Prestwick is a town in Ayrshire on the Clyde coast of Scotland, with a population of 14,880 in 2020. It became a beach and golf resort in Victorian times, but is best known for its airport.

Understand edit

Arriving at Prestwick in 1961

The airport was built in 1930 when transatlantic flights became routine, but were still at the limit of aviation, especially westbound against the headwinds. For the next 50 years the airport was a major gateway for military flights, and then for civilian passenger and cargo flights as these expanded post-war. Around it grew a sprawl of related services and industries. Prestwick acted as a rest and re-fueling point on the "Great Circle", the shortest route between Europe and North America via Greenland, and it was seldom foggy. When the rest of Britain and Ireland were socked in by bad weather, Prestwick's big runway was the last hope for transatlantic aircraft. One that didn't make it was a USAAF flight in 1944 that crashed into the town, killing all 20 on board and five on the ground.

The airport lost much of its commercial role in the 1980s when the next generation of aircraft had greater range, so Europe even to Los Angeles non-stop became practical. Those aircraft also had better instrumentation and bad-weather capability, so they weren't disrupted by fog over London. However Prestwick continues to be a major base for aviation services, Atlantic air traffic control, sea-rescue helicopters, air cargo and military flights. That was how it came to be the only place in Britain where Elvis Presley ever set foot (at least in his earthly form), as he returned home in 1960 from US Air Force service in Germany. Foreign VIPs sometimes arrive here for the same reason (plus it's handy for Donald Trump's golf resort at Turnberry), and that big runway means there are proposals for Prestwick to become Europe’s “space port”. This is expected to come into operation about the same time that Elvis next turns up for open-mike night in an Ayrshire pub.

Get in edit

By plane edit

  • Glasgow Airport (GLA IATA) is some 30 miles north but is almost always the best airport for reaching Prestwick and the county of Ayrshire, because of its range of UK, European and long-haul destinations. Take the airport bus to Glasgow Buchanan bus station, then bus or train south towards Ayr as described below.
  • Ground transport from PIK: Prestwick town is close enough to walk. Buses and trains between Glasgow and Ayr call at the airport, see below. By train, you get half-price on the standard fare (for Glasgow about £9 single, £10 return, so you save £5) by showing your flight confirmation. You can't do this online or at a ticket machine, so buy from a ticket office (eg at Glasgow Central), or from the train conductor if there isn't an ticket office (which includes PIK itself).

By train edit

Trains run from Glasgow Central via Paisley, Kilwinning, Irvine and Troon to Prestwick Airport, Prestwick Town, Newton-on-Ayr and Ayr. There are four an hour M-Sa but it feels like only two, as a slow train taking 50 min departs just after the faster train taking 40 min; only two per hour on Sunday. The last train is at 11PM. In 2022 an offpeak single is £9.40 — the half-price deal for tickets to and from the airport isn't available for Prestwick Town. Change at Ayr for Kilmarnock, Girvan, Stranraer, and the bus to Cairnryan and Belfast. Change at Kilwinning for Ardrossan (for ferry to Arran), West Kilbride and Largs (for ferry to Great Cumbrae).

2 Prestwick Town station is north side of town. It has a staffed ticket office and machines, toilets and a waiting room. There is level access to Platform 2 (southbound to Ayr) and a steep ramp to Platform 1 (northbound to Glasgow).

Prestwick Airport station is just a platform halt with no ticket office, machines or anything else, but you can use the airport facilities. There is access by lift to both platforms.

"Will ye no come back again?" But he didn't.

By bus edit

Stagecoach West Bus X77 runs from Glasgow Buchanan station to Prestwick airport (45 min), Prestwick town and Ayr. It runs every 30 min M-Sa, hourly Su, from 7AM to 11PM.

Bus 4 trundles every 30 min from Glasgow via Giffnock, Fenwick and Kilmarnock to Prestwick and Ayr. It takes almost two hours so only use it for local journeys.

Bus 14 runs every 45 min from Irvine to Troon, Prestwick town and Ayr.

Bus 585 runs down the coast from Largs every 30 min via Fairlie, West Kilbride, Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston to Prestwick airport, Prestwick town and Ayr.

By car edit

Prestwick is just off the M77/A77 Glasgow to Stranraer road and the A78 Ayrshire coastal road.

Get around edit

It's easy to walk around town and its limited amusements, and even to the airport if you're not too laden. See above for Buses 4, 14 and 585 along the coast main road.

Taxi operators are Streamline[dead link] (+44 1292 261010) and Prestwick (+44 330 001 0967) — neither are reliable. They were hoping you were a big party of Americans taking a cab to Trump Turnberry or better still to St Andrews, not a shopping trip to Irvine. See Ayr for more operators there.

See edit

St Nicholas Old Kirk
  • St Nicholas Old Kirk was a 12th-century outpost of Paisley Abbey, now a ruin near the railway station. The modern St Nicholas church is a quarter mile south.
  • 1 St Ninian's is an Episcopal church, opened in 1926 over the site of a makeshift chapel-cabin for First World War troops stationed locally. Adjacent is Bruce's Well: Robert the Bruce was supposedly cured of leprosy by sploshing in its waters circa 1300. That shouldn't have taken long, as he never did have leprosy or any other destructive skin condition, according to the forensic reconstructions that became possible in the 21st century. A similar miracle cure is needed for the well itself, which has became shabby.
  • 2 Shaw Monument is a 50-foot tower built some time before 1775, probably so the laird could watch falconry over the nearby wetlands, now drained. It's described as a "folly" but overlooks the airport so inevitably the story goes that it was an early ATC control tower, maybe for the 1691 Flight of the Wild Geese? It's unsafe to enter so it's fenced off and the doorway is bricked up.
  • 3 Macrae Monument can be seen from the farm track that bridges A77 near the Premier Inn. It was built around 1750 as a family mausoleum, promptly collapsed, was rebuilt, collapsed again, and not until 2001 was a reliable brickie hired. Macrae had got stinking rich in Madras, now Chennai, and built Orangefield Hall nearby. Its fate was to become the terminal and control tower of the airport in 1943, then it was demolished in the 1960s.

Do edit

Orangefield House was the airport terminal and control tower from 1943
  • 1 Prestwick Golf Course, Links Rd KA9 1QG. The Links Old Course was host to the first 12 Open Championships 1860 to 1872. The course is 6908 yards, par 71. Combi-package with Turnberry & Royal Troon available. From £200 per round peak, cheaper off-season.    
  • Open Links of Ayrshire is a combi-package with Prestwick Old Course, Trump Turnberry north of Girvan and Royal Troon. Reckon £2000 for a couple playing all three, plus accommodation and meals at Turnberry. You can't book this online, call +44 1655 333 991 or email
Prestwick has two other courses suited to the budgets of mere mortals, and there are several more in nearby Troon and Ayr.
  • 2 St Nicholas Golf Club, 31 Grangemuir Road KA9 1SN. Course is 5415 yards, par 72, and hazards include the old salt-pan buildings and flooded quarry. May-Sep: £75 per round, £250 per four-ball, less in winter.
  • 3 St Cuthberts Golf Club, East Road, Prestwick KA9 2SX. This is inland, so it's not machair, but sloping greens to gently roll your ball into trouble. 5993 yards, par 70. Round £60.
  • Festival of Flight (successor to the Scottish Airshow) is held in September, but while aircraft and support teams will base here, the viewing area and ground exhibitions are in Ayr.

Buy edit

  • Heathfield retail park at the south edge of town has ASDA and other major stores.

Eat edit

  • A strip of cheap eats along Monkton Rd and Main Street includes Mamma Mia, Spice Cube, Lido, Scruffy Duffy's, and Vito's.
  • The Vine, 132 Main Street KA9 1PB, +44 1292 677675. Su-Th 9AM-midnight, F Sa 9AM-1AM. Good for light bites, but gets great reviews for its full meals.
  • Taj, 141 Main Street KA9 1LA, +44 1292 477318. Su-W 2-10:30PM, Th noon-10:30PM, F Sa noon-midnight. This family-run Indian restaurant gets good reviews.

Drink edit

Prestwick golf course
  • The Prestwick Pioneer, 87 Main Street KA9 1JS, +44 1292 473210. Daily 8AM-midnight. Decent JD Wetherspoon pub with meals. The Prestwick Pioneer was an early 3-seater de Havilland intended for light military use, but that didn't materialise so it was modified for civilian use such as pilot training.
  • Other Main Street pubs are Smugglers, Red Lion, Caprice and the Golf Inn.

Sleep edit

  • 1 Golf View, 17 Links Rd KA9 1QG, +44 1292 671234. Clean comfy welcoming B&B. B&B double £110.
  • 2 Carlton Hotel, 187 Ayr Road KA9 1TP, +44 1292 476811. Efficient modern hotel, their restaurant gets mixed reviews. B&B double £110.
  • 3 Premier Inn Prestwick Airport, Kilmarnock Rd, Monkton KA9 2RJ (jcn A77 with A78), +44 333 777 3674. Not one of the Premier chain's better offerings. It's tired and dowdy, but if you're even more tired after a long flight it will do as a one-night flop. B&B double £90.

Connect edit

Prestwick town, airport and approach roads have 4G from all UK carriers. As of July 2022, there is 5G from EE and Three but it's patchy.

Go next edit

  • Head to Ayr for the Robert Burns Heritage Park at Alloway, 3 miles south of town.
  • Ardrossan has ferries to the charming island of Arran.
  • Ferries to Cumbrae sail from Largs, and to Bute from Wemyss Bay.

This city travel guide to Prestwick is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.