Saturday, 1 June 2013


A recent newspaper report has suggested that Irvine is one of Scotland's cheapest coastal towns to live in, with average house prices running at less than £100,000, less than a third of the average price in Scotland's priciest coastal town, North Berwick on the east coast.  So what does the town offer would-be residents?  The main attraction nowadays is the regenerated harbourside, which boasts the ScottishMaritime Museum as well as the Magnum Centre at Irvine Beach Park, which is Scotland's largest leisure centre.  All this plus an attractive mix of old and new cottages and houses, leisure craft in the harbour and several harbourside pubs makes for a good enough reason to visit the town, or even take advantage of the house prices and move there.  On the northern edge of town is Eglinton Country Park, which includes the remains of Eglinton Castle, built in the late 18th century.  There are a number of grandiose buildings in the town, such as the Irvine Town House, which point to more prosperous times in the past.  Coal mining and coal exports were a particular mainstay of the local economy until the coal industry was brought to its knees.  Partly because of this, Irvine was designated a New Town and acquired a Development Corporation in 1966.  However, this did not prevent the town reaching a low point in the 1980s, when unemployment was running at 22% as a result of industrial decline.  However, the harbourside regeneration plus the arrival of new sources of employment have gone some way to reverse this trend.

Irvine's origins date back to the 12th century, when the settlement was given burgh status by Hugh de Morville, Great Constable of Scotland, and was Scotland's Military Capital.  Irvine subsequently acquired a reputation as a centre of learning and as such was praised by James Boswell and Daniel Defoe.  Edgar Allan Poe went to school in Irvine's kirkgate.  As well as such cerebral pursuits, the town can be credited with a number of inventions, such as the Pneumatic Tyre.  Two of the town's streets, Burns Street and Burns Crescent, are a reminder that Robert Burns once worked in a flax mill there.  The mill was located on the Glasgow Vennel, a conservation area, and the cottage where he stayed while working there has been turned into a museum.  

Map of the area.
Harbourside buildings
  2007 Rosser1954, via Wikimedia Commons

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