There's a wealth of heritage and family fun to discover on the Ayrshire coast, says Stuart Minting

THE sand is so hot the children dance across it to reach the sea, before splashing in the crystal-clear water. Unless you look at the yellow broom bushes and 19th century stone properties overlooking the beach, it's hard to believe you're on Scotland's west coast.

A sense of reality doesn't become any sharper as through the heat haze appear two mounted police officers. It's no mirage - they stop in the shallows to admire the spectacular view of the silhouetted Ailsa Craig, an island with a volcanic past rising out of the sea like a battleship, ten miles off the Ayrshire coast.

A few miles from Troon, we pass from pre-history to more recent history. The place where the King of Rock and Roll set foot on British soil, Prestwick Airport. It was March 1960, and Elvis Presley was finishing his US Army national service and was heading back to the US, refuelling in South Ayrshire, before resuming his career. There's a plaque to mark the momentous visit on the concourse floor.

Such is the rich and colourful heritage that we're keen to explore from our base for the half-term holiday at Parkdean Resorts’ Sundrum Castle Holiday Park, near Ayr. We soon discover it's a town with a good shopping area, restaurants and an impressive-looking leisure centre called the Citadel. We're confused as to why we're swimming in three pools on the second floor of the huge building. Then they lower the floor of one several metres.

It takes just ten minutes to get back to the holiday park. It's a small, compact site with well-kept lawns and sufficient space between the rows of caravans for the children to play ball games. Like most such sites, it has a family feel, and there's not much noise. It's close to numerous beaches while being surrounded by woodlands and rolling countryside.

The space in our three-bed is focused where we want it - an open-plan lounge and kitchen. There's a spacious shower and it's also clean, has plenty of storage and is well-equipped. We then make a pleasant discovery - there's a selection of food and drink in the fridge. After a busy day, we appreciate not having to go to the site store to buy milk.

A debate follows, as whether to visit the on-site fish and chip takeaway or the restaurant. The restaurant wins, just a short stroll away from the caravan. While the kitchen clearly is busy, there's a large playground beside the outside seating, which keeps the youngest member of our party amused until the tasty meals arrive.

Now full, the children head to the amusement arcade, where they develop a quick-fire 2p rolling technique in a bid to get some momentum with the massed coins in the slot machine. As the final coin disappears our elder child remarks, "You never see an arcade owner wearing bicycle clips". How sage.

The next day we head a little further north. Within easy reach is Valhalla, in the Vikingar! experience in Largs, where the army of Alexander III repelled an invading fleet of longboats in the 13th century. The costumed guide really brings to life Norse activities and beliefs.

After all that plundering and pillaging, it's time to cool off. Almost around every corner along the coast, it seems, is an ice cream parlour, or rather a gelaterie - a result of the influx of Italians who migrated to the area in the 19th century.

Then we head south. Between Girvan and Ballantrae there are caves within a short walk of the coast road which legend has it were lived in by 16th century cannibals Sawney Bean and his family.

We think we sense something a little peculiar as we explore the area where they lived undiscovered in a 200-yard deep cave, which became blocked by water at high tide, for some 25 years.

As we move on, passing pristine golf courses such as Royal Troon, which cover much of the area, we're brought back to the 21st century with a jolt. We drive past the fairways of the Trump Turnberry. The entrance is so ostentatious, it needs to be seen to be believed.

With so much to do and blessed with fantastic weather, the end of the four-night trip comes far too soon.