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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 55°27′31″N 4°37′47″W / 55.458550°N 4.629822°W / 55.458550; -4.629822

Scottish Gaelic: Inbhir Àir
Scots: Ayr
Burns statue square.JPG
Ayr War Memorial in Burns Statue Square
Ayr is located in Scotland

 Ayr shown within Scotland
Population 46,050 (est. 2006), excluding Prestwick[1]
OS grid reference NS338214
Council area South Ayrshire
Lieutenancy area Ayrshire and Arran
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town AYR
Postcode district KA6-KA8
Dialling code 01292
Police Strathclyde
Fire Strathclyde
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock
Central Ayrshire
Scottish Parliament Ayr
South of Scotland
List of places: UK • Scotland •

Ayr (Scottish Gaelic: Inbhir Àir Mouth of the River Ayr) is a town and port situated on the Firth of Clyde, in south-west Scotland. With a population of around 46,000, Ayr is the largest settlement in Ayrshire, of which it is the county town, and has held royal burgh status since 1205. Ayr is the administrative centre of the South Ayrshire council area, which is the unitary local authority.

To the north of Ayr is the adjoining town of Prestwick, famous for its golf and its aviation industry as home of Glasgow Prestwick International Airport. Other neighbouring settlements include Alloway, known for its associations with the poet Robert Burns.

In 2002, Ayr was one of four Scottish towns competing for city status to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee, losing out to Stirling.[2]



Wallace Tower

In 1197, a castle was built by the River Ayr. Shortly afterwards, in 1205, King William the Lion created a burgh at Ayr. On April 26, 1315, the first Parliament of Scotland was held in Ayr by Robert The Bruce at St.John's Tower by the sea. It was once known as 'Inverair/Inverayr', and this usage is still retained in the Scottish Gaelic form of the name Inbhir Àir.

In the 13th century, friars came to Ayr. Friars were like monks, but instead of withdrawing from the world, they went out to preach. In 1230, Dominican friars arrived in Ayr. According to legend, at the end of the 13th century, the English invited some prominent Scots to a meeting at Ayr, but they then captured and hanged them. In revenge, William Wallace set fire to some barns where English soldiers were staying and burned them to death.

Nevertheless from 1301 to 1312, Ayr was in English hands.

During the 14th century, Ayr flourished. A new settlement grew up across the River Ayr at Newton.

In the 13th century, the houses in Ayr were made of wood, but in the 15th century, some richer citizens began rebuilding their houses in stone. The Tolbooth was built in the early 15th century, and in the late 15th century the Auld Brig was rebuilt.

Later, during Cromwellian times, the town was used as a base and fortress for some of Cromwell's men. Cromwell built a huge wall around certain areas of the town, most of which can still be seen today. St John's Tower, in that area, was originally part of a massive church, but the church was knocked down, and the tower was used to practise on, and is now protected by the "Friends Of Saint Johns Tower" (FROST) residents of the "Fort Area" nearby.

Middle Ages

In the 16th century, Ayr remained a busy port. Wool, fish and hides were exported from Ayr, while wine and salt were still imported. The population of Ayr continued to grow. This was despite outbreaks of plague. Like all Scottish towns, Ayr suffered from epidemics in the 16th and 17th centuries. The plague struck in 1545, 1585, 1587, 1597, 1601, 1606 and 1647. Fortunately the 1647 outbreak was the last.

By the middle of the 17th century, the population of Ayr was probably more than 2,000 and it continued to grow. By the middle of the 18th century, it was probably around 4,000.

In 1760, Sir Thomas Wallace created a new settlement which he called Wallacetoun. During the late 17th and 18th centuries, the textile industry in Ayr flourished. Both wool and linen were made in Ayr. Meanwhile a shoemaking industry in Ayr also prospered.

Some of Ayr's buildings date from this era. Ayr's oldest house, Loudon Hall was first mentioned in 1534, when it belonged to the Sheriff of Ayrshire. Then in 1652, Oliver Cromwell's men built a fort in Ayr, which incorporated the Church of St John, the Baptist. In 1654, Cromwell gave money to build another Kirk, the Auld Kirk, to replace it.

New Bridge was built in 1788. (It was rebuilt in 1878). Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns, was born in Alloway, 3 miles from Ayr in 1759. The great road builder John Loudon McAdam was born in Ayr in 1756.

Modern Ayr

In the 19th century, much of Scotland was transformed by the industrial revolution. However, Ayr did not become a manufacturing centre. It remained a county town although its industries quietly prospered. There were iron foundries in Ayr, and the port continued to flourish. Large amounts of coal were exported from Ayr. There was also a shipbuilding industry in Ayr.

Despite its failure to industrialise, Ayr grew rapidly. In 1801 the population of Ayr parish was almost 5,500. Over the river, Newton had a population of a little over 1,700. By the standards of the time, Ayr was a fair-sized town, and it soon grew much larger. By 1851 the population of Ayr was 21,000. By the end of the 19th century, it was 31,000.

There were a number of improvements to Ayr in the 19th century. From 1826 the streets were lit by gas. After 1842, Ayr had a water supply, and in the late 19th century, sewers were dug. Meanwhile the Burns monument was erected in 1823. The Town Buildings were erected in 1830. Wallace Tower was rebuilt in 1834. Then in 1893 the Carnegie Library was built. In the 19th century, Ayr developed as a holiday town. It was helped by the railway to Glasgow, which opened in 1840 and which made it easier for tourists to reach Ayr.

In the 20th century, Ayr continued to slowly grow. By 1951 its population was 44,000. In the 1920s and 1930s, the first council houses were built in Ayr. Many more were built after 1945. Ayr remained a holiday and market town rather than a manufacturing centre. However, Ayr remains a busy port. From 1901, electric trams ran in the streets of Ayr, but they stopped in 1931.

In 1910 the Auld Brig was repaired, and in 1911 a Pavilion was built. McAdam's Monument was built in 1936. Craigie College was founded in 1965. Ayr By-pass was built in 1971.


The Westminster constituency of Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock is currently held by the Labour Party, the Member of Parliament being Sandra Osborne. From 1950 to 1997 the former Westminster constituency of Ayr was a Conservative seat, the Member of Parliament for most of this period having been George Younger, who represented the constituency from 1964 to 1992.

In the Scottish Parliament, Ayr still exists as a constituency and has been represented by Conservative MSP, John Scott since 2000.

Geography and climate

Ayr is a coastal town which lies on the mouth of the River Ayr. The river then flows out onto the larger Firth of Clyde. From the coast Arran can be seen on a clear day. It is within the region of Strathclyde. Much of the land in and around this area is very flat and low lying. Much of the land however towards the south of Ayr is higher than most areas in the county of Ayrshire. Ayr lies approximately 35 miles southwest of Glasgow.

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Avg high °C (°F) 7 (45) 7 (45) 9 (48) 11 (52) 15 (59) 17 (63) 18 (64) 18 (64) 16 (61) 13 (55) 10 (50) 7 (45) 12 (53)
Avg low °C (°F) 2 (36) 2 (36) 3 (38) 4 (40) 6 (43) 9 (50) 11 (52) 11 (52) 9 (50) 6 (43) 4 (40) 2 (36) 6 (43)

The area experiences very cool summers and somewhat mild winters. The air is cooler during the summer due to its proximity to the sea as water has a major cooling effect on summer temperatures. During the winter months the reverse happens and the sea air has a major warming effect on the climate. The area rarely ever sees extremes due to the effects of sea air. Generally rainfail is plentiful throughout the year due to Atlantic weather systems sweeping in from the west. Compared with the rest of Scotland, the area rarely ever sees much mist and fog this is because it is the land is relatively flat and low lying and with the wind blowing across the flatter land, this generally hinders fog from developing widely. This has made Glasgow Prestwick International Airport particularly well known as one of the less fog prone airports in the Scotland. Snowfall is rare in this area of Scotland because of the mild sea air.[3]



Ayr's industry has flourished over the years mainly because of the River Ayr. Ships were being built on the mouth of the River Ayr in the eighteenth century improved Ayr's economy. From 1883 to 1901, 143 ships and barges were built on the Ayr by Samuel B Knight and the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company. Repair work on the Ayr finished in 1960 when Ailsa moved its operations to Troon.

The North side of Ayr Harbour still operates as a commercial port today, mainly exporting coal, and extensive railway sidings still lead down from the main railway line near Newton-on-Ayr station.

The River Ayr and River Doon were also used for the fishing of whitefish and salmon. These were then exported from Ayr Harbour.

Manufacturing of textiles such as carpets and lining was important to Ayr's economy until the factories closed in the 1970s. This caused mass unemployment in Ayr. Many of the old factories are still standing and can be seen on McCalls Avenue and Walker Road in Lochside, North Ayr, though many are derelict and unsafe. There was also a large factory engaged in the production of fertilisers and other agricultural products. This has since closed but parts of the old complex are sublet by local businesses.

Ayr has always been a hub for shopping in South Scotland with the first department store, Hourstons, opening in 1896. In the 1970s Ayr flourished further with the opening of further stores including Marks and Spencers and Ayr's first shopping centre, the Kyle Centre, was built in 1988. Heathfield Retail park, out-of-city retail park, opened in 1993 with shops such as Halfords and Homebase. Ayr Central Shopping Centre opened in March 2006 with shops such as Debenhams and H&M and underparking for 500 cars.


Ayr has three main roads serving the town:

  • A79 — main road running through Ayr and linking Ayr with Prestwick and its airport.
  • A77(M77) — Ayr by-pass stretching from Glasgow to Stranraer. Ayr by-pass was built in 1971.
  • A70 — running from Ayr to Edinburgh.

Ayr railway station has services to Glasgow Central station with a half-hourly service except on Sundays. There are also regular services to Stranraer, Girvan, Kilmarnock and Newcastle. These services are operated by SPT/First ScotRail.

The town also has air links to European cities from Glasgow Prestwick International Airport located just two miles from Ayr. Ayr is also only 35 miles away from Glasgow Airport which operates further international destinations to Europe, America and the Middle East.

The town also has bus connections spread all of the town and Prestwick. These services are operated by Stagecoach West Scotland. The town has 8 local services. There are express coaches to Glasgow Buchanan Street every 30–60 minutes. Ulsterbus operate bus services to Belfast via Stranraer Ferry service on Stena Line.

Although the town does not have any ferry services from its harbour, it has good access to ferry services, mainly to Northern Ireland. Troon, 5 miles north of Ayr, has a seasonal service to Larne onboard P&O. Troon can be reached by train with trains every 30 minutes, or by bus. Stranraer, 60 miles south of Ayr, has up to 8 daily departures to Belfast.


In the early years of the burgh, Ayr's parish church was St John the Baptist. Today, Ayr has many churches of different denominations.

Church of Scotland is the main denomination in Ayr, with 9 churches spread throughout the town. The Roman Catholic Church has 2 churches, and the Diocese of Galloway Cathedral is in Ayr, St. Margaret's Cathedral. There were previously 3 Roman Catholic churches; however, the Good Shepherd Cathedral closed in 2007. Baptist Church has 2 churches located in Ayr: Ayr Baptist, and Southside. Riverside Church is a popular and modern evangelical church with brethren roots, located in John Street in Ayr. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has 1 church located in Ayr, at Orchard Ave and Mossgiel Rd.[4]


From 1870 until 1880 there were noted improvements to Ayr’s beach and tourist venues with organised entertainment, the sea wall, flattening of the Low Green, ice cream huts and pleasure cruises. In 1902 the Attractions Committee added shelters, lavatory accommodation, bathing machines, and permission was granted for boating, ice cream vendors, and automatic sweetmeat vending machines. In 1911 a new Pavilion opened for summer variety shows. All of these contributed to Ayr becoming one of the prime tourist spots outside of Glasgow.


Nearly 0.36% (167) people in the town can speak Scottish Gaelic, although South Ayrshire Council provides no educational support for the language.[5]



Ayr is served by 15 primary schools:

  • Alloway Primary School
  • Annbank Primary School
  • Braehead Primary School
  • Dalmilling Primary School
  • Doonfoot Primary School
  • Forehill Primary School
  • Good Shepherd Primary School
  • Grammar Primary School
  • Heathfield Primary School
  • Holmston Primary School
  • Kincaidston Primary School
  • Newton Primary School
  • St John's Primary School
  • Whitletts Primary School
  • St. Ann's Primary School


School School Roll Opened Area Served Notes
Ayr Academy 715 1880 (current building) North Ayr Scotland's oldest secondary school
Belmont Academy 1550 1960 (new campus opened in 2008-Constructed by E4A. Managed by MITIE PFI Ltd) South Ayr 6th Largest school in Scotland
Kyle Academy 760 1979 South Ayr
Queen Margaret Academy 662 1977 Roman Catholic pupils in South Ayrshire Only Roman Catholic school in South Ayrshire
Prestwick Academy 1200 1902 Prestwick, North Ayr, Symington and Monkton

On 24 November 2006 it was revealed that Mainholm Academy would be closed permanently for safety reasons.[6] Pupils have been relocated to Ayr, Kyle, Belmont, and Queen Margaret academies.

Pupils living in North Ayr may happen to attend Prestwick Academy instead of Ayr's secondaries.

Wellington School is an independent day school in the Seafield area of Ayr. The school opened in 1836 providing private education for girls. As of 1994, Wellington has welcomed male and female pupils after Drumley House school (Mossblown) was incorporated into Wellington. It is the only independent school in Ayrshire.

Universities and colleges

Ayr College, formerly named Ayr Technical College provides further and higher education courses to the people of Ayrshire and beyond. SQA courses are available in a large variety of areas such as Mathematics and Computing, Social Sciences and practical subjects. Another organisation that provides further and higher education courses is the Scottish Agricultural College based two miles outside of Ayr in Auchincruive.

Ayr has two university campuses:

  • University Campus Ayr - part of the University of the West of Scotland. This campus provides courses in Creative and Cultural Industries (Music, Performance, Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Digital Art), Education, Nursing and Midwifery, and Business.
  • Auchincruive - part of the Scottish Agricultural College. This campus provides degree courses awarded by The University of Glasgow in Agriculture, the Environment, Leisure Management, Adventure Tourism, Horticulture, Countryside Management, and Bioscience among others.

A new £70m University Campus, bringing together facilities for UWS and the Scottish Agricultural College, is currently under construction on a riverside site on the Craigie Estate.

Culture and community

To the north of Ayr is the adjoining town of Prestwick, famous for its golf and its aviation industry, thanks to the presence of Glasgow Prestwick International Airport. Only 5 miles north of Ayr is Troon, also famous for its golf and for hosting the open. Ayr has 3 golf courses that are Bellisle, Seafield and Dalmilling as well as a private one called St Cuthberts.

Other neighbouring places include Alloway, known for its associations with the poet Robert Burns. To the south is Craig Tara, a Haven (formerly Butlins) holiday park, and the fishing village of Dunure, where there is a ruined castle formerly owned by the Kennedy family.

Leisure and activity centres

Ayr beach

Ayr has a sandy beach with an esplanade. This is very popular with joggers and day-trippers.

Ayr only has one leisure centre, this being the Citadel, which opened in 1997, located at the mouth of the River Ayr and at the seafront at the South Harbour area. Its facilities include a main hall measuring 34 m × 27 m (112 ft × 89 ft). This hall can accommodate various sports including 5-a-side football, basketball, volleyball, netball, indoor hockey, indoor cricket practise, badminton and short tennis. As well as individual sports, sporting events and competitions, the hall has also hosted exhibitions, concerts, trade fairs, election counts and awards ceremonies. The Citadel is an expansion of the Ayr swimming pool, which opened in 1972.

The Citadel features a Dance Studio approx 124 m2 (1,330 sq ft). It is predominantly used for dance or exercise classes but also accommodates martial arts groups and drama workshops and two glass backed squash courts.

Whitletts Activity Centre also serves the town of Ayr. It has an 11-a side outdoor soccer pitch and an indoor 5-a-side football pitch.

Near Whitletts Activity Centre there is a 5-a-side football complex called "Goals".


Ayr has four libraries plus a mobile library. The main library in Ayr and South Ayrshire is the Carnegie Library beside the River Ayr. The other libraries are:

  • Alloway Library
  • Carnegie Library
  • Forehill Library
  • John Pollok Library

North Ayr also has connections for Prestwick Library.


Ayr Racecourse is a well-known racecourse in Scotland and hosts both National Hunt and flat racing. It has the largest capacity in Scotland for horse racing.[citation needed] Notable events include the Scottish Grand National (April) and Ayr Gold Cup (September) as well as several night meetings. It was recently put up for sale by the owners and included the Western House Hotel as part of the potential sale.

The town also has a senior football team, Ayr United F.C., who play at Somerset Park. They reached the final of the 2001-2002 Scottish League Cup competition. The club was formed in 1910 with the merger of Ayr F.C. (who were formed in 1879 by the merger of Ayr Thistle and Ayr Academical football clubs) and Ayr Parkhouse F.C.. Whitletts Victoria F.C. are a Junior side from the Whitletts area of Ayr.

Ayr also has a rugby union team, Ayr RFC, who play at Millbrae and are reigning Scottish Club Champions. Ayr also have a rugby league team, Ayr Knights ARLFC, playing at Auchincruive. Ayr Curling Club play at the curling rink in Limekiln Road and Ayr's cricket team plays in Cambusdoon, Burns Wicket.

The Citadel Leisure Centre in Ayr is also the home to South Ayrshire Volleyball Club as well as being the town's only public swimming pool and diving pool. The leisure centre also has squash courts, a gymnasium, dance studio, cafeteria and adjacent salons and youth club. The Citadel Leisure Centre is adjacent to the site of the old Ayr Citadel, a fort built to defend the old town.

Ayr is also home to Scottish Bowling. The greens at Northfield host the SBA and SWBA finals each year as well as the Hamilton Trophy final.

Speedway was staged at Dam Park in 1937, when two meetings, organised by Maurice and Roland Stobbart from Cumbria took place, featuring riders who raced in the north of England, at venues such as Workington and Hyde Road in Manchester.

An Ayrshire basketball team, the Troon Tornadoes, play their national league matches at the Citadel, despite not being an Ayr team. Additionally, Ayr has a Strathclyde league basketball team, Ayr Storm.

Public services

The NHS Ayrshire and Arran Health Board serves South, East and North Ayrshire. Part of Ayrshire and Arran's departmental headquarters is based in Ayr. Ayr used to have four NHS hospitals: Heathfield Hospital (originally a fever hospital, but latterly medical and ophthalmic), Seafield Hospital (children's), Ayr County (originally a voluntary hospital, and latterly confined to surgery) and Ailsa Hospital (psychiatric). It was then decided to build a hospital on the outskirts of Ayr called Ayr Hospital. Ayr Hospital opened in 1993. All the current hospitals are on the same road, next to each other.

Ayr currently has three hospitals:

  • Ayr Hospital - Acute hospital with A&E
  • Ailsa Hospital - mental health hospital
  • The Abbey Carrick Glen Hospital - private hospital

Further along the same road is Hollybush House, used by a charity for the Mental Health welfare of ex-members of the UK Armed Forces.

Ayr is also the regional Headquarters of the Scottish Ambulance Service for South-west Scotland. It is located in Heathfield, next to the site of the old Heathfield Hospital, which has now been partly demolished.

Notable people

Vintage postcard, dated 1899, showing Burns with the monument and cottage in Ayr

Town twinning

Ayr is twinned with Saint-Germain-en-Laye in France.

See also


Further reading

  • Close, R (2005) Ayr A History & Celebration
  • Kennedy, R&J (1992) Old Ayr
  • Love, D (2003) Ayr Past and Present
  • Love, D (2000) Ayr Stories
  • Love, D (1995) Pictorial History of Ayr
  • Reid, D & Andrew K (2001) Ayr Remembered

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

There is more than one place in the world called Ayr. You could be looking for:

  1. Ayr (Scotland), a city in Ayrshire, in Scotland.
  2. Ayr (North Dakota), a small town in North Dakota.
  3. Ayr (Queensland), a small town in the Australian state of Queensland
This article is a disambiguation page. If you arrived here by following a link from another page you can help by correcting it, so that it points to the appropriate disambiguated page.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary






  1. A town in Ayrshire, Scotland


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