Friday, 14 June 2013


Girvan was granted burgh status in 1668, and its economy developed from shoemaking, weaving and fishing.  The town became a popular resort with the arrival of the railway in 1860, bringing daytrippers from Glasgow.  There is still an active fishing fleet operating from the harbour, which lies at the mouth of the river named the Water Of Girvan.  Girvan's beaches offer views to Arran to the north, and to Ailsa Craig out at sea.  The town centre is dominated by the spire of North Parish Church, which was built in 1883.  Another prominent tower is Auld Stumpy, the last surviving part of McMaster Hall, which burned down in 1939.  Each year in early summer the Carrick Lowland Gathering takes place in Girvan, with traditional Scottish entertainment such as pipe bands and a highland dancing competition.  Another major event in June is the Gig On The Green, with a variety of bands and other entertainment.

Looking out to the horizon west of Girvan, the eye is drawn to a distinctive small island rising up out of the sea.  This is Ailsa Craig, which is visible from miles around - I remember seeing it when visiting the Mull Of Kintyre a few years ago.  The name of the island, which is 10 miles offshore from Girvan, comes from the Gaelic for "Fairy Rock".  It was part of an ancient volcano, and features the typical columnar rock formations seen in a number of places in this part of the world - Fingal's Cave and The Giant's Causeway being two more examples.  The rock is a source of a particularly prized form of granite which is used to make curling stones.  In the 19th century there were around 29 inhabitants, working in the quarries and the lighthouse, built in 1883-1886 by Thomas and David Stevenson, but as the quarries closed and the lighthouse went automatic the island became depopulated save for its huge seabird colonies.  The island is home to one of the world's largest gannet colonies with over 70,000 birds, and it has been designated a European Special Protection Area.  Ailsa Craig can be reached by boat from Girvan.

Map of the area.  

File:By The North Breakwater - - 1068562.jpg

  2008 Mary and Angus Hogg, via Wikimedia Commons

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