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Things to do in Ardrossan, Ayrshire

Clyde Marina, Ardrossan © Dennis M Bradley
Clyde Marina, Ardrossan © Dennis M Bradley

The North Ayrshire coastal town of Ardrossan is an affluent town in southwest Scotland. Its name well describes its situation as it is derived from "Ard" meaning height and "Ros" meaning promontory.

Ardrossan has a long history full of tales and legends. The castle ruins on Cannon Hill date back to 1140 and it was probably built by Simon de Morville.

Ardrossan Castle was handed down through many generations of the Barclay Clan to Sir Fergus Barclay de Ardrossan who, legend has it, was in league with the devil. He so infuriated the devil that in his frustration, Satan kicked the castle with his hoof leaving a petrosomatoglyph hoofprint in the stone. Fergus Barclay is buried nearby in the chapel of the castle.

In 1292 the castle fell into the hands of the English. When the English garrison was finally defeated by William Wallace, the bodies of the dead were thrown into the vaults along with the garrison's food supplies. The event became known as "Wallace's Larder".

During excavations in 1829 a ring engraved with the letter "W" was uncovered and is presumed to have been Wallace's ring, lost in the skirmish. It is said that Wallace still haunts the ruins on stormy nights.

Present Day Ardrossan

The present day town of around 11,000 residents is in a lovely promontory position overlooking the sea and backed by the Knockewart Hills. They have summits of 757 and 794 feet above sea level.

The town has two sandy beaches: North Bay and South Bay, separated by the Castle Craigs and marina. The streets in North Bay are in a neat grid while in the South Bay the houses line a beautiful crescent.

The town was largely rebuilt in the early 1800s by the Earls of Eglinton who also developed the harbour and began an ambitious canal project to Glasgow which never materialised. Small cottages are interspersed with larger villas such as the fine residence of the Earl of Eglinton, known as The Pavilion.

There is a Town Hall, police station, several banks, a post office, schools, hotels and well-stocked shops.

Ardrossan has an excellent harbour and it was well used for exporting coal, iron and timber. The town also had various sailmaking and shipbuilding industries which have now all finished. The harbour is now used as an excellent marina with a ferry service to Brodick on the Isle of Arran.

The town's main church is St Andrews and St Peter's Scottish Episcopal Church, right on the shorefront. It was built in 1875 on land donated by the Earl of Eglinton and has beautiful stained glass windows. One is known as the "Cricketers' Window", donated in memory of the son of the 15th Earl of Eglinton who died at Stellenbosch in 1903. It was donated by his cricketing friends.

Things to do in Ardrossan

Ardrossan's exceptional natural beauty draws many walkers and outdoor enthusiasts to the area. The Holm Plantation area is popular for coastal walks from Ardrossan to Saltcoats.

Ardrossan has hosted a Highland Games each year in June since 1979 which is now a major event in Ayrshire.

Views of the Isle of Arran and the Mull of Kintyre can be enjoyed on clear days. Just offshore, Horse Island is an RSPB Reserve.

The town has frequent rail and bus links with Glasgow 30 miles away, making it very easy to spend a day in this fine city.

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