Irvine, North Ayrshire

Irvine, North Ayrshire

Infobox UK place
official_name= Irvine
gaelic_name= Irbhinn
country= Scotland
population= 33,090
os_grid_reference= NS325395
latitude= 55.6201
longitude= -04.6614
post_town= IRVINE
postcode_area= KA
postcode_district= KA11 - KA12
dial_code= 01294
constituency_westminster= Central Ayrshire
unitary_scotland= North Ayrshire
lieutenancy_scotland= Ayrshire and Arran
constituency_scottish_parliament= Cunninghame South

Irvine (Gaelic: "Irbhinn") is a coastal new town in North Ayrshire, Scotland.

The town was once a haunt of Robert Burns, after whom two streets in the town are named: Burns Street and Burns Crescent. He is known to have worked in a flax mill on the Glasgow Vennell. Despite being classed as a new town, Irvine has had a long history stretching back many centuries and was classed as a Royal Burgh. There are also conflicting rumours that Mary, Queen of Scots was briefly involved in the town's history. Some say she stayed briefly at Seagate Castle. To this day there is still an annual festival, called Marymass, held in the town.

Irvine is the birthplace of the present Deputy First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon and the former First Minister of Scotland, Jack McConnell. Its twin town is Saint-Amand-les-Eaux in northern France just outside Lille.



The harbour for Irvine has a long history and once was one of the most prominent ports in Scotland after Glasgow. Across from the main harbour itself there was a terminal for the ICI-Nobel Explosives plant on the River Garnock. Much of the harbour went into decline in the 19th century when Glasgow, Greenock and Port Glasgow achieved higher prominence as sea ports. Despite this, there was still commercial sea traffic, though the harbour went into further decline in the 20th century. The main shipping in the 20th century was light coastal traffic and vessels destined for the Nobel Explosives facility. This facility had its own quay, which, although now disused, is still visible from Irvine Harbour. A shipyard on the River Irvine, the Ayrshire Dockyard Company, remained active until after World War II, though its last ship was built just prior to the war.

Afterwards it was involved in refitting ships and also in the manufacture of fittings for other vessels including the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth 2. Irvine Harbour is now officially closed as a commercial port and houses a small number of privately owned pleasure craft. It is also home to part of the Scottish Maritime Museum with numerous vessels on display, including the 'Spartan', one of the last surviving Clyde puffers.

Irvine Harbour is home to a unique and distinctive building which marked the tide level. It was built in 1906 and devised by Martin Boyd, the harbourmaster at that time. The Automatic tide signalling apparatus indicated the tide's state in two ways depending on the time of day. During daylight, the level was marked with a ball and pulley system attached to the mast. At night, a number of lamps marked the tidal level. Unfortunately the building has fallen into some disrepair and the mast partially dismantled. There have been plans to try to refurbish this unusual building which so far, has come to nothing.The harbour and surrounding area became an area heavily blighted by industrial waste even long after some of the industries were gone. There was a waste bing known by the locals as 'The Blue Billy' due to the colour of the waste there. During World War II a Royal Observer Corps watchtower was sited here giving a wide overall view of the Firth of Clyde. It is also credited with the first visual sighting of Rudolf Hess's Messerschmitt 110 in 1941.

Irvine Harbour was a prime target for Adolf Hitler's invasion of the British Isles, being a major boating district and also in near vicinity to the ICI weapons development.

As part of the Millennium celebrations, an exhibition known as 'The Big Idea' (now closed, 2006) was constructed on the north side of the River Irvine near the former Nobel quay. A footbridge from the harbour area was constructed, although it had to be able to open and close to still allow the small pleasure craft to pass.

The hulk of the historic clipper ship, City of Adelaide, was moved to a dry dock near the inner harbour in 1992. [ [ Clipper Ship 'City of Adelaide' - Timeline ] ]

New Town

Unlike most new towns which were either completely newly built or based around small villages, Irvine was already a sizeable town which had been a Royal Burgh since 1372. A quango, the Irvine Development Corporation (IDC), was set up in the 1960s to oversee the development of Irvine as a 'new town'. The organisation was given the planning powers of the Royal Burgh of Irvine Town Council, Kilwinning Town Council and the Irvine Landward District Council. This involved massive and sometimes controversial development of the old parts of the town. Irvine was officially designated as a New Town in 1966, the fifth and last to be developed in Scotland and the only 'new town' to be located on the coast. The other Scottish 'New Towns' were East Kilbride, Glenrothes, Cumbernauld and Livingston.

IDC was widely criticised for some of their actions including the demolition of large swathes of the Fullarton part of the town, the Bridge and most of Bridgegate in 1972 and 1973. One positive development of IDC's was the Irvine Beach Park from 1975 and the Magnum Leisure Centre opened in 1976. This area, behind the harbour had been largely industrial wasteland for many years and was regarded as an eyesore. The area was developed with vast amounts of greenery making it a pleasant place to walk. IDC, and also the Urban Regeneration Company, have plans to redevelop much of the waterfront area. Surrounding towns and villages along the coastline are included in a number of the regeneration proposals.

The provisions of The New Town (Irvine) Winding Up Order 1993 officially ended the New Town Designation on 31 December 1996. This marked the end of the Irvine Development Corporation and the return of full planning control of the area back to the local authority.


Irvine was granted its first Burgh Charter in around 1249. This entitled the town to organise its own affairs under a Town Council. In circa 1372 a dispute arose between Irvine and Ayr as to which of the two burghs had rights to control trade in the Barony of Cunninghame and Barony of Largs. The Burgesses of Irvine were able to produce Royal Charters showing that the town had the right to control trade in the Baronies of Cunninghame and Largs. The dispute was resolved by Robert II's Royal Charter of 8 April 1372 conferring Royal Burgh status.

Originally Fullarton remained outwith the Royal Burgh of Irvine as a distinct village and latterly burgh in its own right in the Parish of Dundonald until the Irvine Burgh Act 1881 extended the town's boundaries.

Irvine continued to administer itself with the usual Royal Burgh administrative arrangements of Provost, Bailies and Burgesses. Responsibility for public health, schools and strategic services such as roads passed to Ayr County Council in 1930 when the town was re-classified as a Small Burgh. On 16 May 1975 the Royal Burgh of Irvine Town Council was abolished and its functions were transferred to the now defunct Cunninghame District Council. One of the last acts of the old town council was to present the bulk of the Royal Burgh records and the Provost's regalia to the Irvine Burns Club Museum on Eglinton Street.

There is a Community council in Irvine. However, unlike counterparts elsewhere in Scotland, it opts not to use 'Royal Burgh of' in its title.

The motto used on the coat of arms of the Royal Burgh is 'Tandem Bona Causa Triumphat.' This means the Good Cause Triumphs in the end.

The Westminster Constituency of Central Ayrshire is currently held by the Labour Party. The Member of Parliament is Brian Donohoe.

The Scottish Parliament Constituency of Cunninghame South is currently held by the Labour Party. The Member of the Scottish Parliament is Irene Oldfather


Irvine is well served with numerous transport links. A railway station, originally built by the Glasgow and South Western Railway Company, is situated at the west end of the town which is on the main line between Stranraer and Glasgow. The railway company responsible for local routes is First ScotRail who operate the carmine and cream liveried Diesel and Electric Multiple units of the former Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive. A comprehensive local bus network, coupled with frequent services to Ardrossan, Greenock, Kilmarnock, Ayr, Troon and Glasgow, is provided by Stagecoach West Scotland.

There are two primary road crossings over the River Irvine, the more southerly of which has been criticised for some years. It is situated on the site of the former Irvine to Kilmarnock railway link which has long since been closed. The bridge over the river there has long been unsuitable for heavy traffic being of a Bailey Bridge design which has been constantly repaired over the years. North Ayrshire Council has announced plans to renew the bridge in a £2m investment scheduled to start in 2007.

Irvine is also well served by several arterial roads, namely the A78 (Greenock to Prestwick), A71 (Irvine to Kilmarnock and beyond to Edinburgh), A737 (through the Garnock Valley to Glasgow International Airport and the M8) and the A736 (to Barrhead and Govan).

;Irvine's local bus service

"Local routes provided by Stagecoach Western Buses Ltd."

*2 Irvine Magnum Centre to Kilmarnock via Dundonald, extends to Darvel
*11 Ardrossan to Kilmarnock
*14 Irvine to Ayr via Troon
*22 The Castlepark area to the Perceton area (Girdle Toll)
*23 Hunter Drive in the Ravenspark area from the town centre.
*25/25A Irvine to Dalry
*26 Irvine Railway Station to Dreghorn via the Broomlands area
*27 Local service which extends to Kilwinning
*28 Irvine to the Bourtreehill area
*29 Local service

"Express routes from the town provided by Stagecoach"

*X33 Ayr via Irvine to Paisley which extends to Breahead Shopping Centre.
*X34 Glasgow which goes through Kilwinning and uses the A737 route to Glasgow via Dalry and Beith.
*X44 Glasgow which goes through Girdle Toll. This route uses the A736 via Barrhead.
*585 Ayr to Greenock. This route uses the A78.

"Other routes provided by other companies"

*113 provided by Shuttle Buses which goes to Stewarton.
*X31 provided by Shuttle Buses which goes to West Kilbride.

Irvine New Town Trail

The Irvine New Town Trail passes through a lot of the surrounding areas of Irvine; it forms part of the British National Cycle Network with routes 7 and 73 forming part of the route. The route forms a ring around the town and passes through Kilwinning, Bourtreehill, Girdle Toll and Dreghorn and passes through the town centre of Irvine.

Notable residents

* Colin B. Liddell, the editor of the Tokyo Journal was born in nearby Kilwinning and was a resident of Irvine from 1976 to 1985.
* David Sillar, good friend to Robert Burns, is also buried nearby.
* Edgar Allan Poe spent a little time in a hotel on Bridgegate as a child. Close relatives of his foster father John Allan lie buried in the parish churchyard.
* Elspeth Buchan, the founder of the Buchanites, an odd society of the Burnsian days which was launched in Irvine.
* Graeme Obree, Scottish racing cyclist and former world hour record holder, lives near Irvine.
* Graeme Robertson, actor, "P.C.Kirk" in STV's "High Road" was born in the town in 1965.
* James Montgomery the Christian poet was born on the Halfway, Fullarton in 1771. The street was renamed in his honour as Montgomery Street.
* Jack McConnell Former First Minister for Scotland.
* James Steadman, the possible inventor of the screw propeller is buried in the parish churchyard.
* John Galt, the author, born in 1779. His family moved to Greenock in 1789. Known as an associate of Lord Byron and the author of novels depicting Scottish rural life.
* Kris Boyd, former Kilmarnock and now Rangers and Scotland striker was born in the town in 1983.
* Alex Boyd Photographer known for his landscape and music work is a resident of the town.
* Nicola Sturgeon the Scottish Government's Deputy First Minister for Scotland.
* Roddy Woomble, lead singer for Scottish band Idlewild, was born in Irvine in 1976.
* Ross Tollerton, awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at the Battle of the Aisne in 1914.
* Steve Nicol, former Liverpool and Sheffield Wednesday footballer was born in Irvine.
* Simon Neil, guitarist and lead singer for Scottish band Biffy Clyro

Notable visitors

* Alfred Nobel built an explosives factory in Ardeer which sits on the opposing bank of the River Irvine's mouth.
* Daniel Defoe was a spy. One of his 'missions' included a survey of Irvine's harbour and port.
* Edward I of England also known as Longshanks possibly camped in Irvine.
* Mary I of Scotland is known to have slept at Eglinton Castle in Kilwinning and legend states she stopped atSeagate Castle on her journey the next day. A stone, believed to commemorate the visit, has been found in Irvine. It is inscribed MQ 1560.
* Napoleon III of France was invited to the famous Eglinton Tournament which took place at Eglinton Castle near Kilwinning and resided at parre-terre in the centre of town.
* Frederick II of Prussia (also known as Frederick the Great) after a trip to Irvine, visited Perceton before returning to Potsdam near Berlin.
* Sir Charles Lamb of Beauport is not to be confused with Sir Charles Lamb and has a fairly obscure history. Among other achievements he was the Knight Marshall to the Royal Household during the coronation of Queen Victoria.
* William Wallace enjoyed the fishing and fighting around the River Irvine. Most of his early exploits are firmly placed in the Irvine Valley. He was possibly present at the Capitulation of Irvine.
* GeneralWilliam Booth of The Salvation Army visited on his motorcade tour of Great Britain.



Irvine 'Old Town'

External links

* [ Irvine Bay Regeneration Company website]
* [ Irvine's New Town Trail official page]
* [ Undiscovered Scotland- Irvine featurepage]

Further interest

New Towns

* [ "Building Towns for the future"]
* [ "New Towns: Can They Be Given New Life?"]

Surroundings villages, hamlets and items of interest

* Bourtreehill
* Bourtreehill House
* Boyd's Automatic tide signalling apparatus
* Cadgers' Racecourse
* Cleeves Cove cave
* Dreghorn
* Eglinton Country Park
* Girdle Toll
* Irvine New Town Trail
* Laigh Milton Viaduct
* Springside
* Saint Inan's Well
* The Powder Magazine.
* The Old Parish Church.


Further reading

*Cowling, D (1997) "An Essay for Today: the Scottish New Towns 1947-1997" (Rutland Press, Edinburgh)
*McJannet, A (1938) "The Royal Burgh of Irvine"
*Pettigrew, D (1997) "Old Irvine"
*Stirrat, N (1998) "Irvine"
*Strawhorn, J (1985) "The History of Irvine: From Royal Burgh to New Town"

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