One of three ancient districts or 'regalities' of the old county of Ayrshire, Kyle is the middle of the three, between Cunninghame to the north and Carrick to the south. Today the district covers parts of East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire and comprises some 984 sq. km (380 sq. miles) of land between the River Irvine and the River Doon. Its principal settlements are Ayr itself, Prestwick, Troon, Mauchline, Auchinleck and Cumnock.

The name is thought to have originated from the forests which once covered the area (Gaelic coille). Although still used locally, it was formally resurrected as the Kyle and Carrick District of Strathclyde Region between 1975 and 1996. Kyle Castle lies 5 miles (8 km) east of Cumnock.

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