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Ardrossan Scotland.jpg
Ardrossan skyline and overlooking Ardrossan Harbour, January 2008
North Ayrshire UK location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location within North Ayrshire
Population10,500 (mid-2020 est.) [1]
OS grid reference NS232424
  Edinburgh 79.1 miles (127.3 km)
  London 432.3 miles (695.7 km)
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district KA22
Dialling code 01294
Police Scotland
Fire Scottish
Ambulance Scottish
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
List of places
55°38′36″N4°48′35″W / 55.6432°N 04.8097°W / 55.6432; -04.8097 Coordinates: 55°38′36″N4°48′35″W / 55.6432°N 04.8097°W / 55.6432; -04.8097

Ardrossan ( /ɑːrˈdrɒsən/ ; from Scottish Gaelic Àird Rosain 'headland of the small promontory' [2] ) is a town on the North Ayrshire coast in southwestern Scotland. The town has a population of 10,670 and forms part of a conurbation with Saltcoats and Stevenston known as the 'Three Towns'. Ardrossan is located on the east shore of the Firth of Clyde.



Ardrossan Civic Centre Listed Building, Glasgow Street (geograph 4909150).jpg
Ardrossan Civic Centre

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. [3]

Old Toll Road milestone near North Beach Milestone - Ardrossan.JPG
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. [4]

In 1759, The 10th 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. [5]

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. [6]

Passenger services from Ardrossan Harbour to Brodick on the Isle of Arran started in 1834, and services to Belfast, in Ulster in the north of Ireland, and to 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. [7]

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. [8] [9] [10] 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 Second World War aviation-fuel canning factory, and the harbour was expanded for the company's tanker ships to berth. [11]

Ardrossan North Bay - site of the murder of the 10th Earl of Eglinton in 1769. Ardrossan North Bay looking south.JPG
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. [12]

Ardrossan became a burgh, in 1846, with a provost, magistrates and commissioners. After the Second World War, the burgh was based at Ardrossan Civic Centre. [13] 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. [14]

Ardrossan from the air c. 1920 Ardrossan c.1920.jpg
Ardrossan from the air c. 1920

In 1921 Ardossan was the European site for the first successful reception of medium wave radio signals from North America. Using a wavelength of about 230 to 235 metres (a frequency near 1.3 Megahertz) an amateur radio group in Connecticut sent Morse code signals to a station set up in a tent. [15]


Ardrossan Town station Ardrossan Town station with train.JPG
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 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

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

The MV Caledonian Isles (known locally as the Arran Ferry) in Ardrossan harbour Ardrossan ferry terminal.jpg
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. [16]

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, and Winton Primary School) and two secondary schools: Ardrossan Academy, a non-denominational school opened in 1882, has about 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.


Adrossan windfarm Ardrossan, Scotland, United Kingdom.JPG
Adrossan windfarm

Ardrossan is located near two nuclear power stations: Hunterston A, 360 MW and Hunterston B, 1215 MW.

Ardrossan Wind Farm, a 24 MW wind farm that opened in 2004, overlooks the town.

Places of worship

In Ardrossan, there are five churches.



Ardrossan is in the Ayrshire North and 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 historically returned Conservative or Unionist MPs until 1987, when the constituency was won by the Labour Party.


Ardrossan is home to a number of sports teams including Ardorssan Winton Rovers, an association football club which plays in the West of Scotland League, and North Ayrshire Table Tennis Club.


Castlehill is also known as 'Cannon Hill' by locals. A historic ancient burial place on Castle Hill was vandalized in the 1950s. One tomb was then 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. [21]

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. [22]

Notable people

Other places with the same name

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

See also

Related Research Articles

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North Ayrshire is one of 32 council areas in Scotland. The council area borders Inverclyde to the north, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire to the northeast, and East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire to the east and south respectively. The local authority is North Ayrshire Council, formed in 1996 with the same boundaries as the district of Cunninghame which existed from 1975 to 1996.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Firth of Clyde</span> Inlet on the west coast of Scotland

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brodick</span> Village in Scotland

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saltcoats</span> Town in Scotland

Saltcoats is a town on the west coast of North Ayrshire, Scotland. The name is derived from the town's earliest industry when salt was harvested from the sea water of the Firth of Clyde, carried out in small cottages along the shore. It is part of the 'Three Towns' conurbation along with Ardrossan and Stevenston and is the third largest town in North Ayrshire.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">West Kilbride</span> Village in North Ayrshire, Scotland

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kilwinning railway station</span> Railway station in North Ayrshire, Scotland

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Saltcoats railway station</span> Railway station in North Ayrshire, Scotland

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ardrossan South Beach railway station</span> Railway station in North Ayrshire, Scotland

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ardrossan Town railway station</span> Railway station in North Ayrshire, Scotland

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ardrossan Harbour railway station</span> Railway station in North Ayrshire, Scotland

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MV <i>Caledonian Isles</i> MV Caledonian, a ferry ship

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The Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway (L&AR) was an independent railway company built to provide the Caledonian Railway with a shorter route for mineral traffic from the coalfields of Lanarkshire to Ardrossan Harbour, in Scotland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ardrossan Winton Pier railway station</span> Disused railway station in Ardrossan, Ayrshire

Ardrossan Winton Pier railway station served the town of Ardrossan and its harbour, North Ayrshire, Scotland. The station allowed train passengers to link with the Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) ferry sailings to Brodick on the Isle of Arran and other destinations.

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MV <i>Isle of Arran</i> Scottish ferry

MV Isle of Arran is a drive-through ferry owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited and operated on the west coast of Scotland by Caledonian MacBrayne. Entering service in 1984, she served on the Arran service for nine years before being moved to Kennacraig. She returned to her original route in 2012, supplementing MV Caledonian Isles in summer and becoming a relief vessel in winter. In 2013, she started a new pilot route from Ardrossan to Campbeltown, which became a permanent fixture in 2015. As of 2022, she is one of the oldest vessels in the fleet, having been in service for 38 years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Caledonian Maritime Assets</span>

Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited owns the ferries, ports, harbours and infrastructure for the ferry services serving the west coast of Scotland, the Firth of Clyde and the Northern Isles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ardrossan Civic Centre</span> Municipal Building in Ardrossan, Scotland

Ardrossan Civic Centre is a municipal building in Glasgow Street, Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, Scotland. The building, which is largely used as a community events venue, is a Category B listed building.


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Further reading