Culzean Castle is to be stripped of its Country Park status after council bosses slashed it’s annual £150,000 funding.

On the 50th anniversary of it acquiring Country Park status, the Ayrshire beauty spot will lose its status next autumn after South Ayrshire Council scrapped its annual funding.

Culzean Castle and Country Park, near Maybole on the Ayrshire coast, became the first country park in Scotland in 1969.

Owned by the National Trust for Scotland, it was designed by Robert Adam in the 18th Century and was the ancestral home of the Kennedy clan.

It was also used to film the home of Christopher Lee’s character Lord Summerisle, in cult flick The Wicker Man, released in 1973.

The local authority said it was not an “easy decision” to axe the £148,500 funding, but the NTS, which has made significant investments at Culzean in recent years, stressed that visitors will not see “any difference” despite the loss of the six-figure sum.

In recent years, the money has gone towards footing the costs of the park’s rangers, as well as youth employment placements, educational outreach events and community allotments.

According to documents compiled by the council, its funding of Culzean will come to an end this week, while its longstanding minute of agreement with the trust will be terminated on October 31 next year, at which point Culzean will no longer enjoy Country Park status.

According to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, Culzean welcomed 382,608 visitors in 2018, a 56 per cent increase on the 244,930 people who went to the attraction during the previous year.

The NTS has spent close to £3 million upgrading Culzean over the past three years, included expanding its network of trails, installing play parks for children, and reinstating swaths of the 260 hectare estate’s historic landscape.

Stuart Maxwell, the NTS general manager for Ayrshire and Arran, said: “Visitors to Culzean won’t see any difference as a result of this decision.

“Our charity will continue to care for this special place to the same high standard and give the same warm Ayrshire welcome.

“We do understand that budgets are tight and difficult decisions are having to be made at the moment - we’re a charity and have limited resources ourselves.

“We’ll continue to work with the council closely to make sure that everyone who visits has a great experience and wants to come back again and again.”

He added that together with the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum - another NTS property - Culzean brings a “significant number of visitors” to Ayrshire, as well as providing employment.

A spokesman for South Ayrshire Council said: “Cutting any funding is never an easy decision, but we have to be realistic about the financial challenges we have when working to balance the budget, and our focus has been on protecting the frontline services that people need the most.

“We will continue to work with NTS to deliver an exciting programme of events and activities that will help achieve our ambitions to establish South Ayrshire as a ‘must visit’ destination that supports a strong and robust economy.

“We are currently working with NTS to bring the current memorandum of agreement to an end and progress an underst a nding of our f utur e relationship. “The terms of the current agreement mean that consideration of country park status is for NTS alone to decide.”