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Ardrossan Scotland.jpg
Ardrossan is located in North Ayrshire
Location within North Ayrshire
Population10,952 [1] (2001 census)
est. 10,520[2] (2006),
excluding Saltcoats & Stevenston
OS grid referenceNS232424
• Edinburgh79.1 mi
• London432.3 mi
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtKA22
Dialling code01294
EU ParliamentScotland
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
List of places
55°38′36″N 4°48′35″W / 55.6432°N 04.8097°W / 55.6432; -04.8097Coordinates: 55°38′36″N 4°48′35″W / 55.6432°N 04.8097°W / 55.6432; -04.8097

Ardrossan (/ɑːrˈdrɒsən/; from Scottish Gaelic Àird Rosain, meaning 'headland of the small promontory'[3]) is a town on the North Ayrshire coast in southwestern Scotland. Although there are high levels of deprivation around the town centre of Ardrossan, the town is gentrifying but with some suburban developments around the outskirts of the town.[4] The town has a population of roughly 11,000 and forms part of a conurbation with Saltcoats and Stevenston. Ardrossan is located on the east shore of the Firth of Clyde.


Ardrossan's roots can be traced to the construction of its castle 'Cannon Hill', thought to be in around 1140, by Simon de Morville. The castle and estate passed to the Barclay family (also known as Craig) and through successive heirs until the 14th century when it passed to the Eglinton family on the death of Godfrey Barclay de Ardrossan, who died without an heir. Sir Fergus Barclay, Baron of Ardrossan was said to be in league with the Devil and in one of his dealings, set the task for the Devil to make ropes from sand; on failing to do so, the Devil kicked the castle with his hoof in frustration and left a petrosomatoglyph hoofprint.[5]

Old Toll Road milestone near North Beach

The castle stood until 1648, when Oliver Cromwell's troops had it destroyed, taking much of the stonework to Ayr to build the citadel at Montgomerieston. The ruins of Cromwell's Fort still stand, but are overgrown and in a dangerous condition.[citation needed]

In 1759 the Earl of Eglinton formed a herd of the ancient breed of White or Chillingham cattle at Ardrossan, probably using stock from the Cadzow herd. The numbers dropped and in 1820 the remaining animals were dispersed. All the animals in the herd were hornless.[6]

Ardrossan developed 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 ceased to exist as a result of foreign competition. A smaller yard, McCrindle's, operated until the 1980s before it ceased trading.[citation needed]

Passenger services from Ardrossan harbour to Brodick on the Isle of Arran started in 1834, and services to Belfast in Ireland (later Northern Ireland) and the Isle of Man followed in 1863 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 Glasgow was never realised.[citation needed]

Between 1841 and 1848 Ardrossan was a part of the "West Coast Main Line" equivalent of its time. The fastest route from London to Glasgow was by train to Fleetwood, and then by packet boat to Ardrossan. After 1848 the entire journey could be made by rail, avoiding Ardrossan.[7][8][9] The link to the Isle of Man no longer operates, having first been moved to Stranraer until all Scottish services terminated. Shell-Mex operated an [oil refinery] on behalf of the Air Ministry, from a World War II aviation-fuel canning factory, and the harbour was expanded for the company's tanker ships to berth. Residents blocked plans for further expansion of the refinery, limiting the operations that could be carried out there in the 1960s. Operations at Shell-Mex ceased in 1986.[citation needed]

Ardrossan North Bay - site of the murder of the 10th Earl of Eglinton in 1769.

The harbour has been redeveloped as a marina, and the passenger and vehicle ferry to Brodick is operated by Caledonian MacBrayne.[citation needed]

Ardrossan became a burgh, in 1846, with a provost, magistrates and commissioners. Its burgh status was lost in 1974 on the formation of Strathclyde Regional Council, when it came under Cunninghame District. It is now part of North Ayrshire, created as a unitary authority in 1996.[citation needed]

Ardrossan from the air c. 1920

In 1921 Ardossan was the European site for the first successful reception of radio signals from North America. Using a frequency near 1.3 Megahertz an amateur radio group in Connecticut sent Morse code signals to a station set up in a tent.[10]

Since 2006 Ardrossan has been part of a regeneration area, overseen by the Irvine Bay Regeneration Company. Its vision for Ardrossan is as a gateway to Arran and good place to live and relax next to the sea in a regenerated town centre serving the existing and incoming community. It has started to be achieved through renewal of the town centre, which includes a derelict office in Princes Street which has been turned into two modern shops. The former Jack Miller's Hotel building at 78 Princes Street an(ex Posthouse for changing horses in the 1800s), was refurbished in autumn 2010 and has been home to several businesses and including an art gallery and artists studio space called Phoenix, and a graphic design studio. The old pumphouse has been transformed into an Italian restaurant. In 2014 work started on new office accommodation beside the marina, with works due to be completed in summer 2015. The North Shore project includes the redevelopment of the oil refinery site and the extension of the marina.[citation needed]


Ardrossan Town station


The town has three railway stations: Ardrossan South Beach, close to the boundary with Saltcoats; Ardrossan Town, closed 1968 and reopened 1987; and Ardrossan Harbour near the port for the Arran ferry. Ardrossan South Beach station is at the junction on the Ayrshire Coast Line, where the lines to Ardrossan Harbour and Largs diverge. There are two trains per hour that head eastbound from Ardrossan South Beach to Glasgow Central, of which one comes from Ardrossan Harbour, calling at Ardrossan Town, and the other comes from Largs. All rail services from Ardrossan are operated by Abellio ScotRail.

There are two closed railway stations: Ardrossan North was adjacent to Montgomerie Street, and the platform remains can still be seen, although the redevelopment of the former Shell Bitumen Plant site edges closer to the remains. Ardrossan Montgomerie Pier was further down the line from Ardrossan North, but the building of the harbourside apartments removed the last remains of the platforms and no evidence remains that a railway station once stood there. The last train ran through these stations around 1968, although by that time they served summer boat train services only, after regular passenger traffic ceased in 1932.

Roads and bus services[edit]

Ardrossan is linked to Glasgow via the A737 road and to Ayr via the A78 road. The A78 Three Towns Bypass opened in December 2004 and has provided an improvement to local transport links, reducing local travelling times. The bypass has diverted heavier traffic from the Three Towns. Bus services to the town are operated primarily by Stagecoach West Scotland.

Ferry services[edit]

The MV Caledonian Isles (known locally as the Arran Ferry) in Ardrossan harbour

A regular ferry service from Ardrossan to Brodick on the Isle of Arran has run since 1834. The ferry departs every two hours and 45 minutes Monday–Saturday and takes 55 minutes. A ferry service to Campbeltown started on 23 May 2013.[11]

In the past Ardrossan had ferry services to Belfast, and, in summer, to the Isle of Man. The Belfast run was operated by the Burns and Laird Line and its last scheduled service was in 1976. The last ship to sail the route was MV Lion, which was the largest car ferry to operate from Ardrossan. The Isle of Man run was operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company during the summer season, and its last service was in 1985, however Caledonian MacBrayne experimented with a smaller vessel for a couple of seasons, which ran one return service per week.


Ardrossan is served by three primary schools, St Peter's Primary School, Stanley Primary School, Winton Primary School and one secondary school. Ardrossan Academy, a non-denominational school opened in 1882, has a school roll of approximately 1,050 students from Ardrossan, Saltcoats, West Kilbride and Seamill. St Matthews Academy in Saltcoats is the Secondary School for Roman Catholic pupils from Ardrossan.


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 peaks of the Isle of Arran are visible and beyond, are the Paps of Jura and Mull of Kintyre.

Offshore is the Horse Isle, an RSPB reserve and home to nationally important populations of herring gulls and lesser black backed gulls. The Holm Plantation dividing Ardrossan and Saltcoats is a popular area for walks. Irvine Bay Regeneration has led to the plantation receiving many amenities such as lighting and landscaped flower areas.


Adrossan windfarm

Ardrossan is located near two nuclear power stations, Hunterston A nuclear power station, 360 Mega-Watt (MW) (currently being decommissioned) and Hunterston B nuclear power station, 1215MW. Ardrossan Wind Farm, a 24MW wind farm that opened in 2004, overlooks the town.


In Ardrossan, there are five churches.

  • St.Peter-in-Chains is a Roman Catholic church. Designed by Jack Coia and opened in 1938. Category A Listed building. The Stations of the Cross are by Archibald Dawson. [1]
  • Park Church is Church of Scotland.
  • EU Congregational Church
  • Church of the Nazarene.
  • Barony St John's also used to be Church of Scotland but the congregation moved out of the building in 2011 with safety concerns and eventually united with Saltcoats: New Trinity church in November 2013 to form what is now called Ardrossan & Saltcoats Kirkgate Parish Church, with the Chapelwell Street premises in Saltcoats being retained for worship. The Barony St John's premises were sold in December 2014 to a charity proposing to run personal safety classes.

Politics and Government[edit]

Ardrossan is in the Ayrshire North & Arran constituency in the House of Commons and Cunninghame North constituency in the Scottish Parliament. The Westminster seat is held by the Scottish National Party, and the Holyrood seat was gained by the Scottish National Party from Labour in the May 2007 election by a mere 48 votes.

Historically, Ardrossan has been part of the UK parliament constituencies North Ayrshire (1868–1918), Bute and Northern Ayrshire (1918–1983) and Cunninghame North (1983–2005). These constituencies traditionally returned Conservative or Unionist MPs until 1987, when the constituency was won by the Labour Party.

Ardrossan has a Unionist Club on Princes Street, which was established in 1901 and a Labour Social Club is present in the neighbouring town of Saltcoats.

In North Ayrshire council, Ardrossan is represented by two Independent councillors, one Labour councillor and one SNP councillor. The results were:

North Ayrshire council election, 2007: Ardrossan and Arran
Party Candidate 1st Pref % Seat Count
Independent Margie Currie 1,439 2 4
SNP Tony Gurney 1,414 1 4
Labour Peter McNamara 1,007 3 7
Independent John Hunter 952 4 9
Conservative Gordon Allison 857
Labour Margaret Munn 829
SNP William McLaren 573
Independent Kenneth MacDougall 228
Scottish Socialist Nigel Hunter 144

The town has two diplomatic missions, a Danish and a Norwegian consulate.[12]


Princes 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 Gillespie, Kidd & Coia. Barony St John's dates from the mid-19th 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. The railway workings had cut a longitudinal section in the mound, which overlay a 1 ft layer of raised beach sand.[13]

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.[14]

Notable citizens and alumni[edit]


Arguably the town's most notable son was physicist John Kerr.[15] 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 pupil of Ardrossan Academy David T. Denver is Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Lancaster.[16] 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.[citation needed]


Roy Aitken, who was born and raised in the town, went on to become one of the great captains of Celtic Football Club in the 1980s, and also captained the Scotland national team. Aitken also played for Newcastle United, Aberdeen and St Mirren, and managed Aberdeen to a trophy success when they won the Scottish League Cup in 1996. Aitken was given his Celtic first team debut at the age of 16 while he was still attending St Andrews Academy in neighbouring Saltcoats. His manager at the time was Jock Stein.

Bobby Ferguson, who was born and raised in the town, won seven Scotland caps while goalkeeper for Kilmarnock in the 1960s. Ferguson was transferred to East London club West Ham United for a fee of £65,000 in 1967, which at the time was a world record fee for a goalkeeper. He made his West Ham debut against Sheffield Wednesday on 19 August 1967, the first game of the 1967–68 season.

W.B. Young who holds one of the records for longest Scottish rugby career was also from Ardrossan.

Craig Reid footballer for Motherwell is from the town.


Former Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Peter Duncan attended Ardrossan Academy, and Mark Menzies, the current Conservative member of parliament for Fylde, was born in Ardrossan.

Campbell Martin, journalist and former Independent Member of the Scottish Parliament for West of Scotland,[17] now editor of, an online local newspaper covering Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston.


The artist Sam Black, (1913–1997), was born in Ardrossan.[18]

Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell, recipient of the Victoria Cross, came from Ardrossan.[19]

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.[citation needed]

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

The town also featured on Series 1, Episode 3 of hit BBC comedy Gary: Tank Commander, during which "The General" wanted to trace the footsteps of his ancestors, the MacBadgers, who had originally hailed from the town.

Dugald Drummond, born in Ardrossan in 1840, was C.M.E.[clarification needed] with the Caledonian Railway, among others, and was buried at Brookwood Cemetery, in Woking. There is a street named after him in Portsmouth. His brother, Peter Drummond, was C.M.E.[clarification needed] for the Glasgow and South Western Railway. They were brought up in Montgomerie Street.

Other places with the same name[edit]

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


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Comparative Population Profile: Ardrossan Locality". Scotland's Census Results. 29 April 2001. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 September 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Gaelic Placenames collected by Iain Mac an Tailleir (2003)
  4. ^ "Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation". Scottish Government. 31 August 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  5. ^ Ardrossan & Neighbourhood. Guide. 1920s. pp 29-30.
  6. ^ Turner, Robert (1889). The Cadzow Herd of White Cattle. Proc. & Trans. Nat Hist Soc of Glasgow, Vol. 2., Page 239
  7. ^ Greville, M.D.; Holt, G.O. (February 1960). "Railway Development in Preston—1" (PDF). Railway Magazine. Vol. 106 no. 706. p. 96.
  8. ^ Welch, M.S. (2004) Lancashire Steam Finale, Runpast Publishing, Cheltenham, ISBN 1-870754-61-1, p.28
  9. ^ Suggitt, G. (2003, revised 2004) Lost Railways of Lancashire, Countryside Books, Newbury, ISBN 1-85306-801-2, p.36
  10. ^ Transatlantic Reception Anniversary Special Event Set for December 11
  11. ^ "Kintyre: Ardrossan - Campbeltown | Caledonian MacBrayne".
  12. ^ "Consular Representation Outside London". Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2008.
  13. ^ Smith, John (1894). The Ardrossan Shell-mound. Arch Hist Coll Ayr & Gall. V. VII. pp. 62 - 74.
  14. ^ RCAHMS
  15. ^ Robert Steele (2004). Kerr, John (1824–1907). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34300. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  16. ^ "Professor David Denver". Lancaster University. Retrieved 27 September 2008.
  17. ^ "Campbell Martin". Archived from the original on 3 December 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  18. ^ Christopher Hives (1999). "Sam Black fonds". UBC / The British Columbia Archival Information Network. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  19. ^ "Citations For RAF Holders Of The Victoria Cross". Vickers VC10. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
  20. ^ Diane Mastrull (16 September 2007). "Scott has a plan for storied estate". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. A01.
  21. ^ Art Carey (6 May 2007). "Society in its highest sense". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. A19.

Further reading[edit]

  • McSherry, R&M (1996) Old Ardrossan

External links[edit]