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Things to do in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire

Kilmarnock is a sizeable town in East Ayrshire, midway between Glasgow and Ayr. The town is named after "cill" which means "church" and "Marnock" a local saint.

Dean Castle, Kilmarnock
Dean Castle, Kilmarnock © By Fraser Sutherland (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Some believe that the saint founded a church in the area in the 7th century.

The oldest parts of Kilmarnock are arranged around the Laigh Church which dates back to the 17th century.

In 1668 the original town was razed to the ground by a devastating fire. Local people lost everything and had to live in the fields. Fortunately the parish churches throughout Scotland came to the rescue and made donations to help the needy citizens.

Laigh Kirk
Laigh Kirk © John Lord via Flickr

By 1800 the town was still a small settlement but the Industrial Revolution brought new opportunities. Planned housing developments made the town one of the finest in Scotland, particularly around John Finnie Street which was named after a member of the local mine-owning family.

Textiles and heavy engineering plants kept the town busy building locomotives and making valves and carpets. Some of the companies are still operating in the town today. BMK carpets were known for their high quality and provided carpets for the doomed RMS Titanic.

Kilmarnock Railway Station
Kilmarnock Railway Station © John Lord via Flickr

Kilmarnock had one of the first tram systems in the world which ran to nearby Troon across the famous landmark Laigh Milton viaduct.

By the 1960s manufacturing and engineering was in decline, mainly due to foreign competition and the area suffered unemployment. Out of town shopping also led to a decline of the town centre and much of it has been demolished and redeveloped.

Bank Street and John Finnie Street
Bank Street and John Finnie Street © John Lord via Flickr


Present Day Kilmarnock

Kilmarnock is the second largest town in Ayrshire after Ayr and has just under 45,000 residents. Its name was immortalized in the first edition of Robert Burns' book which was known as the Kilmarnock Edition.

Kilmarnock was voted the UK's friendliest shopping town in a survey in 2006 and it certainly has plenty of shops in the redeveloped town centre.

King Street
King Street © John Lord via Flickr

There is also a Bingo Hall, a J.D. Wetherspoons pub and many chain stores along with bars and restaurants in the Bank Street area.

The town has several museums and art galleries within the Dick Institute which has galleries of fine art, contemporary art and craft, local history and natural sciences.

The town has several parks including Howard Park, Dean Park and the 30-acre Kay Park. Landmarks include Kilmarnock Prison, the first in Scotland to be privately run, Dean Castle with a keep dating back to 1350 and the Burns Monument erected in 1879.

Johnnie Walker Whisky Bond
Johnnie Walker Whisky Bond © John Lord via Flickr

Craigie Castle near Kilmarnock
Craigie Castle near Kilmarnock © By Rosser1954 Roger Griffith (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Famous residents include Malcolm Wallace, father of William Wallace; industrialist Robert Dunsmuir and Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin. It has also been the home of Johnnie Walker's Whisky since the 1880s.

Soulis Cross on High Church, Kilmarnock
Soulis Cross on High Church, Kilmarnock © By Rosser1954 at English Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Things to do in Kilmarnock

Dean Castle has an excellent display of musical instruments along with armour and weapons for those interested in local history.

Visit the Burns Monument Centre and the newly restored Burns Monument in Kay Park.

Visitors may want to take a ride on the 11-mile track of the historic Kilmarnock and Troon Railway. It was opened in 1812 to carry coal but was not licensed to carry passengers. The owners got around this by weighing the assigners and charging them the same rate as freight! It later became the first steam-powered train in Scotland.

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