From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Girvan Harbour

55°14'39.5"N 4°51'37.4"W
NX 1825798189

  • History
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Girvan Harbour is located on the east coast of the Firth of Clyde, 20 miles south of Ayr, in South Ayrshire.

The original inhabitants of Girvan were probably hunter gathers who settled in the area 8000 years ago. The only evidence for this is the records of burial cists, now destroyed, dating back to 2000 BC. A number of urns and cremated remains were discovered to the east of the town, dating back to 1000 BC.

A moot hill once existed above the harbour, this is though to have been built by Norse or Scandinavian settlers. The Vikings were defeated in the Battle of Largs in 1263. The hill was still in use by King Robert (the Bruce) I, time, when in 1328 it is recorded he held court there.

Robert I was likely to have stopped at Girvan while en route to, or from, St Ninian's Church in Whithorn, which is regarded as being the site of the earliest Christian community in Scotland. Girvan benefited from its position on the pilgrimage trail along the Ayrshire Coast throughout the middle ages and is though to be one of the reasons for its early growth.

The subsequent growth of Girvan had more to do with its position as a centre of industry and as the location of sheltered port. Fishing, shoemaking and weaving were all important parts of the local economy when, in 1688, Charles II granted Girvan a charter as Burgh of Barony in recognition of its growing status. Thomas Boyd the Younger was authorised to construct a harbour and fort. He established weekly markets and yearly fairs. By 1792, the vessels operating out of the harbour were catching herring, transporting salt from Ireland as well as smuggling.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the towns status as a port grew. Grain, coal and lime became important commodities for the town, although the local industry still remained the production of cotton rich cloth.

The opening of the railways, initially with the Maybole and Girvan Railway at the end of the 1850s, encouraged the development of Girvan as a seaside resort.

Just north of the town is a William Grant & Sons distillery which opened in 1964. There is a Nestlé factory that manufactures chocolate that is shipped down to York and used in Kit Kat and Yorkie bars.

The harbour remains the main focus of the town, over £1million has been invested in Girvan Harbour in recent years. With a new land side building providing dedicated showers, toilets & laundry facilities, a revamped Harbour Master’s office, and 35 modern berths for a range of vessels with electricity and water supplies, secure quayside access and CCTV.

Girvan RNLI harbour gala takes place each summer, usually in July, with music, stalls, fun fair, rescue displays and emergency services. Girvan Lifeboat station recently received their new Shannon Class all-weather lifeboat, powered by water jets making it the most manoeuvrable and capable all-weather boat in the fleet. Also lifeboats sent here from all over Scotland for repair.