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Ardrossan
  • Stunning views over the Firth of Clyde
  • Close access to water for recreation
  • Castle of historic Scottish significance and archaeological interest
  • Key gateway for visitors to the Isle of Arran
  • Former thriving port for shipbuilding and exports to Europe and North America.

Ardrossan’s story

Ardrossan is a small coastal town, with two sandy beaches (Ardrossan South Beach and Ardrossan North Shore) and beautiful views over the Firth of Clyde, Isle of Arran and surrounding countryside, which can be enjoyed by walking and cycling. It has been the main gateway for ferry passengers to the Isle of Arran since 1834 and it is home to the new Clyde Marina, a key facility for sailing.

Ardrossan South Beach

Ardrossan South Beach

Its full story originates with the construction of Ardrossan Castle around 1140 on Castle Hill (‘Cannon Hill.’) The castle is an important heritage asset to this day, full of its own history, myths and legends. One example of such myths is the ‘De'il of Ardrossan’, in which a baron challenged the devil to make a rope from sand, causing the devil to leave his mark on the castle by kicking it in frustration when he failed at the task.

Part of ruins of Ardrossan Castle

Part of ruins of Ardrossan Castle

The Castle connects Ardrossan with key periods in Scottish history, such as the Wars of Independence and Cromwellian invasions. Castle Hill is also the site of an ancient burial place—here you can find the old Parish Church remains and a prehistoric shell-mound, composed of periwinkle and limpet shells with animal bones.

Archaeology dig work taking place in the grounds of Ardrossan Castle

Archaeology dig work taking place in the grounds of Ardrossan Castle

In 1357 Ardrossan Castle and estate came into the control of the Earl of Eglinton family, who played a major role in shaping the architectural and industrial development of the town. Construction of Ardrossan Harbour began in the early 1800s (along with a canal to Glasgow which was never completed.) Coal, stone and ‘pig iron’ were exported via the port to Europe and North America, from the Eglinton mines and works between Ardrossan and Irvine. The Eglintons also built several notable buildings such as ‘The Pavillion’ where they lived, and the Ardrossan Bath Villa.

Shipbuilding, predominantly of fishing vessels and small cargo boats, became one of Ardrossan’s most important industries in the 18th and 19th centuries. Passenger ferry services from Ardrossan Harbour to the Isle of Arran started in 1834 and the service was soon expanded to provide transport links to Belfast and the Isle of Man. Between 1841 and 1848, Ardrossan was part of the fastest transport route from Glasgow to London, which involved a train from London to Fleetwood (in Lancashire) and then a packet boat to Ardrossan.

Eglinton Basin was once at the heart of thriving commercial docks, today it hosts a marina for up to 280 vessels.

Eglinton Basin was once at the heart of thriving commercial docks, today it hosts a marina for up to 280 vessels.

In 1921, a test radio signal receiving station set up in a field in Ardrossan received the first transatlantic short wave radio transmission from Connecticut in the USA. An oil refinery was opened by Shell-Mex in the 1920s; raw materials arrived by boat and were distributed by rail. The refinery produced aviation fuel during the Second World War and also bitumen during the 1970s.

Mini-golf by Ardrossan South beach

Mini-golf by Ardrossan South beach

In 1997 the abandoned commercial docks were transformed into a marina for a range of leisure vessels to berth within easy access of the Firth of Clyde and Cowal Peninsula. Much like Saltcoats, the seafront of Ardrossan and the south beach have been popular visitor destinations for decades.

Highlights

  • Ardrossan Castle is one of the oldest surviving castles in Scotland, (built in mid-twelfth century)
  • The Castle is of significance in Scottish history, playing a notable role in the Wars of independence as a base for William Wallace’s army
  • Ardrossan was an important national meeting point during the 16th century. The Privy Council met at Ardrossan Castle rather than their usual place in Edinburgh or Glasgow
  • Ardrossan was the receiving site of the first transatlantic radio wave

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