The pretty little village of Dunure lies around and above its harbour on a loop of minor road that reaches out to the coast from the A719, about six miles south-west of the centre of Ayr. As it is bypassed by the A719 there is no need for anyone to visit Dunure: so long as they don't mind missing one of the most attractive and interesting villages on the Ayrshire coast.
The layout of the village is relatively straightforward. The harbour, complete with a dramatically weathered beacon, is the focal point. South of it lies the rows of fishermen's cottages. This part of the village feels very like one of the string of fishing villages you find along the north Aberdeenshire coast.
On rising ground to the south of the village are the romantic remains of Dunure Castle, the traditional power-base of the Kennedy Earls of Cassilis in the centuries before they became more closely associated with Culzean Castle, a few miles down the coast. Dunure Castle stands above a rocky shoreline, and is surrounded in its inland side by the attractively grassy Kennedy Park (part of which also form the village car park: driving into the heart of the old fishing village is not recommended unless you know you have somewhere to park). Behind the harbour, fishing village, and castle, a selection of more modern housing from various periods advances some way up the hill without detracting from the overall prettiness of the village. The newer houses include a bungalow built in a remarkable location on top of the an old lime kiln.
The origins of Dunure are probably tied up in the origins of Dunure Castle, which date back to the 1200s or possibly further. But for all practical purposes, most of what you can see today owes its origins to the building here of a harbour in 1811 by Thomas Kennedy at a cost of £50,000. The harbour came complete with warehouses on its eastern and western sides, boatyards and a dry dock on its north side, and space for the building of cottages on its south side.
As recently as the start of the 1960s, Dunure was the home base for 30 fishing vessels of up to 50ft in length. But as fishing boats became larger and, in particular, demanded a deeper depth of water, the limitations of Dunure became more obvious and the fishing fleet based here steadily declined. Today the harbour is home to an active leisure fleet as well as a number of smaller fishing boats.
From 1906 Dunure had the benefit of a railway station on the hillside behind. Coupled with the interesting and attractive coastline, the castle, and the slightly odder draw of "Electric Brae" just to the south of the village, this allowed Dunure to start to turn itself into a minor resort. The railway has now long gone, but the other attractions remain.
For many years the village also benefitted from an inn overlooking the harbour. After a period of closure and a major refurbishment, this reopened in late 2006 as the Dunure Inn: and the excellent food and accommodation on offer here (some of the accommodation is in converted fishermen's cottages) add further to the reasons why you shouldn't bypass Dunure.