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For the hamlet in Saskatchewan, see Kilwinning, Saskatchewan.
Scottish Gaelic: Cill Fhinnein
Scots: Kilwinnin
Kilwinning Abbey - - 1140309.jpg
Kilwinning Abbey
Kilwinning is located in North Ayrshire
 Kilwinning shown within North Ayrshire
Population 21,693 (2014)
OS grid reference NS2943
   – Edinburgh  65 miles (105 km) 
   – London  379 miles (610 km) 
Civil parish Kilwinning
Council area North Ayrshire
Lieutenancy area Ayrshire and Arran
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district KA13
Dialling code 01294
Police Scottish
Fire Scottish
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament North Ayrshire and Arran
Scottish Parliament Cunninghame South
List of places

Coordinates: 55°39′18″N 4°42′11″W / 55.655°N 04.703°W / 55.655; -04.703

Kilwinning (from Scottish Gaelic: Cill Fhinnein) is a town in North Ayrshire, Scotland. It is on the River Garnock, north of Irvine, about 21 miles (34 km) south of Glasgow. It is known as "The Crossroads of Ayrshire". Kilwinning was also a Civil Parish.[1] The 2001 Census[2] recorded the town as having a population of 15,908. At the 2011 Census, Kilwinning had a population of 16,109.


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).

The Market Cross

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 It is also thought that Saint Finnian has been confused somewhere in historical documents with the Welsh Saint Ninian, who certainly lived in Scotland at some point.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.

Kilwinning Abbey as it stands today

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.

The original town was situated at the Bridgend and Corsehill while the other bank of the river was the site of the abbey, its outbuildings, orchards, doocot, etc.[3]

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.

Mistletoe growing on a Rowan tree in Kilwinning town centre. A rare plant in Scotland.

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 Mary, Queen of Scots. 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.

Eglinton Castle circa 1830

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 1320s and 1330s, 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 possible 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.

The Kilwinning Community Archaeology project carried out a dig in the Abbey in 2010.

Masonic links[edit]

Mother Lodge building on Main St.

Kilwinning is notable for housing the original Lodge of Freemasonry in Scotland. 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.[4] A party of these foreign masons is supposed to have come from Italy, or Cologne,[4] 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.


Kilwinning is located on the banks of the River Garnock in Ayrshire, west/central Scotland. Kilwinning's neighbours are the coastal towns of Stevenston to the west, and Irvine to the south.

Modern Kilwinning[edit]

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, Bridgend (which originally was a separate village), both now surrounded by the newer estates of Corsehill, The Blacklands, Woodwynd, Pennyburn, Whitehirst Park, and Woodside. A popular local nickname for Kilwinning is Kilwinkie.

The Main Street of Kilwinning has recently been refurbished as part of the regeneration of the Irvine Bay area by Irvine Bay Regeneration Company.[5]

Eglinton Castle and Country Park[edit]

The ruins of Eglinton Castle

The ancient seat of the Earls of Eglinton, it is located just south of Kilwinning. Built between 1797 and 1802 in Gothic castellated style dominated by a central 100-foot (30 m) large round keep and four 70-foot (21 m) outer towers, it was second only to Culzean Castle in appearance and grandeur. The foundation stone of the new Eglinton Castle in Kilwinning was laid in 1797, the 12th Earl of Eglinton, was proud to have the ceremony performed by Alexander Hamilton of Grange, grandfather of the American Hero Alexander Hamilton.

An official invitation to the 1839 Tournament

The Castle is chiefly remembered, in modern times, as the scene of the Eglinton Tournament in 1839, which was a magnificent display. Funded and organized by Archibald Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton, the revival-medieval tournament, attracted thousands of visitors to see the combatants and the ladies in their finery. Among the guests was the future Emperor of the French—Napoleon III. The tournament was an ironic contrast between the old and the new! Excursion trains, among the first ever, were run from Ayr (pre-dating the formal opening of the line in 1840).

Today the castle is a ruin. The Tournament perhaps marked a turning point, being a severe drain on the Eglinton family fortune, which coincided with bottomless expenditure on the Ardrossan harbour and the Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal. The castle fell into disrepair 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 .

Industry and commerce[edit]

The Kilwinning War Memorial.

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 that now uses the site.

The Nethermains Industrial Estate is home to many industrial units of the type commonly built in the 1960s and 1970s as modular units ideal for light industry. Fullarton Computer Industries are one of the large employers in this site. Modern Kilwinning's industries include the manufacture of plastics and electronics. Almost 1/4 of Kilwinning's workforce is employed by manufacturing.[6]

The refurbishment of Kilwinning Main Street in 2010 by Irvine Bay Regeneration Company[5] led to a number of new businesses opening shops in the town centre. The project is one of a number of regeneration projects in the Irvine Bay area.


Kilwinning Bridge showing widening work and an Islet in the River Garnock that formed part of the old Bleaching Green

Kilwinning has many buildings and sites of Architectural significance.

Among them is Abbot Adam's Bridge, which is notable as it was constructed in mediaeval times with much of the original structure standing today. The bridge was widened 1859.


Kilwinning viaduct on the route leading to Kilwinning East railway station


The services stop at Kilwinning

  • Glasgow Central - Largs or Ardrossan Harbour
  • Glasgow Central - Ayr - Stranraer
  • Edinburgh Waverley or Glasgow Central - Ayr


Kilwinning has a Police station in the town centre but this is only staffed on a part-time basis. Kilwinning is also served by the British Transport Police who have an office at Kilwinning station.


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 Stagecoach Western and Shuttle Buses.

  • 11 Ardrossan - Saltcoats - Stevenston - Pennyburn - Kilwinning - Irvine X - Dreghorn - Springside - Crosshouse - Crosshouse Hospital - Kilmarnock
  • 27 Irvine Station - Irvine X - Corsehill - Kilwinning - Kilwinning Station - Whitehurst Park (Stagecoach Western)
  • 27 Riverside Business Park - Irvine X -Corsehill - Kilwinning - Kilwinning Station - Whitehurst Park (Shuttle Buses) (Night Only)
  • 38 Irvine Station - Irvine X - Blacklands - Kilwinning - David Gage St (Shuttle Buses)
  • 320 Blacklands - David Gage St - Kilwinning Station (Shuttle Buses)
  • X34 Glasgow - Beith - Kilburnie - Dalry - Kilwinning - Irvine X - Irvine Station (Stagecoach Western)
  • X36 Glasgow - Beith - Kilburnie - Dalry - Kilwinning - Stevenston - Saltcoats - Ardrossan (Stagecoach Western)


Kilwinning is well served by Prestwick International Airport, which is only 12.9 miles (20.8 km) south on the A78 dual carriageway (around 21 min), or three stops on the train (around 14 min). 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[1], 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. (St Michael's Academy amalgamated with St Andrew's Academy of Saltcoats. Both previous Catholic secondary schools have since been demolished. A new building stands in its place, next to the St Andrews Academy site now known as St Matthews Academy providing education for the towns surrounding saltcoats. Teenagers from Kilwinning are provided a school bus to transport them to St Matthew's Academy as this lies 3 miles (5 km) outside their residence.)

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. Since 2013 the campus has been part of Ayrshire College.

It is notable that 37% of Kilwinning residents aged 16–74 have no formal qualifications; the national average is 33%.[7]

There are 3 Community Centres in Kilwinning: Nethermains Community Centre, Cranberry Moss Community Centre, and Kilwinning Community Centre.



The Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers is believed to date back to 1483 and while records are only available from 1688, there is a reference in the early minutes, which would appear to confirm this assumption.

The sport still continues in Kilwinning to this very day. The annual papingo shoot is held in the grounds of the old Abbey on the first Saturday in June, when the wooden bird is mounted on a pole and suspended from the clock tower to allow the archers to attempt to dislodge the wings and then the bird itself. In 2014, Michael Portillo visited the Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers during a visit to Kilwinning on his Great British Railway Journeys TV series for the BBC.

During the winter months the Club meets in the gym of Kilwinning Academy.[8]


Kilwinning Rangers F.C., or The Buffs as they are more affectionately known, play their home games at Abbey Park and compete in the Western Region Junior League. They play in blue and white hoops.

The team was formed in 1899 as a Juvenile football club, originally playing at Blacklands Park, which they shared with the then senior side of Eglinton Seniors. They officially became a Junior football club on 26 July 1902.

The name Buffs was first recorded on 21 September 1900 when the local paper, the Irvine Herald, recorded that the so-called Buffs had had an emphatic victory over Kilmarnock Belgrove. Kilwinning Rangers have had periods of success throughout their history, and proudly boast that they were the first, and last Ayrshire Club to win the Scottish Junior Cup in the twentieth century![9]

Kilwinning Sports Club, or KSC as it is known locally, was launched in July 2002 in the Pennyburn area of Kilwinning. The sport club was set up to bring together local football teams and to ensure that the local area had football pitches and other necessary facilities to encourage sports among the children of Kilwinning and the surrounding area.[10] Local member football teams use the KSC acronym and then their chosen name for the local teams such as KSC Barca and KSC Abbey.[11] The developments that have taken place at the sports club have allowed over 30 local teams to become members of the sports club (correct as of 2014) and these local teams manage to receive sponsorship from local and national companies.

Notable past residents[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Lauchlan, R (1998) Old Kilwinning

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rev. John Marius Wilson (1854). The Imperial gazetteer of Scotland II. GORDON-ZETLAND. pp. 219–221. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Service, John (1913). The Memorables of Robin Cummell. Paisley: Alexander Gardner. p. 103. 
  4. ^ a b Historical perspective for Kilwinning
  5. ^ a b Irvine Bay Regeneration Company
  6. ^ Workforce statistics
  7. ^ Education statistics
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^

External links[edit]