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  • Writer's pictureSharon Wilson

The Gailes - a stunning resort on the Ayrshire coast

The Gailes Hotel & Spa, Irvine.

I’m captivated by a beautiful big sky of cerulean blue complemented by a few cauliflower cumulus clouds.

It’s not the Netherlands or Kansas but Irvine on the Ayrshire coast and Mr Bite and I are taking a break at The Gailes Hotel & Spa. 

I have just had a sauna, hot tub and steam session in the spa complex complete with low indigo lighting, foliage and loungers. I feel very Zen and, as I wander back to our room, I stop to take in the gardens which feature a pagoda, fountain, pond, terrace, and the endless emerald lawns of the Golf Links.

This luxury resort is part of the local SimpsInns hospitality group, a family-owned business including The Potting Shed, The Terrace, The Waterside and Old Loans Inn in Troon. Karen and Malcolm Simpson, and sons Jack and Lee appear to have this stretch of the West Coast sewn up. 

The Potting Shed

We had lunch at the colourful, eclectically decorated The Potting Shed, a roadside pit stop in Irvine. A pedestrian menu of wraps, salads, waffles, pancakes and sandwiches relies more on assembly of pre-made ingredients than home cooking. Mr B has a Cajun Chicken Wrap and I have Steak Salad. We also choose a Strawberry Tart and a giant Nutella Empire biscuit from a display of cakes which gives Mr Bite saucer-like eyes. Service is friendly. Despite living in Glasgow for many years, the magnetic west coast warmth gets me every time.

Onwards to Marine Drive (sounds very Florida) and The Gailes which despite its roadside location is set in stunning grounds.

Our room is very stylish for a standard. A king-size bed facilitates a great night’s sleep following dinner in the Coast restaurant. 

Salmon with Chorizo

The dinner menu is crowd-pleasing and generic. I am torn between ordering Fish and Chips or Salmon with Chorizo and sauteed potatoes in a paprika cream sauce. I opt for the latter, which is delicious, ditto Mr Bite's Beef Pie. I can forgive a standard menu if the dishes are tasty and well-presented. However, adding one or two specials with actual West Coast seafood and Ayrshire local meat would enhance the dining experience. There is such good produce in this part of Scotland. We share Sticky Toffee Pudding with Arran Ice Cream for pudding which is springy and treacly.

A tasty breakfast of Smoked Salmon with Scrambled Eggs and Poached Eggs with Ayrshire Ham (hurrah) fuels us for our onward journey.

The hotel website has helpfully listed tourist attractions and we opt to visit the magical Kelburn Estate.

The drive takes us along the coast with stunning views of Arran and Goat Fell. We lament not being able to stay longer at The Gailes with bikes as the cycle paths beckon. The hotel is an excellent base for relaxation, sightseeing and activity. 

"Two of us riding nowhere, spending someone's hard-earned pay. You and me, Sunday driving, not arriving, on our way back home" (The Beatles)
Kelburn Castle

At Kelburn we pay £5 only for parking and then get to trek the native woodlands, taking in wildlife, waterfalls, the country house gardens with ancient yew trees, and the castle which has had a makeover painted by Brazilian artists. There is also a cafe and, a gift shop and plenty of kids' entertainment making it a cheap day out for families.

As we head home we encounter Easter ‘Carmageddon’ coming the other way but our trip has been smooth and stress-free.

The Gailes is somewhere I would recommend as a base to explore the manifold attractions of Ayrshire and for parties and get-togethers.

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