Ayrshire and Arran nightlife won’t leave you disappointed. From cool clubs to country pubs, seasonal pantomimes to groundbreaking drama, and indie rock concerts to traditional ceildihs, there’s a nightlife pursuit for everyone. There’s no better place to “chew the fat” and enjoy the local craic than in one of the traditional watering holes of Ayrshire.
Nights by the fire
The Tam O’Shanter Inn in Ayr is famed for its warm hospitality and charming character. With a cosy open fire for chilly winter nights and a beer garden for warm summer days, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a libation and soak up the olde worlde atmosphere. Established in 1749, as the oldest public house in Ayr and one of the oldest in the entire region, it features a distinctive thatched roof and mural that has enticed many a tourist to venture inside. Irvine’s oldest public house The Ship Inn was licensed in 1754 and has been favoured as a top spot for an evening drink ever since. The charming interior is full of Ayrshire character and curiosities, the drinks selection is plentiful and the entire establishment is dog friendly – all good reasons why The Ship Inn was awarded Best Pub in North Ayrshire at the 2018 National Pub and Bar Awards.
Relax with your favourite drink in hand in a cosy Ayrshire pub
Lovers of live music have no shortage of options when it comes to Ayrshire and Arran nightlife. In Ayr The Wellington Bar hosts weekly folk sessions for those looking to hear a selection of traditional Scottish tunes. Cheeky Charlie’s in Troon is a bar that’s famed among locals for its fabulous live sessions with Ayrshire’s up-and-coming bands finding a venue here to showcase their talents. There are also opportunities for patrons to join in with ‘Jukebox Unplugged’ where you can take the mic yourself and belt out all your favourite songs.
Sports fans are well catered for in Ayrshire’s bars and among the best venues is The Smiths Bar in Ayr, where the lively atmosphere is perfect for enjoying football, rugby and horse racing on the big screens, while receiving attentive service from the bar and restaurant staff. It is open until late every day and, especially for those able to keep up the pace and enjoy the late nightlife, it has a 2am licence for Fridays and Saturdays. On Saturday nights there is a live DJ so don’t forget your dancing shoes and sexy moves.
Both Ayrshire and Arran have plenty to offer night owls. From cool clubs to country pubs, seasonal pantomimes to groundbreaking drama, there’s a nocturnal pursuit for everyone
Stylish and sophisticated
If you’re more of a lounge bar lover, there are several options to suit an impeccable taste for the suave and stylish. The Waterfront in Ayr is ideally located overlooking the River Ayr. From the luxurious interior or its riverside terrace, you can enjoy a glass of Champagne, a freshly-concocted cocktail or a refreshing craft ale from one of Ayrshire’s own breweries. This popular venue also hosts monthly music gigs. Staying in Ayr, The Meridian Bier Cafe is a busy eatery by day and a bustling, vibrant bar by night. Good music and an extensive menu of world beers and craft ales make this a great place to let down your hair in the evening.
Enjoy sophisticated drinks with riverside views
There are many beautiful bars in Ayrshire with fabulous cocktail menus
Over in Prestwick, sister venue Caprice is known for its outstanding menu of cocktails. Bright and airy, Caprice also benefits from a patio seating area – the perfect spot for enjoying a sunset espresso martini. If you’re looking for something a little more high octane for your Ayrshire and Arran nightlife offering, there are several nightclubs in Ayrshire that will make you want to strut your stuff and move your feet to the beat. Pitchers Bar and Nightclub in Irvine is particularly popular, with theme nights at the club every weekend. Whether you like 80s anthems, indie rock or Ibiza-style foam parties, Pitchers has it all covered. Its bar is also open throughout the week.
In Ayr Madison’s is the place to be for those who love to dance the night away to old school club classics. It also offers sets from top current DJs, such as Dave Pearce. Fans of the theatre have several options. In Ayr, the Gaiety Theatre is a popular performing arts hub that attracts talent from far and wide. Drama, music, opera, comedy and dance are all featured on the billings, with shows taking place either in the main theatre or in the affiliated community centres located throughout the region. The programme is already jam-packed for the coming months, so you’re almost guaranteed to find dramatic moments that everyone can enjoy.
If you’re more of a lounge bar lover, there are several options to suit an impeccable taste for the suave and stylish
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Theatre and arts
Kilmarnock’s Palace Theatre is another fantastic option for a great night out. Encompassing a 500-seat theatre, the Grand Hall and a cafe bar, the complex has played host to some big name acts over the years. It is also the venue of choice for the annual Sneaky Edinburgh Festival Preview Show. Affiliated venues, such as Cumnock Town Hall, often host events that have been organised by The Palace Theatre.
The Harbour Arts Centre is now an integral part of the community in Irvine and a fantastic addition to Ayrshire and Arran nightlife scene. With two multi-purpose studio spaces, a gallery and a cafe bar, the centre is certainly well equipped to host the numerous events and cultural activities that run throughout the year. Drama, theatre, comedy, music and art exhibitions are all on offer, and there are even classes and workshops available for eager participants wanting to express their creative side. The current programme features jazz performances, Americana musicians and comedy acts.
Don’t miss out on the latest blockbusters whilst you visit Ayrshire and Arran
Movie fans have plenty of options when it comes to enjoying popcorn and the latest blockbusters, with several cinemas operating in the region. As well as the Odeon in Ayr, the seaside town of Saltcoats is home to the Premier Cinema, located on the town’s main esplanade. Showing brand new movies at reasonable prices, it’s a great place for film buffs to spend an evening.
If you’re after a more unique cinematic experience, then a night at Scotland’s mobile movie theatre is certainly not to be missed. The Screen Machine – a huge truck that transforms into an 80-seat cinema – regularly tours some of the most remote island and rural locations in Ayrshire, where accessing movies would normally involve lengthy travel. Showing just a handful of carefully-selected films over the course of a few days, The Screen Machine features the latest big releases but also occasional smaller, independent films. Millport on Great Cumbrae is on the current touring schedule, while Arran often benefits from visits. The truck parks up at some of the most beautiful spots in the country, making a trip to The Screen Machine unforgettable for more than the movies. Be sure to check the current touring schedule before visiting Ayrshire.
Movie fans have plenty of options when it comes to enjoying popcorn and the latest blockbusters, with several cinemas operating in the region
Dark skies and live music
For those who like their nightlife a little more low-key but equally heavenly, then the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory in the Ayrshire village of Dalmellington could be just the ticket. Renowned as one of the best places in Europe to marvel at the stars and planets and watch spectacular meteor showers under pitch-black skies, the observatory hosts frequent stargazing sessions, solar system sessions and special guest speaker events – stars who really know their stars.
With optimum conditions, both the Ayrshire Coast and Arran are also well known as hot spots for catching a glimpse of nature’s best light show, the Aurora Borealis. Aurora forecasts, available via mobile phone apps, can alert you to the best times to catch a glimpse of this spectacular Northern Lights phenomenon.
Like live music? Plenty of bars in the region have weekly live performers
Being a small island doesn’t stop Arran from boasting its own unique opportunities for visitors to enjoy nightlife. The Kildonan Hotel features a modern bar, boasting a super selection of malts, local ales and an enviable wine list that would shame many a mainland bar. With gorgeous views and plenty of charm, this 17th-century inn is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a relaxing evening, especially if you’ve spent the day climbing Goatfell mountain or cycling around the island.
Another popular venue when darkness falls over Brodick is the Ormidale Hotel. The self-proclaimed “locals’ choice”, the Ormidale is the ideal spot to enjoy some of the island’s famous hospitality, unwind with a drink and swap stories with locals of Arran past and present. There is entertainment offered on most nights, too, with quizzes, karaoke, discos, darts and dominoes, bingo and folk music sessions all regularly on the go. We have it on good authority that on Saturday nights the Ormidale disco is the place to be!
Also in Brodick, Crofters’ Music Bar and Bistro plays host to live music shows every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8pm, and on Sundays from 1pm-4pm. The musical genres covered by guest artists encompass traditional Scottish and Irish folk music, country, Americana, jazz and blues, and there is always an extensive summer programme in place featuring the very best of local and national musicians.
Last but certainly not least, the Pierhead Tavern is a family-friendly bar and restaurant by the sea in Lamlash which serves real ales, freshly-cooked food – all with fabulous views. In the evenings, however, it moves up a gear, hosting regular live music gigs.
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Your guide to arts and culture in Ayrshire and Arran