Infobox UK place
official_name= Kilwinning
gaelic_name= Cill Fhinnean
scots_name= Kilwinnin
country= Scotland
map_type= Scotland
population= 15,908
os_grid_reference= NS299433
latitude= 55.6558
longitude= -04.7030
post_town= KILWINNING
postcode_area= KA
postcode_district= KA13
dial_code= 01294
constituency_westminster= North Ayrshire and Arran
unitary_scotland= North Ayrshire
lieutenancy_scotland= Ayrshire and Arran
constituency_scottish_parliament= Cunninghame North

Kilwinning (Gaelic: "Cill Fhinnean") is a historic town situated in North Ayrshire, Scotland.

It is known as The Crossroads of Ayrshire.


North Ayrshire has a history of religion stretching back to the very beginning of missionary enterprise in Scotland. The Celtic Christians or Culdees of the period of St Columba and St Mungo found here, in this part of Scotland, a fertile field for the propagation of the faith. Kilmarnock, Kilbride, Kilbirnie, are all, like Kilwinning , verbal evidence of the existence of ‘Cillean’ or cells of the Culdee or Celtic Church. That there existed a religious house at this place, in the early part of the seventh century, is a generally accepted truth; the holy father of the church being St Winin; after whom, in olden times, the town was called the name of Sagtoun/Segdoune (or Saint's town).

Winin has been identified by some scholars with St Finnian of Moville, an Irish saint of much earlier date; other authorities say he was a Welshman, called Vynnyn, while the Aberdeen Breviary (published 1507) gives his birthplace as Scotland. Due to spelling inconsistencies and historical inaccuracies, however, these two saints could have been the same person, or indeed there could have been many more going by similar names. It is also thought that Saint Finnian has been confused somewhere in historical documents with the Welsh Saint Ninian, who certainly lived in Scotland at some point. In the calendar of Scots saints, the date assigned to St Winin is 715. His festival was celebrated on 21 January, on which day (Old Style) a fair was held in Kilwinning and called St Winning's Day.

The town now retains the name of this saint as the church or cell of Winning. So why would St Winin and his band of monks build their mission on the site of the later abbey, very likely on the spot occupied today by the Abbey church? Because it is an obvious building site, above a bridging-point on the river, suitable for a fortified mission station and commanding a view of the surrounding country.

So there is certain evidence that there was a Christian Church and a monastery of Culdees at Kilwinning several centuries before the foundation Kilwinning Abbey. The latter was the Tironensian Benedictine house founded by, probably, Richard de Morville, the Anglo-French Lord of Cunningham, who was a great territorial magnate of the district. It was founded somewhere between 1162 and 1169 1140-62. Timothy Pont, who had seen the cartulary of the abbey, now lost, wrote in 1608 that the date was 1191 and Richard de Morville was the founder; he was probably right about the founder, but Richard was dead by 1189. King David I gave the district of Cunninghame to his follower Hugh de Morville, Richard's father, making him responsible for the peace and security of what became North Ayrshire and the earlier dates.

A community of Tironensian Benedictines was brought from Kelso and the abbey was soon richly endowed by royal and noble benefactors, possessing granges, large estates and the tithes of twenty parish churches giving a revenue of some £20,000 pounds sterling per year.

For nearly four centuries Kilwinning remained one of the most opulent and flourishing Scottish monasteries. The last abbot and commendator was Gavin Hamilton, who while favouring the Protestant Reformation doctrines, was a strong partisan of Queen Mary. He was killed in a battle outside Edinburgh in June, 1571. The suppression and destruction of the abbey soon followed and its possessions, held for a time by the families of Glencairn and Raith, were merged in 1603 with the other properties of the one obvious recipient - Hugh, Earl of Eglinton, whose successors still own them. The Earls of Eglinton have taken some pains to preserve the remains of the buildings, which include the great west doorway with window above, the lower part of the south wall of nave and the tall gable of the south transept with its three lancet windows. The “fair steiple” was struck by lightning in 1809 and fell down five years later.

A little known fact tells of the link between Bernard, former Abbot of Kilwinning, and the Declaration of Arbroath.Bernard (died c. 1331) was a Tironensian abbot, administrator and bishop active in late thirteenth and early fourteenth-century Scotland, during the First War of Scottish Independence. He first appears in the records as Abbot of Kilwinning in 1296, disappearing for a decade before re-emerging as Chancellor of Scotland then Abbot of Arbroath.

A senior figure in the administration of Scotland during the 1310s and 1320s, he is widely said by modern writers to have drafted the Declaration of Arbroath, and although there is no direct evidence for this, he nevertheless probably played a role.

It has been suggested Bernard lies in a vault beneath the ruins of Kilwinning Abbey. The reference to Abbot Bernard's burial at Kilwinning comes in medieval source, the "Chronicles of Mann". Exactly where in the Abbey it is not stated, but under the present Heritage Centre is possibile as the North Tower was often the location of the Consistory Court and a place of special importance. Until about two hundred years ago various ranges of vaults beneath the abbey ruins were still partly accessible but with the rebuilding and extension of the Parish Church, no possible means of access is now discernible nor any indication of what other treasures may be there.

Masonic links

Kilwinning is notable for housing the original Lodge of the Freemasons. When the Lodges were renumbered, Kilwinning was kept as Lodge Number '0', the Mother Lodge of Scotland.

The origin of the Lodge is unclear with the first documentary evidence being a mention in The Schaw Statutes of 1598 and 1599 which identify it in its first paragraph as the "heid and secund ludge of Scotland".

The lodge's own legend attributes the formation to the building of the Abbey at Kilwinning in the 12th Century. There existed in this period corporations or fraternities of masons, endowed with certain privileges and immunities, capable of erecting religious structures in the Gothic style [ [ Historical perspective for Kilwinning ] ] . A party of these foreign masons is supposed to have come from Italy, or Cologne [ [ Historical perspective for Kilwinning ] ] , for the purpose of building the Abbey at Kilwinning and to have founded there the first regularly constituted Operative Lodge in Scotland. The Lodge is reputed to have been held in the Chapter House on the Eastern side of the cloisters. On the broken walls and moldering arches of the Abbey numerous and varied Masons' marks may be seen, some very beautiful in design.

Eglinton Castle

When the foundation stone of the new Eglinton Castle in Kilwinning was laid in 1797, ‘Soldier Hugh’, the 12th Earl of Eglinton, was proud to have the ceremony performed by Alexander Hamilton of Grange, grandfather of the American hero Alexander Hamilton who was to become one of the most influential Scots in American history.Hamilton's family lived on the Estate of Grange which bordered on the Kilwinning lands at Stevenson. Hamilton named his house in New York (now a National Monument) “The Grange” after his family home.

Eglinton Castle is chiefly remembered, in modern times, as the scene of the Eglinton Tournament in 1839 which was a magnificent display.

Encouraged by Lamb and recognising a growing public interest in a more chivalrous, honourable past, Eglinton set about organising a medieval tournament, attracting thousands of visitors to see the combatants (one of whom was the future Emperor of the French - Napoleon III) and the ladies in their finery. Excursion trains, amongst the first ever, were run from Ayr (pre-dating the formal opening of the line in 1840); an ironic contrast between the old and the new! The only item that Eglinton could not control was the weather: it rained for the best part of three consecutive days. The show went ahead: champions were crowned, Queens of Beauty enthroned and Lamb's honour assuaged.Within 100 years, Eglinton was deserted. The Tournament perhaps marked a turning point, being a severe drain on the family fortune which, with bottomless expenditure on the Ardrossan harbour and the Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal, undermined a family who had been among the great families of Ayrshire. The castle fell into ruin after being unroofed in 1925 and was used for Commando demolition practice during World War II, the remains were demolished to the level they are today in 1973. Eglinton Country Park is now a tourist attraction.

Modern Kilwinning

In 1966, Kilwinning fell within the area designated Irvine New Town. Kilwinning rapidly expanded with new estates built on surrounding farm land to meet the planned increase in population. Many of the town's new inhabitants were a direct result of Glasgow Overflow relocation.

Today Kilwinning consists of the pedestrianised historic town centre, now surrounded by the newer estates of Corsehill, The Blacklands, Woodwynd, Pennyburn, Whitehirst Park and Woodside. A popular local nickname for Kilwinning is Kilwinkie.


Kilwinning is based on the banks of the River Garnock in Ayrshire, west/central Scotland. Kilwinning is neighboured by the costal towns of Stevenston to the west, and Irvine to the south.

Industry and commerce

Kilwinning was a noted centre of Archery in medieval times. Later the town had an association with coal mining, quarrying, iron-founding and textile manufacture, now long since declined.

The Pringle knitwear company originally manufactured their goods in Kilwinning. Another company that existed was Wilson's Foods which operated a plant in the grounds of the Eglinton Estate, but this has since closed.

The mill on the banks of the River Garnock briefly fell under the ownership of Blackwood Brothers of Kilmarnock before closing entirely. The site of the mill is largely unchanged, though part of the old factory has been demolished, and the former mill shop now operates as the offices and salesroom for a local car dealership which now uses the site.

The Nethermains Industrial Estate is home to many industrial units which are of the type commonly built in the 1960s and 1970's as modular units ideal for light industry. Fullarton Computer Industries are one of the large employers in this site. Modern Kilwinning's industries include Whisky blending and bottling, the manufacture of plastics and electronics. Almost 1/4 of Kilwinning's workforce is employed by manufacturing. []



The services from Glasgow to Ayr/Stranraer, Irvine, Largs, Ardrossan Harbour and other towns in the area are frequent and all pass through Kilwinning which is the railway crossroads of Ayrshire.


Kilwinning has excellent road links with the rest of Ayrshire. The town is bypassed by the A78 dual carriageway, which provides connections to the A71 and A77 dual carriageways and the Glasgow bound M77 motorway.


Kilwinning is served by routes operated by Stagecoach. The premier services are the 11 which runs between Ardrossan and Kilmarnock, and the X44 and X79 which provide services to Glasgow.


Kilwinning is well served by Prestwick International Airport, which is only 12.9 miles south on the A78 (around 21 mins), or three stops on the train (around 14 mins). Airline operators within the Airport maintain routes to many UK, European and North American destinations.


There is one secondary school in the town, Kilwinning Academy, although until recently the town was also served by St Michaels Academy.

Kilwinning's primary schools are: Corsehill Primary School, Abbey Primary School, Blacklands Primary School, St Winning's Primary School, Pennyburn Primary School, Whitehirst Park Primary School and St Luke's Primary School.

A large campus of James Watt College was built in Kilwinning and was completed in the summer of 2000 ready for the first intake of students in August that year. Its arrival has brought some benefits to the town with increased revenue from the students supporting local businesses. The college is due to undergo an expansion during the summer which should add an extra 20 classrooms at the expense of car parking facilities.

It is of note 37% of Kilwinning residents aged 16-74 have no formal qualifications. The national average is 33%. []

Notable past residents

*Andrew O'Hagan, novelist
*Bernard, Abbot of Kilwinning, Abbot of Arbroath and Bishop of the Isles
*Colin Friels, actor
*Colin Hay, musician
*Des Browne, politician
*Gordon Smith (footballer born 1954)
*Henry Eckford (shipbuilder)
*James Bradie, Arctic Explorer
*James MacMillan, composer
*Julie Fleeting, footballer
*Katy Clark, politician
*Michael 'Mikey' Hughes, contestant on the TV reality show Big Brother
*Penny Tranter, weather forecaster
*Quintin Craufurd, author

Further reading

*Lauchlan, R (1998) "Old Kilwinning"


External links

* [ Kilwinning community site]
* [ Kilwinning's website]
* [ Details]

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