Coordinates: 55°45′18″N 4°41′10″W / 55.755°N 4.686°W / 55.755; -4.686
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kilbirnie is located in North Ayrshire
Location within North Ayrshire
Population7,170 (mid-2020 est.)[1]
OS grid referenceNS315545
• Edinburgh60 mi (100 km)
• London348 mi (560 km)
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtKA25
Dialling code01505
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
List of places
55°45′18″N 4°41′10″W / 55.755°N 4.686°W / 55.755; -4.686

Kilbirnie (Scottish Gaelic: Cill Bhraonaigh) is a small town of 7,280 (as of 2001)[2] inhabitants situated in the Garnock Valley area of North Ayrshire, on the west coast of Scotland. It is around 20 miles (30 km) southwest of Glasgow and approximately 10 miles (16 kilometres) from Paisley and 13 miles (21 kilometres) from Irvine respectively. Historically, the town's main industries were flax production and weaving before iron and steelmaking took over in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The suburb of Kilbirnie in the New Zealand capital of Wellington is named after the town.


Kilbirnie Place, where the Scots mustered under Alexander III before the Battle of Largs[3]

Archaeological digs conducted in the 19th century have shown that the area was inhabited during the Bronze Age. A crannog with a connecting causeway was discovered in Kilbirnie Loch. In 1792 Mr Dickie, the miller at the Nether Mill, was building the road near the mill pond when he uncovered an empty stone coffin, 6.5 feet long by 2.5 feet wide. He is recorded to have broken up the coffin and used it in the road's construction.[4] The earth mound known as the 'Miller's Knowe' has been identified as an 'ancient sepulchral tumuli', a burial mound, in the New Statistical Account of Ayrshire.[5]

The town derived its name from the parish church, the "Auld Kirk". In 1740 there were only three houses; the population grew to 959 people by 1801. Half a century later, the town had grown substantially; in 1851 Kilbirnie contained 5,484 people, due to the Industrial Revolution. Growth continued with the opening of Kilbirnie railway station in 1906.[6]

The 1913 networkers' strike in Kilbirnie was agreed at a National Federation of Women Workers meeting in late March. It lasted from April to September 1913, and was the longest recorded strike of women workers at that time. The strike, which enjoyed community support, was led by Kate McLean. In May 1913 there was a meeting in Kilbirnie where 10,000 supporters were present. The networkers' dispute was resolved on 2 September 1913 with improved wages and working conditions.[7][8]

The Decoy Bride, a film starring David Tennant and Kelly Macdonald, was partially filmed in Kilbirnie.[9]


Glengarnock Steelworks[edit]

Glengarnock Steel Works opened its blast furnaces around 1841 which caused a massive influx of people from all over the country, as well as all over the world. Initially, these works were owned by Merry & Cunninghame before being taken over by David Colville & Sons and eventually nationalised as part of British Steel Corporation and finally closed in 1985. The steelworks in Glengarnock provided employment for most men of the community.[10]

Moorpark House.

W & J Knox Threadmills[edit]

These mills are famous for their nets, used by the British Army and BT Tower. They are one of the very few companies in the United Kingdom who have expertise in this field. W & J Knox Threadmills was owned by the Knox family who were prominent, not only in Ayrshire but in the South of England too, becoming important members of society.[11]

Nether Mill[edit]

Once the barony mill, it was known as the 'Nethermiln of Kilbirnie.' Until circa 1938, this Nether Mill, a corn and meal mill, was located on Knoxville Road. The remains of the cast iron waterwheel and walls of part of the mill are still visible (datum 2022).

Modern day[edit]

Since the closure of the steel works in the 1980s, the area has been an unemployment blackspot with distinct social problems. The town has very few local employers, and people generally commute out of the town to work. Glengarnock railway station serves the town and has three trains per hour to Paisley and Glasgow.[12]

Social history[edit]

Swinging Sixties and regeneration[edit]

Amongst many other old buildings in the town, stands the Walker Memorial Hall, a building dedicated to Dr Walker, one of the first physicians in the town. In the 1960s it was a famous concert venue, coming second only to the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. Famous bands to have played the hall include Gerry and the Pacemakers and Bill Haley & His Comets. These days, however, it houses the town's Citizens Advice Bureau.[13]

Other sources of entertainment in the 1950s and 1960s included two cinemas, both of which have long since closed. One of these cinemas is now the Radio City.[14]

Saint Brennan's Day Fair and Robert Burns[edit]

The fair was considered the largest horse market in the west of Scotland. Robert Burns refers to the town in his poem "The Inventory" about a plough-horse that he purchased at the fair:[15]

"My furr-ahin 's a wordy beast,

As e'er in tug or tow was traced. The fourth's a Highland Donald hastle,

A damn'd red-wud Kilburnie blastie!"

Local football team Kilbirnie Ladeside F.C. derive their sobriquet "the blasties" from the poem, a suitable appellation and an epithet which remains to this day due to the town's past of steel and iron production, as a reference to the blast furnaces.[16]

Notable residents[edit]

Places of worship[edit]

The Auld Kirk

Auld Kirk[edit]

The "Auld Kirk" is one of the oldest churches in Scotland still in use both pre-and post-Reformation. It is a Category A listed building.[25]

Roman Catholic Church St Brigid's[edit]

The church was established in 1858 and the current building opened in 1862.[26]

Gospel Hall[edit]

Tracing its roots back to 1889, the mission hall was completed in 1897.[27]


Primary education[edit]

  • Moorpark Primary School, accessed from Milton Road or School Road by students, was opened in 1978 to replace Ladyland School built in 1869 and Bridgend School, built in 1893. The school is located east of its namesake Moorpark House and is adjacent to the former site of local secondary school Garnock Academy. The new Moorpark Primary School is currently under construction on the site of Garnock Academy, due to open in Autumn 2022.[28]
  • Glengarnock Primary School has from 10 January 2017 been situated in the Garnock Community Campus.[29]
  • Saint Bridget's Primary School, located on Hagthorne Avenue, educates local children of Roman Catholic and Christian parents. This location opened in October 1963 replacing the 1894 building.[30]

Secondary education[edit]

  • Garnock Academy[31] is a secondary school that was formed in 1971 by the amalgamation of Beith Academy, Dalry High School, Kilbirnie Central School and Speir's school. Opening in September 1972, it was situated on School Road adjacent to Moorpark Primary, However, as of January 2017, the school moved into the new Garnock Community Campus in the Glengarnock area alongside the Primary school, Community Pool and library and other public offices and areas. It is a non-denominational co-educational school serving Barmill, Beith, Dalry, Gateside, Glengarnock, Kilbirnie, Longbar and the surrounding area. It has around 1,100 pupils.[32]



Bus Services[edit]

The area is served by Stagecoach West Scotland and McGill's Bus Services.


Air crashes[edit]

The hills between Kilbirnie and Largs were often black spots for aircraft passing over and many crashed due to low fog. The crash sites are available to visit, with wreckage still visible and some of these now form part of Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park.[33]


Glengarnock Castle, looking towards Kilbirnie Loch and the northern suburbs of Kilbirnie.

Lying two miles (three kilometres) north of Kilbirnie on a promontory overlooking the wooded ravine of the River Garnock is Glengarnock Castle, a ruined 15th century keep. Ladyland Castle, mostly demolished, lay nearby and Ladyland House still survives as designed by David Hamilton.[34]

Kilbirnie Loch[edit]

Kilbirnie Loch is 1+12 miles (2.4 km) long and nearly 12 mile (800 m) broad.[35]


  1. ^ "Mid-2020 Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland". National Records of Scotland. 31 March 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  2. ^ "Kilbirne and Beith Electoral Ward". Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  3. ^ Knight, James (1936), Glasgow and Strathclyde. London: Thomas Nelson & Sons. pp. 83–84.
  4. ^ Canmore - Nether mill Coffin, Lade, etc.
  5. ^ Kilbirnie Heritage
  6. ^ Butt, R. V. J. (October 1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85260-508-7. OCLC 60251199. OL 11956311M., p. 131
  7. ^ "McLean [married name Beaton], Catherine [Kate] (1879–1960), trade unionist". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/54413. Retrieved 6 August 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. ^ "The Strike in Irish and Scottish History" (PDF). Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies. 8 (2): 36–. Spring 2015 – via Aberdeen University.
  9. ^ "David Tennant in The Decoy Bride". Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  10. ^ "Glengarnock Steelworks 1843-1985". Kilbirnie Heritage. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  11. ^ "W & J Knox, Kilbirnie". Textile Research Centre. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  12. ^ Butt, R. V. J. (October 1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 978-1-85260-508-7. OCLC 60251199. OL 11956311M., p. 104
  13. ^ {{cite The relocated KA Leisure gym is also currently located within the hall. web|url= and Imperial Hall - Kilbirnie, North Ayrshire|publisher=Traditional Masonry|access-date=25 September 2022}}
  14. ^ "Radio City". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  15. ^ "Burns memorial unveiled in the Garnock Valley". Ardrossan Herald. 18 June 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  16. ^ "The Inventory". Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  17. ^ Brocklehurst, Steven (10 June 2018). "Kimberley Benson aka Viper: 'People wrote me off because of my size'". BBC Scotland News. Archived from the original on 25 April 2021. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  18. ^ Year of birth and date of death: website. Retrieved 22 January 2008.
  19. ^ "Jameson, James (1837–1904)". Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online. Royal College of Surgeons. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  20. ^ Players making history: Still on the treadmill all for Love of the game, The Herald, 7 May 2017 (subscription required)
  21. ^ "GORDON McQUEEN at the Post War English & Scottish Football League A – Z Player's Database". 26 June 1952.
  22. ^ Managers Archived 2017-05-31 at the Wayback Machine, Motherwell F.C. official site.
  23. ^ Sutherland, Giles (12 September 2023). "Scotsman Obituaries: Lorna J Waite, academic, poet and community activist". The Scotsman. Retrieved 27 January 2024.
  24. ^ "Who we are". Radio City Association. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  25. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Kilbirnie Auld Kirk and Cemetery Walls (LB7492)". Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  26. ^ "St Brigid's Roman Catholic Church". Places of Work in Scotland. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  27. ^ "The Gospel Hall". Places of Worship in Scotland. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  28. ^ "Exciting times as work on new school begins". North Ayrshire Council. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
  29. ^ "Glengarnock Primary School". Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  30. ^ "Our History". St. Bridget’s Primary School. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  31. ^ Welcome to Garnock Community Campus, Garnock Community Campus
  32. ^ "School league tables: Breakdown of every Scottish school's performance". STV News. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  33. ^ "Aircraft Crashes In and Around Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park" (PDF). Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  34. ^ Love, Dane (2005), Lost Ayrshire: Ayrshire's Lost Architectural Heritage. Pub. Edinburgh: Birlinn Ltd. ISBN 1-84158-356-1, pp. 14–5.
  35. ^ "Kilbirnie Loch, North Ayrshire". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 25 September 2022.


  • Strawhorn, J. & Boyd, W. (1951) The third statistical account of Scotland: Ayrshire. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd.
  • Wylie, William (1851). Ayrshire Streams. London : Arthur Hall, Virtue, & Co.
  • "Un Hombre bueno, La Vida De Jaime Clifford" (AC Thomson)

External links[edit]