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Ayr is a large town and former Royal Burgh situated on the west coast of Ayrshire in Scotland, United Kingdom. It is the administrative centre of the South Ayrshire Council area and historical county town of Ayrshire. Ayr is currently the most populated settlement in Ayrshire and is the 12th most populous settlement in Scotland. The town adjoins the smaller town of Prestwick to the north, forming a single continuous urban area with the town.
Ayr was established as a Royal Burgh in 1205, serving as Ayrshire’s central marketplace and harbour throughout the Medieval Period and remaining a well-renowned port across the Early Modern Period. On the southern bank of the River Ayr sits the ramparts of a Citadel constructed by Oliver Cromwell during the mid-17th Century. Towards the south of the town is the birthplace of Scottish poet Robert Burns in the suburb of Alloway. With the expansion of the railway during the 19th Century Ayr soon developed into a seaside resort. This remains the case today with tourism occupying a significant sect of the local economy in Ayr through the opening of a Butlin’s holiday park on the southern headlands of the town and through the continued presence of the Gaiety Theatre, which ran various shows across the late 20th century attracting performers from across the United Kingdom.
Politically, Ayr is considerably more Conservative-voting than the remainder of Scotland, being represented by a Conservative MP continuously for a period of 91 years – from 1906 (as part of the Ayr Burghs constituency) until 1997. The town forms part of the Ayr constituency in the Scottish Parliament, the first Conservative constituency seat in the Parliament, which has been represented by Conservative MSP John Scott since a by-election in 2000. The town is now marginally contested between the Conservatives and the Scottish National Party (SNP). In the UK Parliament Ayr is situated within the Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock constituency which is currently represented by SNP MP Corri Wilson.
Ayr is one of the largest retail centres along the south of Scotland and was recognised as the second healthiest town centre in the United Kingdom by the Royal Society for Public Health in 2014. Ayr has hosted the Scottish Grand National horse-racing steeplechase annually since 1965. The town also accommodates the headquarters of the Ayr Advertiser and Ayrshire Post newspapers and the West FM radio station.