A town leading the charge for our latest foray into recession. Once an industrial powerhouse, famed internationally for its carpets (production ceased in the town in 2005), Kilmarnock is now a post-industrial wasteland, with much of its once-handsome town centre bulldozed since the Second World War. Nowadays the main shopping drag is a grim, litter-strewn windtunnel, with nary an outlet that isn’t a poundshop or a pawnbroker; the epitome of sophisticated cafe culture is provided, meanwhile, by a lone and shabby-looking branch of Costa coffee. Even these delights, however, are hard to access; the town itself is ringed by a growth of dirty-grey pebbledashed flats of unspeakable misery – the sort that all scottish towns appear to have at their edges, presumabliy to repel visitors.
On the day we visited, the Olympic torch was passing through the town; the whole event felt like a vast and ill-judged pity party. Worse yet, the festivities meant that roads around the town were closed off, making escape nigh on impossible. The time we spent threading our way through sorry-looking light-industrial estates and shut-down high streets will never be got back.