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Well, I thought it was about time that I wrote a little about the place that is my home. Not the place where I was born, but the place where we live now - the Royal Burgh Of Irvine, in North Ayrshire, Scotland. Now, doesn't that sound grand? Ok, geography lesson first. -------------------------------- For those who don't know, and I imagine that is most readers who are not Scottish, the town of Irvine lies on the West Coast of Scotland, approximately 30 miles SW of Glasgow. It is about six miles north Of Troon, which should be a reference point for the golfers, and about fourteen miles north of Ayr, which should be a reference for all you hi-de-hi-ers out there who have spent many a miserable holiday at Butlin's holiday camp, now owned by Haven! You with me now? Good. Two rivers join the Firth of Clyde at Irvine, namely the River Irvine, and the River Garnock. Oh and it is pronounced 'Er-vin' and not 'Er Vine' like the racing driver. OK? Industry ---------- Irvine has traditionally been an industrial town. We have a large paper mill, supporting hundreds of workers. Volvo trucks were in town until recently, and we also have a heavy electronics trade. There are several industrial parks in the area. Unemployment is high in the area, and Enterprise Ayrshire have done an excellent job of attracting new industries to the area, in the form of two call centres and 800 jobs, last year. The opening of a Tesco Extra, created several hundred jobs also. Irvine Harbour ----------------- Irvine Harbour boasts a number of venues. The most recent is 'The Big Idea'. This is an interactive science museum aimed mainly at kids, but adults can enjoy it too. This opened a couple of years ago, and is fairly expensive to get in, at about £7 per head. The museum is built into the land, and covered with grass, and is accessed by a footbridge across the entrance to the harbo ur, which can be lifted to let taller ships through. The Magnum Centre ------------------------ Now we are not known on the West of Scotland for our state of the art leisure centres or indeed our state of health in general, but a big attraction that attracts visitors from miles around is the Magnum Centre. The main activity here is the pool, with waterslides and waves, but you can also play any number of sports, or watch a movie. The centre is run by North Ayrshire Council and is therefore quite cheap to enter, with residents enjoying discounted rates The Ship Inn --------------- The oldest pub in Irvine, built in 1596 or so, and was a pub from 1754. The pub is visited by regulars and tourists alike, and is well known for good pub meals, at excellent value. They don't encourage kids however, and there are no chips on the menu, but I can recommend the haggis. Other pubs down the harbour include the Marina and the Cross Keys. The Harbour Arts Centre ----------------------------- A great little place, which has regular shows at bargain prices. Great if you like amateur dramatics. I saw an opera there recently and I might as well have been on stage, it was so cosy. Scottish Maritime Museum -------------------------------- Definitely worth a visit and not too expensive either. This museum recalls life on the ocean waves, and you can explore old ships. The Ship SS Adelaide, which used to make the regular journey down under, is docked here at present. Shopping ----------- Ok I admit, you don't come to Irvine to go shopping. It is ok for us locals, we have everything we need, for day to day living, but for clothes shopping I would definitely be taking a trip to Glasgow, which takes 37 minutes by train or about 45 mins by road. Irvine is furnished with all the big supermarkets, except Sainsbury, and has a shopping centre called Riverside Shopping Centre as well as a High Street. The High Street is pedestrianised. The shopping centre is quite controversial for old Irvine-ers as they knocked down the old stone bridge in 1974 or so, and built this glass shopping centre over the water instead. In the centre of the town there is an area called Irvine Cross, as is typical of most Scottish Towns. Nearby Attractions ---------------------- South of Irvine you can visit Ayr, Prestwick and Troon. Further south of Ayr, is Culzean Castle with its extensive grounds, and gardens. There is also a tiny cottage called Souter Johnnies cottage, which is on the Burns Heritage Trail. There is also a Burns Heritage Museum. In fact there aren't many places in Ayrshire where you can go, without bumping into a Burns monument. On the way to Culzean Castle there is a road called Electric Brae, which gives you the optical illusion of driving downhill, when you are going uphill, great if you are on a bicycle. Troon and Prestwick are great for the golfers, with their famous courses. In Irvine, you can visit Eglinton Park and Castle, and close by Dalgarven Mill Museum. Almost in the centre of town, you can visit the 'Glasgow Vennel' that dates back to Robbie Burns's times, and indeed he lived here for a short while. North of Ayrshire, and indeed just north of Glasgow but within easy reach is Loch Lomond. Here you can explore the banks, visit the town of Luss, where Take the High Road is filmed, and enjoy lunch at Cameron House Hotel or Duck Bay Marina, overlooking the water. If you really want to go back in time, visit the pub at Inverarnon, called Drovers Inn, which needs to be seen to be believed! A longer but achievable drive can include Stirling and the Trossachs or Edinburgh. Just up the road from me, lies the port of Ardrossan, from where you can catch the ferry to Arran. To travel by foot costs about £5, and to take your car over costs about £70. Attractions include Brodick castle, Goat Fell and a tough golf course! Where to Stay --------------- In Irvine there aren't really many hotels. There is a Thistle, which is a good base, although just out of town. Alternatively for a more upmarket des res, try one of the fantastic Costley and Costley Hotels, which are also restaurants. These are the Brigadoon in Ayr, the Highgrove in Dundonald and the Lochgreen in Troon. There is also a Golf Hotel in Irvine and plenty of B and B accommodation. Irvine has its own tourist office now. Good restaurants -------------------- For pub grub, visit any of the Harbour pubs. For a more upmarket meal the Costley and Costley hotels are popular but you may need to book in advance for a weekend. If you fancy a curry, try the Taj in Prestwick, although the Gulab in Irvine is pretty ok, and about one mile from me, so I am a regular there! If you really want to push the boat out, go to Braidwood's in Saltcoats, about eight miles from Irvine and recently voted Scotland's finest restaurant, and the subject of another opinion of mine. There is also Annbank, the Country House in Town, and Montgreenan Mansion House, a nice establishment a few miles out of town up the Glasgow Road. All of which have been frequented by me over the years. History of the Town ------------------------ There has been people living around Irvine since 6000 BC and evidence of Mesolithic people, together with later, traces of settlers of the Bronze and Iron Ages. There was also a circle of standing stones, where the river now runs, and one stone, Granny Stane, is just visible. Around five thousand years ago, the coastline would have been about one mile from my house, (I am about 3-4 miles from the coast). The sea receded and even five hundred years ago there was a large loch, which no longer exists at all. During the early sixteenth century, the population of Irvine reached 1000. In 1372, Robert II made Irvine a Royal Burg h. In 1760, Irvine was Scotland's third most important port, behind Glasgow/Greenock and Leith. Irvine had 80 ships. There was good trade to Dublin, to ferry coal. There was also trade in tobacco and herring. The Marymass Festival, which still takes place every August, dates back to the mid sixteenth century. Irvine Academy was built in 1816 and the Gas works was established in 1829. The railway station opened ten years later; the line runs to Glasgow and South to Ayr, and on to Stranraer. In the late nineteenth century, pubs were forced to close at 10pm, instead of 11pm, because of 'mischief'. This has obviously been overturned with 1am being the normal drink up time in most pubs, unlike in England. By the beginning of the twentieth century the population was at around 10000. Irvine was a heavy industrial town, including chemicals (ICI), soapworks, (Irvine Soap for Irvine Folk!) metal work, and timber yards. A hosiery factory employed mainly female workforce. By 1970, with changes in the Town Council administration, Irvine finally ceased to be a Burgh. Instead, plans were drawn up to develop the area, and Irvine became a New Town, and a large area was zoned to provide homes for 5000 new residents. The Old Bridge was demolished and the new shopping centre was opened. The Magnum centre and Beach Park were also developed. Today, Irvine has plenty of industrial parks and a rapidly growing population, due to the amount of new housing that keeps appearing! Most of the population do commute out of the area for work, and unemployment is quite high when compared to the national averages. However Enterprise Ayrshire have attracted a lot of jobs to the area over the last few years and better road networks mean it is much easier to commute from Glasgow. Prestwick Airport also reopened for passengers about six years ago, albeit the choice of flights is somewhat limited, and is generally cheap airl ines only. In summary, I love where I live, I am at the edge of the expanding town, looking out over open countryside, and not overlooked. I enjoy the peace and quiet of the area, but at the same time, can get to Glasgow easily, for a more exciting night out. Visitors to Irvine would probably find the town centre quite run down, and not very exciting, which is true, and I definitely don't recommend you come for a holiday unless you plan to travel around the entire area, of Ayrshire, Glasgow and beyond. I start a new job with one of those newly attracted call centres in three days time, and I don't think I will be going anywhere yet, as my time to work is now 5 minutes, in the rush hour, not that we have a rush hour in Irvine!
Having become quite a frequent visitor to Scotland (well Largs in Ayrshire) over the last 12 years, Irvine is usually one of the places we visit. Having spent last week staying with my sister in Largs, we decided to take the children (4 of them aged between 4 and 12) to The Magnum, the sports Complex in Irving. Saying this is a Sports Complex, perhaps doesn't do it justice. It also comprises a cinema, a sports centre, indoor and outdoor swimming pool and many other activities. The Magnum itself is a short drive from the town centre and has free car parking. The children (not the little one) were all able to swim and use the flumes for an unlimited period of time for £1.60p each. As we had not set aside a great deal of time, we returned another wet afternoon for the older 3 boys to use the soft play activity facility, again this cost less than £2.00 per child. Prior to the second visit to the Magnum we visited the shopping centre (all under cover) next to the large Asda superstore. Again the car parking was free. There is a harbour and museum, amongst many other activities available and had the weather been better we would have explored further. Irvine has its own mainline station and is easily assessable by bus and car, being a 45 minute drive from Largs. Well worth a visit and attractions are very fairly priced, especially if you have a large family. This I have to say is typical of many Scottish attractions.
I find Irvine to be a great place, it is a wonderful base for all the surrounding scenery and history of the place, you can go along the coast to Ayr (just 20 minute drive) where you can have a Rabbie Burns experience and relive all his peoms and then theres the Trossachs and Loch Lomand and the famous Electric Brae are all within easy driving distance. If you don`t like the visiting the beauty of the area then you can always hit the citys like GLasgow (25 min train journey or Edinburgh 55 mins on the train). Irvine has access to many parts of Scotland including train and boat trips to the beautifull highlands, you just need to know your way around. Irvine as a town itself isn`t really a tourist town but has many lovely qualities to it. Ayr is mostly the main tourist town in the area. My kids adore the Magnum Leisure Center were they can ice skate and have a swim or a game of badminton, the beach is basic and has the various putting and the maze and swing park etc... are all up behind the magnum over the hills. The night life is excellant there are many clubs and pubs in both Irvine & Ayr that are all worth a visit.
I went on holiday to Irvine in Scotland last year, it certainly ISN'T the pace to go!!! we only decided to go there because we got cheap hotel accomodation through the daily mail. I'd never been to Scotland before and always wanted to go, there were a few hotels around Scoptland to choose from but we chose Irvine as it was on the coast. We took the train up there and got a taxi from Irvine station to the hotel, we knew as soon as the taxi driver asked us if we'd come to visit friends that we'd made a mistake. No wonder the person in tourist informatrion gave me a funny look when I asked her the way to the beach!!! Beach? you must be joking!!! there is absolutely nothing whatsoever in Irvine. All we could see was the sea. We made our way to the coast and found a sign with a map on : fairground, go-carts, crazy golf, maze ect. well, we thought, this looks good, so off we went in search of all this fun, all we found were fields, whether there was once all this entertainment or they are intending to build it I don't know, but there was nothing there. Even the town is crap, no nice little gift shops, just ordinary shops you'll find in any other town. The only good thing was the hotel, it was a Thistle hotel and it was brilliant, indoor swimming pool, jaccuzzi, pool table and even ther own golf course which you can use whenever you like, needless to say we spent most of our holiday in the hotel !!!.