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Ardrossan (Gaelic: Aird Rosain) is a town on the North Ayrshire coast in western Scotlandmarker. The name "Ardrossan" describes its physical position — 'ard' from the Gaelic aird meaning height, 'ros' a promontory and the diminutive suffix 'an' - height of the little promontory.


Ardrossan's roots can be traced back to the construction of its castlemarker 'Cannon Hill', thought to be in around 1140, by Simon de Morville. The castle and estate passed onto the Barclay family (also known as Craig) and it passed through successive heirs until the 14th century. Then it passed onto the Eglinton family on the death of Godfrey Barclay de Ardrossan, who died without leaving an heir. Sir Fergus Barclay, Baron of Ardrossan was said to be in league with the Devil and in one of his dealings he set the task of the Devil to make ropes from sand; upon failing to do Satan kicked the castle with his hoof in frustration and left a petrosomatoglyph hoofprint.
Old Toll Road milestone near North Beach.
In 1292, under the reign of John Balliol, the castle fell to the invading Englishmarker army, who held it until 1296, when it was scene of the infamous event known as Wallace's Larder. William Wallace lured the English garrison out of the castle by setting a decoy fire in the village. He promptly slaughtered them, throwing their remains into the castle dungeon.

The castle stood until 1648, when Oliver Cromwell's troops had it destroyed, taking much of the stonework to Ayrmarker to built the fort there. The ruins still stand, but are overgrown and in a dangerous condition.

Ardrossan developed quickly during the 18th and 19th centuries thanks to its position on the coast. Exports of coal and pig iron to Europe and North America were the main trade from the town's port, which became a centre for shipbuilding. Fishing vessels and small cargo boats were the mainstay of the shipyard until the 1950s, when the yard all but ceased to exist as a result of foreign competition. A smaller yard, McCrindle's, operated until the 1980s before it ceased trading.

Passenger services from Ardrossan harbour to Brodickmarker on the Isle of Arranmarker started in 1834, and services to Belfastmarker in Irelandmarker (later Northern Irelandmarker) and the Isle of Manmarker followed in 1884 and 1892 respectively. Clyde sailings were operated initially by the Glasgow and South Western Railway Company from Winton Pier and the Caledonian Railway from Montgomerie Pier. The Earl of Eglinton's ambitious plan for a canal link to Glasgowmarker was never realised.

Between 1841 and 1848 Ardrossan was a part of the "West Coast Main Linemarker" equivalent of its time. The fastest route from Londonmarker to Glasgowmarker was by train to , and thence by packet boat to Ardrossan. After 1848 the entire journey could be made by rail, avoiding Ardrossan.

The link to the Isle of Manmarker no longer operates, having first been moved to Stranraer, then all Scottish services terminated altogether. Shell-Mex developed an oil refinery in Ardrossan from a World War II aviation-fuel canning factory, and the harbour was expanded for the company's tanker ships to berth. Local residents blocked plans in the 1960s for further expansion of the refinery, limiting the operations that could be carried out there. Operations at Shell-Mex ceased in 1986.

The harbour has been substantially redeveloped as a marina, and the passenger and vehicle ferry to Brodick is still operated by Caledonian MacBrayne.

Ardrossan was one of the last towns in Scotland to be made a Burgh, in 1846, with a Provost, magistrates and commissioners. Its Burgh status was lost in 1974 on the formation of Strathclyde Regional Council, whereupon it came under Cunninghame District. It is now part of North Ayrshire, created as a unitary authority in 1996.

Since 2006 Ardrossan has been part of a regeneration area, overseen by the Irvine Bay Urban Regeneration Company. Their vision for Ardrossan is as a gateway to Arran and a good place to live and relax next to the sea in a regenerated town centre serving the existing and incoming community. This will be achieved through renewal of the town centre and the future development of the harbourside in a co-ordinated and overall plan.


Ardrossan Town station.
Ardrossan Harbour station.
Ardrossan is developing into a commuter town with a population of around 11,000, with frequent train and express coach links to Glasgow, aided by its location on the Ayrshire Coast Line and its proximity to the A737 road.

There are three remaining railway stations in Ardrossan: Ardrossan South Beachmarker, close to the boundary with Saltcoatsmarker; Ardrossan Townmarker, in the centre of town, closed 1968 and reopened 1987; and Ardrossan Harbourmarker.

Ayrmarker lies 17 miles to the south and the town is part of the "three towns" mini-conurbation, together with Saltcoatsmarker and Stevenstonmarker. Frequent bus services to Irvinemarker, Kilmarnockmarker, Ayr and Greenockmarker and an extensive local network are provided by Stagecoach Western.

The A78 Three Towns Bypass was opened in December 2004 and has provided a much-needed improvement to local transport links, reducing local travelling times significantly. The bypass has also helped to divert a significant amount of heavier traffic from the Three Towns.


Princess Street level crossing.
Ardrossan has some notable buildings, for example Barony St John's Church and St Peter-in-Chains Roman Catholic Church. St Peter's is of modern construction in an all-brick, Swedish style. Its architects were the notable Gillespie, Kidd & Coia. Barony St John's dates from the mid-nineteenth century. Both buildings are on the South Crescent, overlooking South Beach and Irvine Bay. The crescent is lined by large villas dating from the 19th century, many of which have been converted into multiple residences.


Also known as 'Cannon Hill' by locals, it is a great place to visit, including a swing park. An historic ancient burial place on Castle Hill was vandalized in the 1950s. One tomb was taken to the Barony Church on South Crescent for safekeeping.

A prehistoric shell-mound, measuring 102 ft by 16 ft, on the side of Cannon Hill, close to Ardrossan Town railway station, was excavated by the Ayrshire historian John Smith in the 1890s. Its length was mostly overhung by a few feet, by the rock face, which had formed a rock-shelter, which the excavation showed had been occupied at intervals over a considerable period of time. The railway workings had cut a longitudinal section in the mound, which overlay a 1 ft layer of raised beach sand.

The mound was composed of seashells, mainly periwinkle and limpet, and animal bones.Relics found included a stone 'anchor' with a groove cut round it for a rope, a possible stone sinker, fragments of very coarse, hammer stone, hand-made pottery, also pieces of wheel-turned, glazed pottery, a bone chisel, two bone needles, etc. No sign of the mound is visible today.


Ardrossan North Beach with Arran and Horse Isle in the background.
While being an exemplar of post-industrial Scotland's socio-economic malaise, Ardrossan is located on the edge of an area of exceptional natural beauty. The towering peaks of the Isle of Arranmarker are starkly visible on a cold sunny day. Beyond, one can see the Paps of Juramarker and the Mull of Kintyremarker.

Offshore from Ardrossan is the small Horse Islemarker, an RSPB reserve and home to nationally important populations of herring gulls and lesser black backed gulls.The Holm Plantation area dividing Ardrossan and Saltcoats is a popular area for alternative walks to the seaside as the large villas surrounding it prove very attractive for visitors. The current regeneration of the area has led to the plantation receiving many new amenities such as lighting and landscaped flower areas.

Notable citizens and alumni

Arguably the town's most notable son was physicist John Kerr. He discovered the quadratic electro-optic effect, a change in the refractive index of a material in response to an electric field, now known as the Kerr effect.

Former pupils of Ardrossan Academy include Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell, recipient of the Victoria Cross, and Campbell Martin, journalist and former Independent Member of the Scottish Parliamentmarker for West of Scotland, now editor of, an online local newspaper covering Ardrossan, Saltcoatsmarker and Stevenstonmarker.

Former pupil David T. Denver is Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Lancastermarker. Professor Denver is a frequent media commentator on Scottish political issues and voting patterns and has published several books in the field of statistical analyses of voting patterns.

Calum Kennedy (1928–2006), popular exponent of Scottish Gaelic song in the 1950s and 60s, ran a hotel in Ardrossan towards the end of his life.

From the core of its now-gone industrial workers, Ardrossan has produced a number of people of individual note. Ardrossan Academy has produced several former pupils that hold US and international patents for their scientific work.


Ardrossan is in the Ayrshire North & Arranmarker constituency in the House of Commonsmarker and Cunninghame North constituency in the Scottish Parliamentmarker. The Westminstermarker seat is held by the Labour Party, and the Holyrood seat was narrowly won from Labour by the Scottish National Party in the May 2007 election .

The town has two diplomatic missions, a Danish and a Norwegian consulate.

Other places with the same name

The name Ardrossan has also been given to places elsewhere in the world:


See also


Further reading

  • McSherry, R&M (1996) Old Ardrossan

External links

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