North Ayrshire

The North Ayrshire Unitary Authority succeeded the former Cunninghame District Council in 1996. The district had been established in 1975, as part of the Strathclyde Region, and included the Isles of Arran and the Cumbraes, formerly parts of Bute. The principal administrative centre is in Irvine.

Topographically, three main areas can be identified; the lowland areas around Irvine, the main river valleys and the coastal strip, all heavily industrialised in the years following the industrial revolution; the volcanic uplands bordering Inverclyde and the islands; the upland areas to the north east, bordering East Ayrshire and East Renfrewshire. The latter area is given over to agriculture.

Robert Burns lived in Irvine for a period, learning the skill of flax dressing. Other literary figures include John Galt, born in Irvine in 1779, and Robert Service who spent his formative years in Kilwinning. Edgar Allan Poe also had links with Irvine. In the early twentieth century George Houston was a noted North Ayrshire Artist while E. A. Taylor and Jessie King ran painting schools at High Corrie in Arran. Jim Collins, formerly a shipyard worker, is one of a group of contemporary artists living in the area. Roddy Woomble. lead singer of the band Idlewild was born in Irvine while actors Daniela Nardini and John Sessions were born in Largs. Playwright Robert McLellan resided in Arran. Today, there is a thriving artistic community in West Kilbride and artist's studios in Irvine.

Industry and commerce developed around the ports of Irvine and Ardrossan, which became significant trading ports in the 18th and 19th centuries. There were numerous small shipyards and Alfred Nobel established his explosives factory in the dunes of the Garnock Estuary. In the Irvine area and the Garnock Valley coal mining and mineral extraction and iron production were key industries. The industrial archeology of the area can be explored in numerous sites around the Eglinton Estates and the Garnock Valley. In 1966 Irvine was designated a "New Town" leading to considerable residential development within the old burgh and Kilwinning.

Irvine is linked to Glasgow and the Clyde valley by rail. A dual carriageway route links the coastal towns and Irvine with the national motorway network and the A77 route to Northern Ireland. All parts of the area are accessible by a good road system and public transport reaches most locations. Ardrossan is the ferry port for Arran and Millport (Cumbrae) has a ferry link with Largs. Caledonian MacBrayne provide a ferry link between Arran and the Kintyre peninsula. Many of the outlying areas have public and private museums that reflect aspects of the local culture.

Links in this panel provide information on individuals and various aspects of the district.

Links to local groups and organisations.


South Beach
Ardrossan South Beach and Arran Hills Magnify


District within North Ayrshire


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Restored buildings beside the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine. Magnify   ©Mike Bailey

Carrick ashoreScottish Maritime Museum, Irvine Harbour; hulk of the Carrick ashore. Magnify   ©Mike Bailey

Kilbirnie Loch
Kilbirnie Loch. Magnify   ©Roger Griffith


Saltcoats from Ardrossan South Beach. Magnify

North Ayrshire
©Art Advice

Small AyrshireAyrshire ©Howard Cheng

Ardrossan and Arran Hills Magnify ©WFMillar

Kilwinning Abbey
Ruined Nether Mill, Kilbirnie Magnify     ©Roger Griffith

Cock of Arran and the Cumbraes from Seamill. Magnify ©Mike Bailey

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