Welcome to Irvine Harbour and Heritage

A recent (Dec. 2014) addition: 1895 map of Irvine harbour


Irvine was once Scotland's third ranked port. Here we present a treasure trove of information, memories, and contributions - rediscovering and recording the vibrant history and heritage of the Harbour area.

If YOU have memories of harbour life or if YOU live in the harbour area please send us YOUR contribution to this developing story of the area's past - get in touch via our contact page.

Irvine Burns Club, in partnership with North Ayrshire Council, Irvine Bay Regeneration, the Scottish Maritime Museum and several other bodies, encourages you to visit the harbourside, to discover its history, to enjoy its cultural magnets of museum, art gallery, and artists' studios, to drop into its cafes, shops and pubs, and to gaze over the heritage buildings and the superb views.

Recent updates are listed on the latest news page.

The photo shows cranes, the SS Ballyarnot (of Belfast) and John Kerr's trucks, in the 1950s. There were three cranes, one of which was steam. Cranemen were Francis Howie, Lauchland ('Lachie') McKinnon (a councillor), and, on the steam crane, 'Buffer' Thomson. The coal trade ended by 1954.


Irvine Harbour & Heritage - the vision

The starting point is Robert Burns. In Irvine in 1781, aged 22, he met sea-captain Richard Brown - the first person to prompt Burns to consider publication. Burns responded. The Kilmarnock edition sold out in 1786.

Irvine Harbourside Heritage has a similarly inspiring vision. The harbour was significant in the town's development, from commercial uses in the 19th c. to leisure attractions in the 21st. However, it has been a forgotten gem, with little to tell the local community or visitors about its history and its people. In 2012, the award of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant enabled progress.

The project aims to explore and promote harbour history and heritage, in a variety of ways. The local community (old and young alike) is engaged. A heritage trail and guided walks are in place. Key individuals are mentioned on blue plaques. Scots words will be set in the pavements. This website showcase of facts, reminiscences and personal responses, will be of interest both to casual browsers and to future researchers.


Comment by Gillian Sharpe, BBC Radio 4


Soon after the start of the project, in January 2013, Radio 4 presented a summary of the background and aims of this project. Click for the full story



But, while Burns arrived in the town with flax on his mind, by the time he left, fate and friendship had taken him in a another direction. "Here we've got two young men, who meet in Irvine and both their lives change from that moment," says Bill Nolan, a director at the Irvine Burns Club, speaking about the friendship between Robert Burns and an Irvine sea captain a few years older than him, Richard Brown. One goes on to become an international figure, the other becomes a very successful merchant sailor. Everybody's heard of one, but nobody's heard of the other guy who pushed him to go down that route and encouraged him."