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Things to do in Greenock, Central Scotland

Greenock and Firth of Clyde © John McLeish www.images-scotland.com

Greenock is a sizeable town in the central Lowlands of Scotland. It was once a burgh within the former county of Renfrewshire and is now part of the urbanized area between Port Glasgow and Gourock. The town sits on the south bank of the River Clyde where it flows out into the wider Firth of Clyde.

Greenock was said to have developed around a large green oak tree which eventually became known as Greenock, although there is no sign of a green oak on the town's coat of arms, which features three sugar caskets, a sailing ship and three herring.

By 1592 Greenock was a small fishing village but expanded and eventually became the main port of the west coast of Scotland, importing sugar from the Caribbean as noted on the town's crest.

As the shipbuilding port and railway developed, Greenock enjoyed great wealth and attracted ship owners, industrialists and investors who built grand homes in the town, which still enjoy wonderful views along the sweeping Esplanade.

With the demise of the shipbuilding industry, Greenock went into decline, but is now seeing the results of massive redevelopment. The port is now used as a Container Terminal and Trans-Atlantic cruise ships bring many tourists to the town as a port of call.


Present Day Greenock

Greenock currently has an estimated population of over 45,000 residents. The town centre is busy with the usual choice of shops, banks and other businesses. It has some fine historic buildings including the Custom House, built in 1818 by William Burn and considered the finest in Britain.

The grand municipal buildings are Italianate in design and include the Victoria Tower which still exceeds the height of the Glasgow City Chambers by more than a metre.

Look carefully to the right-hand side of the façade of the Municipal Buildings and you will see the project was never completed. This was because a local businessman, Robert Cowan, refused to sell his building and therefore prevented the planned right hand side from being completed.


Things to do in Greenock

Explore the Battery Park area of the city, created on the site of Fort Matilda from landfill, which was excavated during the building of the railway tunnel at Newton Street. The land was owned by the Admiralty in 1907 and a torpedo factory built missiles which were tested in nearby Loch Long.

As well as admiring the villas along the Esplanade look for the Old West Kirk which is noted for its stained glass. It was built in 1591 and was the first church to be established in Scotland after the Reformation.

The church originally stood where the Harland and Wolff shipyard was built on Container Way and had to be moved to its current location to allow the shipyard to expand in its former glory days.

Greenock is well located for days out exploring the lovely area around Glasgow. Greenock is about ten minutes drive from Gourock which has regular ferries to Dunoon. Argyll and Bute and the Highlands and Islands of the west coast of Scotland are all conveniently accessible.

Famous sons from Greenock include engineer, James Watt, novelist John Galt and broadcaster Jimmy Mack among many others.

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Images of Greenock

Hills near Greenock © James Coyle
Roman well above Greenock © James Coyle
Hills above Greenock © James Coyle
Roman well above Greenock © James Coyle

Interactive Map of Greenock

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* Distances shown are in a direct line. Distances by road will be longer.

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