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West Kilbride

West Kilbride is a village in North Ayrshire, on the west coast of Scotland by the Firth of Clyde, looking across the water to Goat Fell and the Isle of Arran. West Kilbride and adjoining districts of Seamill and Portencross are generally considered to be a small town, having a combined population of 4,393 at the 2001 census.

Early history

West Kilbride is generally believed to be named after the ancient Celtic Saint Brigid of Kildare, often known as St Bride. The name suggests there was once a cell or kil to Brigid in the area, although local legend has her visit to establish her church around 500AD (the landing point was supposedly in front of the now Seamill Hydro. The "West" prefix was added to disguish between other places which commemorates the same Celtic saint, such as the new town East Kilbride in Lanarkshire which was named "East" to distinguish it from the older "West". There has been a hamlet in the area since 82 AD when the Roman general Agricola stationed 30,000 troops in the area of the village now known as Gateside. Roman roads can still be explored around the village to this day, and many Roman finds have been reported and lodged in Museums throughout Scotland. William Wallace's uncle Crauford had an estate at Corsbie in the North of the village, and this is still in use as a caravan park called Crosby, to this day (Wallace's mother's family). In later years Robert the Bruce gave a grant of the lands of the Barony of Kilbride to the Boyds of Kilmarnock. The village nestles beneath Law Hill (168m, 551ft) and Tarbert Hill (138m, 453ft) and is overlooked by Cauldron Hill (329m, 1,079ft) - largely reputed to be from the Welsh "Cadron" ref. Geoffrey of Monmouth. It was once home to various mills and other works, and in the 18th century West Kilbride was primarily a weaving village.

Coat of arms

West Kilbride does not have a legitimate coat of Arms registered by the Court of the Lord Lyon, but a coat of arms popularly in use on tourist items since the early 1930s is a shield split horizontally, with the bottom section divided again into three parts vertically. The top of the shield bears two fleurs de lis with a hunting horn between them. The left and right sections of the bottom of the shield are depictions of two castles, representing Law Castle and Portencross Castle. In the centre section is a representation of the Spanish galleon which sank off Portencross. Below the galleon is the cross of St. Bride overlaid with a mill iron and, above it, the shuttle which represents the village's old weaving industry. Prior to this coat of arms, another had been in use over the motto "Cautis Tutto". Both shields can be seen in the local Museum.

Hunterston Brooch

In 1826, a highly important Celtic brooch was found by two men from West Kilbride who were digging drains at the foot of Goldenberry Hill, near Hunterston. Made about 700 AD, the Hunterston Brooch is a casting of silver, mounted with gold, silver and amber, and decorated with animals in gold filigree. In its centre, a cross and a golden Glory represent the Risen Christ. The brooch may have been made at a royal site, such as Dunadd in Argyll. About 200 years after its making, an inscription was added in Viking Runes. The Hunterston Brooch is believed to have been an object of very high status, indicating the power and great prestige of its owner. Nowadays, it is considered one of the most significant items of Celtic art. It is housed in the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Cup and ring stone

A Neolithic cup and ring marked stone is located on Blackshaw Hill, near West Kilbride. This stone is unusual, in that it is carved with three spirals. Although the purpose of such stones is not known, it is considered that they may have had religious importance.

Roman remains

Traces of a Roman fortification are said to have been uncovered when the house named "The Fort" was constructed in Ardrossan Road, Seamill. Across the road, in circa 1880, Roman funerary urns are said to have been unearthed when the foundations of "Tarbet" house were being dug.

Historical buildings


There are four standing castles in the area in and surrounding West Kilbride. Law Castle, situated at the foot of Law Hill, was built in the 15th century for King James III's sister Mary. The castle is a simple rectangular structure with a sloping roof and several large chimneys protruding at each side. In recent years, Law Castle has been substantially restored and refurbished and it now letted for functions and as a holiday home.

Portencross Castle, thought to date from the 14th century, is situated right next to the sea at Portencross harbour. It is L-shaped and four storeys high, with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The castle is currently roofless due to storm damage. A campaign to save Portencross Castle from private ownership received national publicity in July 2004 when it was featured on the BBC's Restoration television programme. The title for the castle and grounds was given to the group "Friends of Portencross Castle" on 22 December 2005. It is thought that a previous incarnation of the castle was a staging post on the route for the transport of dead Scottish Kings to the Island of Iona for burial.

Hunterston Castle, on the nearby Hunterston estate, is home to the historic Clan Hunter. It hosts regular clan gatherings which bring clan members to the area, from all corners of the world. The current Clan Chief is Madam Pauline Hunter. Close to the castle is a walled garden which is being replanted and restored.

Crosbie Castle (also known as Crosbie Towers) lies to the north west on the outskirts of West Kilbride. It was largely rebuilt from a tower demolished in the 17th century which was the home of Sir Ranald Craufurd (uncle of William Wallace) in the 13th century, and it is said that Wallace himself spent some time at Crosbie. Currently the castle lies at the centre of a caravan park also called Crosbie Towers. Having lain empty for a number of years due to internal fire damage, part of the building was demolished in early 2007 after heavy storms damaged the external walls of the castle. Although the building is a Category-B listed building, permission was not sought before demolition.


St. Andrew's, formerly known as St. Brides, belongs to the Church of Scotland. In addition to being a church, it has several large function rooms which are used by local groups. It has a large rose stained glass window and a tall, gothic bell tower.

Overton Church, also belonging to the Church of Scotland, is located at the top of Ritchie Street. It is a red sandstone building with a working bell tower.

St. Bride's is a small Roman Catholic chapel, on the north side of Hunterston Road, with a large garden behind it.

The Barony (or Barony Church), a large 19th century grey sandstone building, is situated just across the main street from St. Andrew's. This building no longer functions as a church; however, it remains in public hands, being used for many events such as auctions and art shows. Unfortunately, its 19th century stained-glass windows were illegally removed by its previous owner, despite the Barony's listed building status. Attempts to trace the windows were unsuccessful and it is surmised they have been sold to a private collector.

Other buildings

One of the oldest houses in West Kilbride is Kirktonhall House, which originally dates back to 1660, although the house was partially rebuilt and extended in 1791 and 1868. The house was birthplace to mathematician Robert Simson, born 14 October 1687. A large monument to Simson stands in West Kilbride's cemetery. The house itself is now used as administrative offices by North Ayrshire Council.

Local economy

Work and employment

The local area is predominantly rural, but agriculture accounts for only 1.4% of local employment. Managers and professional occupations make up 33.7% of the employed population, compared to the average of 23.8% for the whole of Scotland.

The main industries of employment at the 2001 census were:

Industry % of employed population
Health and social work 14.6%
Manufacturing 11.8%
Real estate and renting and business activities 11.3%
Wholesale & retail trade and repairs 10.3%
Education 9.6%

Farming and local industry

The area is noted for its Ayrshire potatoes. These grow well locally, thanks to the use as fertiliser of the abundant supply of seaweed conveniently deposited on the nearby shore by winter storms. For this reason West Kilbride was sometimes referred to as the "Tattie Toon". Other crops grown include sweetcorn (for cattle food), barley, root vegetables and summer berries, especially strawberries. Cattle and sheep are also farmed locally.

Industries close to the village include the Hunterston B nuclear power station and the nearby Hunterston Terminal, owned by Clydeport.

A 24MW wind farm, owned and operated by Airtricity, is located on Busbie Muir (about 3km east of Tarbert Hill), and has been operational since February 2004. Its capacity will increase to 30MW when three additional wind turbines become operational, scheduled for Autumn 2007.


Through the endeavours of the local initiative group, West Kilbride is now achieving fame as the "Craft Town Scotland". The village boasts a growing number of craft shops and studios, as well as several leading artists including Silversmith Marion Kane The Initiative Centre provides a convenient way for craftspeople to sell their art and craftwork, in return for a share of the profits.

In September 2006, West Kilbride Craft Town won the Department of Trade and Industry's "Enterprising Britain 2006" competition. Presenting the award, Alistair Darling MP praised the resourcefulness and dedication of the West Kilbride community.


West Kilbride is a community contemplating joining the Transition Towns movement to minimise the town's contribution to climate change and to build resilience in the local economy to the impacts of peak oil.



West Kilbride railway station lies on the Ayrshire Coast Line between Largs and Glasgow Central. The journey to Glasgow takes around 50 minutes. The station is unmanned, with only one passenger track. Trains from Hunterston Terminal run through on the second track, which no longer has a platform as it had when the station first opened in 1878. The station building's architect was James Miller, also known for designing Wemyss Bay railway station in Renfrewshire, and was converted into a restaurant in 2007.


The main A78 road links West Kilbride to as far as Greenock to the north, and Prestwick to the South. The B781 road links West Kilbride to Dalry (and beyond to Glasgow via the A737) in the east. There are half-hourly buses northwards to Largs and Greenock, and southwards to Ardrossan, Saltcoats, Stevenston, Irvine and Ayr. There is also a commuter bus service to Glasgow, the journey taking around 1 hour 35 minutes.


Main features

West Kilbride Primary School serves West Kilbride, Seamill and Portencross. Opened in 1983, it replaced the previous Victorian-era school which had burned down in 1980 on the same site. The original school could support up to 250 pupils. The newer shool has exactly 465 pupils

The West Kilbride Institute and Public Hall, opened in 1900, has been home to the West Kilbride Hoticultural Society's flower shows from the same year. The building currently has a number of other uses, including a permanent local history museum, located on the first floor of the hall. The local library was housed here until 1996 when a dedicated home was built (see below).

The community centre in Corse Street was originally the Paisley Convalescent Home, gifted by James Arthur of Carlung. Opened in the 19th century, it much later became a community centre and now houses many local groups and organisations including bridge, photo, snooker and music clubs, the local cub scouts, computer classes, yoga classes, and the North Ayrshire Music School.

The town's library, opened in 1996, was purpose-built to replace the library originally located in the village hall and is located at the fork of Main Street and Halfway Street. The library is run by North Ayrshire Council.

The War Memorial, originally built in 1921, did not list the names of the dead. This deficiency was remedied on 3 June 2001 (the Sunday nearest D-Day), when the memorial was re-dedicated with four new granite stones listing the names.

Kirktonhall Glen is a woodland walkway leading from West Kilbride to Seamill, gifted to West Kilbride in 1924 by Robert Barr. Through it flows the Kilbride Burn which enters the Firth of Clyde at Seamill.


West Kilbride Golf Club, a championship links course, is situated at Fullerton Drive, Seamill. The original designer of the course was "Old Tom Morris". The club hosted the Millennium British Ladies' Championship, and hosts the Scottish Boys' Championship once every three years.

The bowling club, located on Weston Terrace, has two bowling greens. Its most notable member is Margaret Ross, who was twice Scottish Champion (1976 and 1978) and British Singles Champion (1976). She also represented Britain internationally in 1976, 1978 and 1981-83.

Football pitches, tennis courts and a children's play park are situated near the entrance to Kirktonhall Glen.

Festivals and public events

Scotland's Scarecrow Festival

West Kilbride is the first town in Scotland to organise an annual "Scarecrow Festival". The purpose of the Scarecrow Festival is to foster community spirit and civic pride within West Kilbride and its surrounding area. It celebrates West Kilbride's origins as an agricultural community, while looking to the future through the "Craft Town Scotland" initiative.

Notable residents

Notable residents of West Kilbride have included:

West Kilbride in the news and popular culture



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External links

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