Sunday, 11 January 2015

Irvine, North Ayrshire

Setting down for the night  GJC_016102

It's that time of year again when people think about where they're going for summer holidays or weekend breaks. I usually have a week off work in May for just me and the camera exploring unusual or unique places either new or nostalgic. You may remember my series from Oban that included planes, boats, bikes, seals and puffins. I was hoping to replicate some of this a bit further north in Mallaig but accommodation was impossible at such short notice, one guest house owner offered me a week later in the year which I accepted.

River Irvine sunset  GJC_016105
River Irvine sunset
Finding something interesting to do this week was difficult without having to repeatedly cover the same motorway stretch to Manchester and beyond to Wales for other reasons. The Nostalgic strings of my youth kept pulling at me with some Firth of Clyde boat trips. The plan in my head of how the week was going to shape up seemed quite easy in reality as there would be three boat trips, maybe a train trip if it was wet and a day tying up some other loose ends on the mainland. The worst thing about this week was trying to find central accommodation as the main hotel and guest house town (Ayr) was in the south, meaning I would have to travel north every day. In fact the accommodation was so difficult to find that I ended up using and the chosen destination was Kidron House on the outskirts and in a suburb of Irvine. Just to highlight what kind of clientele stayed here, I had an interesting, awkward and yet funny conversation with one of the friendly indian waiters. He didn't understand why I was staying there as I wasn't on business, didn't have my golf clubs and I wasn't American ! I would be quite prepared to stay there again even if it was to break his stereotypical attitude. One thing he and his colleagues didn't like about me was that I was never in the hotel bar to tip them because as this post shows, I was always out at night, getting back late. Kidron House Hotel did me well though and here is the trip advisor link of the Hotel and the best place for local food for my budget was The_Ship_Inn. Unfortunately I was only in Irvine for two of the five evening meals and this occasion was later in the week.

Harbourside & Maritime museum cafe  GJC_016104
Harbourside and Scottish Maritime Museum cafe.
In what I thought was going to be an introductory filler post of a few photos of boats, an old street and some sunsets has turned into a major post as I've had to constantly add photographic material to support the text.

Irvine is 26 miles south west of Glasgow and probably developed as a result of the adjacent River Irvine that meanders near the entrance to the Firth of Clyde. The history seems to date back to 1140 when it received Burgh status and development later with coal mining and the subsequent export from the great river links. Given it's history, there was a strange move to give Irvine a New Town status but employment was dealt a great blow in the 1980's with the closure of the coal mines. A short time later the area saw growth in the the construction of industrial, coaching and commercial vehicles to utilise some of the redundant workforce, with Irvine sharing these opportunities until further closure in 1999. The UK's largest paper mill was opened nearby in 1989 by a Finnish company.

I sometimes surprise myself with the locations I post from but I do like a challenge of finding a set of images from a unheard of town. Irvine is usually a place that people, including myself, bypass on the A78 road and the Ayr to Glasgow railway line, although I did once call in to see its most famous attraction late in an afternoon back in 1992.

Maritime Gate  GJC_016157_edited-1 (1)
Scottish Maritime Museum gate
Unfortunately The Scottish Maritime Museum had already closed for the day.

Maritime museum gates  GJC_016159

On this current visit, the weather on my first day was miserable and this seemed like the best indoor option and introduction to all that shipping in The Firth of Clyde could offer me this week. Hoping to find some interest and colour !!

Scottish Maritime Museum  GJC_016228_edited-1
Scottish Maritime museum architecture

Katie   GJC_016225

 In addition to the main building, the museum also owns other exhibits in the vicinity nearby ...

Shipyard workers flat   GJC_016167_edited-1 (1)
The Shipyard worker's Flat,  Irvine

Harbourside skies  GJC_016129 (1)
M.V Kyles (rear) boat,  Irvine Harbourside

Harbourside sunset  GJC_016130
Irvine Harbourside Sunset
Both sites were accessed by means of a very good guided walking tour from the museum at no extra charge.

Dinghy Challenge  GJC_016219
Dinghy Challenge,  Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine
By far the best entertainment of the day was the Dinghy challenge. As you can see from an earlier image, the museum was a bit desolate on a cold rainy day in May so there were no prying eyes of children watching an adult have some fun !! With the exception of the green and red emergency buttons, there were only two controls of the yacht rigging for the sail on the left and the steering wheel.. The slalom course that appeared on the screen consisted of a harbour and a series of posts to manoeuvre around roughly in a circle and back into port. On my first go I just steered the wheel, realised that there was a time limit 2/3 the way through and subsequently ran out of time. I discovered the rigging wheel to the left and how it worked during my second experimental experience. On the third attempt I managed to beat the clock, but not before becoming exhausted in my efforts ... almost like the real thing without the wind and rain outside !!

Linthouse Vennel   GJC_016237_edited-1 (1)
Linthouse Vennel,  Irvine Harbour
The surrounding streets of the museum in the Harbourside area were a mixture of historic and photogenic residential housing.

Gottries houses  GJC_016248_edited-1
Gottries Road,  , Irvine

Gottries Road  GJC_016249_edited-1 (1)
Gottries Road,  Irvine

Gottries Architecture   GJC_016247_edited-2 (1)
Gottries Road, Irvine

Gottries Road lamp  GJC_016147_edited-1 (1)
Gottries Road, Irvine
Buildings no doubt with some maritime history although I'll have to leave you guessing with their former use or authenticity !!

The Big idea  GJC_016124
The Big Idea, Irvine
Despite the main attraction of Irvine being the Scottish Maritime Museum, the town tried to push the tourism boat out a little further with a Millennium Project called The Big Idea. Scottish inventors were celebrated attracting 120,000 people in the first year 2000. Unfortunately interest was not sustained and visitor numbers fell by less than half the following year before finally closing the door and walkway in 2003.
This most unusual and difficult to understand location was explained to me by a local man out for an evening walk with his dog. As the grass covered roofed building seemed partially hidden from public view, it seemed natural that it was left to sit for 11 years with no final decision on it's future. In a sense The Big Idea seemed like a good idea at the time but remained just a big idea, Shame.

Carter & his Horse  GJC_016854
Carter and his Horse by David Annand
Just across the road from The Ship Inn and Marina Inn on the Harbourside is the sculpture of Carter and his Horse representing the transporting of ships cargo. It was difficult to get a decent shot of this during the course of the week as it was raining on the first day and always dark when I arrived later at the scene following a day out.

Rivergate shopping Centre   GJC_016096
The Rivergate Shopping Centre, Irvine
It might seem unusual to insert an image of a modern shopping centre here but I saw this building as a key to keeping the town alive. Not that I'm suggesting it's through retail sales alone but somehow linking sections of the town together as a result of topography and transport routes.
My first late night exploration of the town involved  the thought process and a journey of discovery in how I could walk from the main street bus stop to the railway station for a potential car free day out. Irvine wasn't the easiest place to negotiate around by car thanks to a bus only main street and curving roads that easily lost my normally good sense of direction. Thankfully the shopping Mall although very long and eerie stayed open to act as a useful bridge to cross over a main road, river and then descend to ground level nearer the coast and the railway station.

Kings Arms Hotel  GJC_016099

Too often in Cities and Towns, the retail chain stores are attracted to move premises into a newly created shopping centre leaving the High Street to struggle on with second rate shops, businesses that can't relocate and those that suffer lack of investment. I'm not saying the above image has anything to do with that as they might be in the process of renovation, but hey, I couldn't resist as it makes a great comedy shot !

Trinity Mirror  GJC_016095_edited-1 (1)
Trinity Mirror
In my mind and having confirmed it with a bit of research, it seems that Trinity Church and Trinity Mirror are at the centre and fulcrum of the the town. After falling into a severe state of disrepair, the church was refurbished over a 42 week period from November 2012 for some community use to regenerate the town and link the main street with The Rivergate Shopping Centre. The foreground polished stainless steel monument grabbed my attention with reversed deep thinking words and phrases on the base relating to the geography, history and poetic thoughts of the River Irvine. The text can only be read using the vertical columned reflection and the £90,000 structure that is proportional sizing to the church steeple divides opinion of the local residents.

Hill Street  GJC_016087
Hill Street, Irvine
With a mixture of getting my bearings and looking for somewhere to eat later in the day, I stumbled on a couple of historical streets,

Glasgow Vennel  GJC_017051
Glasgow Vennel,  Irvine
the second of which was where the local Robert Burns the poet lodged for a year in 1781.

Despite staying here for a week, I was disappointed that I didn't get better lit or car free images of The Town House on the High Street.

Sunset above Arran  GJC_016121

After my trip to the west coast of Scotland the previous year to Oban I was hoping to re-create some magical sunsets this time across the Firth of Clyde to The Isle of Arran. Unfortunately it didn't quite work on this occasion but inserted it to give you a reason why I found accommodation near the coast. Used wide angle to give more foreground and cloud perspective on this occasion. I'll re-visit the sunset theme from a different evening location later in the series.

Irvine Bay sign  GJC_016850
Irvine Bay sign
Irvine Bay Regeneration company has a symbol that seems to represent drops or splashes of water, it certainly has potential as a great silhouette.

This way for Irvine Bay  GJC_016261

On the afternoon of my first day, the weather turned grey and rainy LOL, so I decided head south for the afternoon into some sunshine (next post)

... always best to escape being eaten by a crocodile crowd, poor boat !! ...

Crocodile Cloud  GJC_016134
Crocodile Cloud !!


  1. Checking back to refresh my memory I remember reading the Oban series of posts.
    Amazing scenic images you shot and the pie and chips looked good as well.{:))

    1. Thanks Roy for your comment & visit, I'm looking at Oban again in May this year as there was too much to see last time.

  2. I really like the King's Arms Hotel shot with the decay, but the Crocodile Cloud is really spectacular!

    1. Thanks Michelle... the crocodile cloud was a good bit of fun that I noticed by chance. Not sure whether the Kings Arms would love my shot though !

  3. Some wonderful shots here, J. You not only have a good eye, but evidently take a lot of care too. I tend to point and shoot!

    1. Thanks Mike, I find that spending an extra 5 - 10 seconds composing the picture can improve the image greatly. To be fair, on this occasion I had a lot more time on my hands than other published posts in the last 6 months.

  4. Thanks for this introduction to Irvine.....a place I've never visited.... Great images as always J.

    1. Thanks Trevor, didn't mean to do a post from here although I had to find somewhere to start in this area. Strange how a couple of sunsets, a museum and a street lamp develop into something like this. Can't believe I captured a shopping centre scene far less published it !!

  5. A fine set of photographs, this looks like a really interesting place to visit.

    I can see how the Trinity mirror would divide opinion, especially due to where it is located.

    1. Thanks Cherry Pie, I love a challenge of an unheard of town (to many people) as there's always something decent to depict. If I hadn't stayed here, I would have missed out on so many evening explorations and probably ended up with just the maritime museum and the architectural building next door.
      The authorities seem desperate to make new innovations work for the survival of business and the town. Arguably the towns best asset (other than the Maritime Museum) is probably the railway station and the prices / links that entails. However it is dual edged as trade is taken away from the town in addition to business coming in.

  6. The curvy roads affecting your normally good sense of direction made me laugh. I don't know how anyone can tell cardinal directions in the UK. All the roads are curvy and you don't have sunshine. Yes, that's an unfair generalization, but coming from a state whose counties are mostly rectangular, it have me a chuckle.

    Very sad about the museum. Your photos are stunning as usual. I especially like the sky and river shots. Breathtaking!

    1. Thanks Cranberry Morning, I understand where you are coming from as I grew up in a 1910 terraced area with additions and later extensions that mirrored that albeit with a softer more subtle approach.
      It took me a while re-unite the town in my head with the car and only in an anti clockwise direction. The best concise image map I can find that explains my problem on how you can lost is illustrated on this site ... ... with the circular road eventually joining the dual carriageway ... so annoying, to me 2 - 3 days to get my head around it all.
      I suppose the sunsets brightened up the post ... so to speak !

  7. Irvine seems to be a town of many faces!

    My attention was especially caught by the Trinity Mirror and its relevance to the Trinity Church. Connection of something old and traditional with something new and modern may or may not work and may be highly debatable. I like this particular combination as I can see it in your photo, it has an interesting idea, yet I haven't seen it at the spot where the impression might be different. There is something similar in the city where I grew up – in the main square of Pilsen, there is a big church or rather a small cathedral and they erected ultra-modern expensive big rectangular fountains covered with thin golden plates in three corners of the square. In the fourth corner there is an old plague pillar. I got used to the fountains and most people did but I don't know anyone who would actually like them.

    1. Thanks Petra, Sculptures and public art are debatable amongst the public. It is interesting how the modern artist / sculptor and maybe a radical thinker from the local authority force us to look at such things. I think they take their brief from similar popularity elsewhere thinking it might work for them as well. From a photographers point of view, this was the best aspect to capture it as the surrounding buildings made up two sides of a modern shopping centre.
      I can think of another example near me that severely divided opinion at the time of construction but most of the opponents became accustomed to it over the years. These days it is iconic and has set the trend in other parts of the country to promote tourism and subsequent trade.

    2. The sculpture of the angel you left a link to looks very interesting and yes, debatable. I actually like it because without knowing anything about it I'd say that it personifies the old dream of people being able to fly, both physically and mentally, which is something profound and deep within all of us.

    3. Hi Petra, I suppose with all art, interpretation is in the eye of the viewer, The artwork was so controversial in the late planning stage that there was a limited campaign to stop the 3 piece construction going ahead. As a result, we were informed by sources from the local council that the angel represented protection of the area due to the length of the wings. It stands on a hill and is seen from many parts including the adjacent London - Edinburgh road. I always think of it as a welcome home with long open arms after a road trip away :-) If the traveller knows when and where to look, it can also be seen additionally from the London - Edinburgh railway line.

  8. Back again, beautiful sunlit photos! Just checking in to see how you're doing. K&J


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