Welcome to Irvine Harbour and Heritage

NEW FEATURE: Visit our »» Page of the Week (and return next week for another fascinating topic!)

Latest item (Nov. 2015): Irvine Harbour reached the Urbanism Finals - see the story, pictures and (below the pictures) some quotes from the assessors, on our Urbanism Award page


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.

Translate this page and menus:

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

At Irvine in 1781, a sea-captain named Richard Brown was the first person to prompt Robert Burns, then aged 22 and working in Irvine, to consider publishing his work. Five years later, the poet's Kilmarnock edition sold out and launched the poet on his road to worldwide fame.

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."