Rattray Whisky Experience.

  • Culzean Castle & Country Park.

  • Electric Brae.

  • Dunure Castle.

  • Greenan Castle.

  • Galloway Forest Park.

Key information on Girvan

  • Girvan is a town found on the west coast of Scotland in South Ayrshire.

  • Girvan has a population of around 6500.

  • Girvan Beach is the biggest draw to the town with its long golden sands.

  • Ailsa Craig, a large, unusual-looking island, is best viewed from Girvan Beach.

  • The biggest tourist attraction in the town centre is the Stumpy Tower, an old prison turned museum.

  • The town centre has many restaurants and shops.


Girvan is an excellent town to visit on the Ayrshire Coast, and in good weather, it must be the place to be in West Scotland! Walk along the beach, look out to Ailsa Craig, then walk into town and investigate the bustling town centre. A great day out in West Scotland.

We enjoyed our flying visit and walk at the beach and into town. We grabbed our picnic from the ASDA and retraced our steps 10 miles north to Culzean Castle & Country Park.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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