After an interesting few hours of exploration in the town of Irvine, we left for nearby Troon, and as darkness fell we pulled into this famous Ayrshire town…
Status: South Ayrshire Council Area (historically Ayrshire), Town, Scotland
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Ayrshire Coast, Town Hall, Lamp Standards, South Beach, North Beach, War Memorial, St Meddans Church, Lady Isle, Portland Parish Church, Old Parish Church, Old Parish Church Hall, Isle of Arran, Ailsa Craig, Lady Isle Beacons, Lady Isle Lighthouse etc
We parked up outside Troon Town Hall, located close to South Beach in the town. Outside on the pavement are 2 darkish red Lamp Posts, which bear the Coat of Arms of Troon on the exterior of the lamp covering.
The Town Hall building itself was designed by James Miller (1860 – 1947, Perthshire Architect who also designed Glasgow Central Railway Station) at the start of the 20th Century. Completed in 1932, this fine Georgian Building originally comprised just the section shown above, a 2 storey office block facing out onto the B749 – South Beach Road. Around 1970 an extension was added to the West of the building by a duo of architects called Alastair Frew Wallace (1908 – 1994) & Richard Mervyn Noad (1906 – 1991), and was again 2 storeys.
The building was once home to the local burgh council, as Troon had been designated an independent Royal Burgh of Scotland. In 1975 these burghs were abolished, and Troon came under the jurisdiction of Ayrshire in one of the new districts within the county. This was then itself abolished in 1996 and Troon came under the jurisdiction of the new South Ayrshire Council Area. The current administrative capital of South Ayrshire is the larger town of Ayr, meaning that the ruling council for the region is now located there. The building is still in use, as Troon Community Council meet here, and the Concert Hall to the rear of the original portion of the building is available for hire for weddings etc.
Directly across the road from the Town Hall lies the towns Library, a much more modern building than the Town Hall. In front of it lies a well tended garden, although because of the time of year obviously it wasn’t in full bloom. Between the 2 sections of garden is a short statue of what could be a boy looking out to sea, possibly waiting for a family member to return?
Behind the Library you can see the Roof/Spire of St Meddans Church, one of a number of Churches located in this area of Troon. This Presbyterian Church was originally designed by Mr John Bennie Wilson (1849 – 1923, Glaswegian Architect) as a replacement for a previous Church called “Seagate” located on New Portland Street, not far from here. In 1888 the foundation stone was laid by the Lord Provost of Glasgow, John Muir (1838 – 1914, Provost being the Scottish equivalent to the Mayor). 13 months later the building was complete, and in July 1889 it opened for business.
Aside from having a Glaswegian Architect and Foundation Stone layer, the building also benefitted from one significant addition from the city, the Clock in the tower. This was built by a watchmaker from the city called Andrew Dickie, and it was then installed in the Old College buildings that made up part of the University of Glasgow. Presumably these were later demolished, and a home was needed for the Clock, so it was brought to Troon. The official Church website suggests that it may have originally been meant for nearby Portland Parish Church (visible at the extreme right of the picture, but more on that later), and as that building doesn’t have a Tower which could have held the Clock, they passed it on to St Meddans.
Interestingly, the old Seagate Church is now once again in use as a place of worship, and Seagate and St Meddans now work together in partnership to serve the local community.
We left the B749, and cut through the Town Hall car park to get down to the South Beach. On the esplanade we found Troon War Memorial, completed in 1924 by Sir Alfred Gilbert (1854 – 1934, English Sculptor) in memory of the soldiers from the town and local area who lost their lives in World War I. The central plinth is topped by a bronze statue of Liberty, gazing out into the Firth of Clyde safe in the knowledge that Britain is, as always, a free land.
This area forms the South Beach, as a large peninsula which also contains a harbour and a marina, separates us here from the North Beach at the other end of the town. Ferries regularly leave from the Harbour for the town of Larne in Northern Ireland, where they connect up with the local train system and allow passengers to transit to Belfast. A similar ferry service leaves from Cairnryan in Dumfries & Galloway, heading to both Larne and Belfast itself.
I imagine the views from here must be spectacular during the day, but as night fell the horizon was getting closer and closer. The Ayrshire coast is famous for it’s beauty, and I can see why, despite not being able to see as much in the evening, it was still pretty stunning to look at.
About 2 miles away from the beach, out into the Firth of Clyde, lies a small uninhabited island called “Lady Isle.” Because of it’s remote location, the isle is a hazard for shipping, so precautions were put in place as far back as 1776 to guide ships in to anchor. The original anchoring points were 2 tall beacons, which were positioned in line with each other to indicate the direction to a safe place to anchor. Only 1 of these beacons still survives, and if you look VERY closely just to the left of the Lighthouse you will spot the beacon.
The new Lighthouse was built around 1903, and stands on the spot that the 2nd beacon once occupied. Although obviously its very hard to tell from this distance, the Lighthouse isn’t your typical Lighthouse layout. Instead of a hollow cylindrical tower containing the stairs, leading up to the lantern gallery at the top, the gallery is instead mounted on a tall cross shaped wall, with a set of metal steps spiralling around the exterior. As you can see the light was shining when we arrived, and despite it rotating constantly and going out of view every few seconds I managed to catch it on the return cycle.
Far behind Lady Isle, but unfortunately not showing up on the picture due to the time of day, is Scotland’s 7th largest island, the Isle of Arran, which covers 167 square miles. Ferry crossings are available to the island from the town of Ardrossan, a few miles North of Irvine. On a clear day a further island called “Ailsa Craig” is also visible, located off the coast near Girvan, around 30 miles South of here.
Looking back shorewards, we spotted the aforementioned Portland Parish Church, a much newer United Free Church dating back to 1914. Designed by Thomas Melville Lunan (Born 1878, Died ??) and Henry Edward Clifford (1852 – 1932), this stunning sandstone Church is indeed towerless, forcing it to waive the honour of receiving the clock from Glasgow which eventually went to St Meddans up the road.
Thanks to a helpful comment by the Church Activist Catriona McKellar, I can also give you the following information:
“Having originally met on the sand dunes in Troon, due to the lack of a building after the break-away from the Established Church of Scotland, the congregation of Portland United Free Church found a building which was originally situated on the corner of Barassie Street, where the swimming pool is now located, here the congregation shared a building that was during the week a school, at the weekends a church and was laterally a hospital. In 1856, a new building was constructed which was located at the corner of Portland Street and Church Street (where W H Smith is now located) and it had a large steeple, which housed the clocks which were originally in the Old Tron Church in Glasgow – they had come to Troon as the minister of that time had been previously minister in the Old Tron Church. This building was plagued with flooding issues and was too small for the congregation, and so in 1911 the decision was taken to build a new church, which was opened in 1914 on the current site, at the corner of South Beach and St Meddans Street. This was made possible due to the fundraising of the congregation which included a bazaar, which was opened by the Duchess of Portland. The building was not immediately used as a Church however, as war had broken out and the decision was made by the Deacon’s Court that the building should be used to house a Red Cross hospital, which it did throughout the war. Also during this time the minister Rev G Brander had volunteered for the army and was a prisoner of war. After the war, the building in Portland Street was eventually sold and the clocks were gifted by Portland to St Meddans, as they didn’t have a clock tower in the new church. Interestingly some 80 years later, a cross was placed on the front of Portland, which was a gift from the Catholic Chapel – the cross was originally housed on St Patrick’s School building, which was demolished to make way for a brand new building. We have very good relationships in Troon between all of the churches and other religions! Portland Parish Church also has a wonderful Harrison and Harrison organ, one of the last to be voiced personally by Arthur Harrison prior to the outbreak of war when he lost so many of his workers, and it was brought back to its original condition through a complete overhaul, two years ago. It is made of sandstone and there is Iona marble on the chancel; the font and the pulpit were hand-carved and the Bible Lectern is a memorial for those in the congregation who died in the Second World War.”
The building is aesthetically very similar to another building just up the road, where we were headed next…
At the far left of this picture you can see the Town Hall, and to get this shot we had moved North up the B749, past the Town Hall away from the other Churches. It is officially known as “Troon Old Parish Church” and is 1 in a long line of Churches to serve as Troons Parish Church for the Church of Scotland.
The 1st was built in 1822 on Barassie Street, East of here near the railway line between Glasgow and Ayr. This remained in use for nearly 2 decades, until it was replaced by the 2nd incarnation in 1838, which is actually located directly to the right of the present Church, and can be seen in the next picture. This was then in turn replaced by the present Church, designed by Mr Hippolyte Jean Blanc (1844 – 1917, Architect from Edinburgh).
The foundation stone was laid in 1893 by the 6th Duke of Portland, William Cavendish-Bentinck (1857 – 1943), with his wife the Duchess of Portland, Winifred Cavendish-Bentinck (1863 – 1954) also in attendance. It wouldn’t be until 1895 however that the doors finally opened to admit worshippers, and the Church has seen regular use ever since. Like Portland Parish Church it has no tower, although there were plans for a grand 180 ft steeple to adorn the roof, but it was never completed.
This is the 2nd Church (1837) just to the left of the present 1. We have seen many similar buildings around Scotland, which have been 1 of either Town Hall, Church or Tollbooth buildings. It’s a beautiful building, and its great to see that even after it was eventually superseded it was kept, and today it serves as the Church Hall to the regular Church alongside it.
That was the end of our trip around Troon, the darkness was rolling in and the gales were picking up. Hopefully we shall get back sometime to see the area in the daytime, however we still had a memorable night time exploration of this fascinating little town. Transport wise, Troon is served by 2 train stations, “Troon” in the town centre, and “Barassie” in the suburban village of Barassie on the Northern outskirts of town. Both are located on the Ayrshire Coast Line between Glasgow Central and Ayr, via Irvine, Barassie and Troon. Trains from Kilmarnock to Ayr coming from the Glasgow & South Western Line also call at Troon Station, and connections from Kilmarnock are available towards Dumfries, Annan, Gretna Green and Carlisle.
The nearest local airports are Glasgow Prestwick just outside Ayr, and Glasgow International, where you can take internal flights around the UK, as well as International Flights.
Troon is a great little town, with some stunning views along the coast, and plenty of interesting buildings dating back centuries, most of which are located in this heritage area around the Town Hall and the old Churches. This was the end of our road trip through Dumfries & Galloway to the Ayrshire Coast, and it was time to head for home.