Welcome to Irvine Harbour and Heritage


Discover the story of the Harbourside people and places - how Irvine became Scotland's third-ranked port, what goods were handled, the shipyard, the battles with silt, the buildings, and much more.


The Harbourside was a forgotten gem, but support by the Heritage Lottery Fund has led to new signage, this website, a new book, and creative work by local people of all ages. Irvine Burns Club led the project, recognising that Captain Richard Brown, during the young poet's time in Irvine, had encouraged him to consider publishing his poems; Irvine Harbourside was a Academy of Urbanism finalist in 2015.

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Scroll along the Welcome Ports - the cafes, restaurants, inns, visitor attractions, and guest houses which will welcome you - click a logo for more details.

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The page background photo (not visible on mobiles) features the rubblestone jetties built in 1835-45 on each side of the river to ensure the scouring of silt from the channel used by ships. The harbour bar is at the seaward end of the jetties. View the whole photo. (photo: I J Dickson)

On the left - the cranes, the SS Ballyarnot (of Belfast) and John Kerr's trucks, shortly before the coal trade ended in 1954. On the right - the harbour today, home to leisure craft and to the Scottish Maritime Museum.




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 ]

Excerpt: 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."


Organisations involved included:





Footnote: 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.