As winter begins to bite, most people will be hoping that conditions do not become too extreme. However, there are those who will have no complaints if the temperature plummets well below freezing – the aficionados of outdoor ice skating and curling.
Our photograph files include an old view of Castlehill Pond, Ayr, frozen up and thronged by the many who have come along to enjoy the ice. Up until the middle of the nineteenth century, skaters and curlers in the area had practised their sports, when the weather permitted, at the mill dam on the River Ayr and at various spots which held floodwater. These included a natural hollow on the Castlehill Estate, just east of the town. In 1853 a curling pond was created at Rozelle, and the 1896 Ordnance Survey map shows that by then, the pond at Castlehill had been enclosed by an embankment, and divided in two by another embankment to create separate skating and curling areas. Sluice gates on the ditch which ran through the pond enabled the filling or draining of these areas.
In the late 1890s the clubhouse beside the pond was owned by Ayr Skating Club, with the pond itself leased from the Castlehill Estate by Ailsa Curling Club. Ayr Skating Club disappears from the records around 1902, with the Castlehill Estate taking over ownership of the clubhouse. Ailsa Curling Club continued to lease the curling pond up until the 1914-18 Great War, but by the end of the war the club had apparently ceased to exist. There had been other clubs in the area, but by around 1930 only Ayr & Alloway Curling Club remained, playing at Rozelle. The opening of an indoor ice rink in Beresford Terrace in 1939 brought an end to outdoor curling in Ayr.
From 1929 until 1937, Ayr Model Yacht Sailing & Power Club leased Castlehill Pond. A history of the club can be seen here: http://www.ayrmodelboatclub.org/History.html
During the 1950s, as part of the major expansion of housing following the Second World War, many new streets were laid out in the Forehill area. These included Glencairn Road, Cunningham Drive and Cunningham Crescent, surrounding Castlehill Pond. In March 1958, following an inspection of the old curling and skating pond, Ayr Town Council decided that it should be filled in and the ground levelled to create playing fields. When work started on new housing at Belmont in August of that year, earth cleared from there was used to fill in the pond, and the new playing area was named Glencairn Park.