Yes, ye moss-green walks,
Ye towers defenceless, I revisit ye!
Where are all your trophies now?
Your thronged courts, the revelry, the tumult,
That spoke the gandeur of my house, the homage
Of neighbouring Barons?
THIS bustling town, and thriving sea-port is situated on the Ayrshire coast, partly in the parish of Ardrossan, and partly in that of Stevenston. It is distant about 13 miles from Largs, and 20 miles from Ayr. Saltcoats contains several streets, but they are narrow, crooked and irregularly built. The harbour, however, admits vessels of 220 tons burden, and the trade of the place is considerable. The principal export is coals; corn, timber, hemp and iron the chief imports. In 1810, 30 vessels amounting to 2300 tons, and navigated by 220 men belonged to this port. The parish church of Ardrossan is situated in the town, and there are two United Associate meeting houses, a Relief meeting house, a parish school, and a post office. Saltcoats also contains a brewery, a ropework, saltworks, a tanyard, and a chemical work. Shipbuilding, and weaving of silk and cotton, with the flowering and tambouring of muslins for Glasgow and Paisley, employ many of the inhabitants. A branch of the Ayr bank, and one of the Paisley bank are established in the town. This place was created a burgh of barony by charter of James V. dated 1st February, 1528-9; but it is only from about 1700 that the commencement of its rise can be dated. Its advance subsequent to this date, is to be attributed to the exertions of Sir Robert Cunninghame of Auchenharvie, who becoming proprietor of the principal part of the parish of Stevenston, commenced and carried on extensive mining operations, by which the immense beds of coal contained in this parish were rendered available to home use, and to commerce. This valuable mineral has been the source of wealth to Saltcoats.
The view of Saltcoats, given in the engraving, is taken from the hill behind Ardrossan on which stands the ruins of the ancient castle of that name. This hill though not of great height commands a very extensive prospect, owing to the flat surface of the coast between it and the town of Ayr. Indeed the whole of the coast and for some miles inland, which forms the shore of the immense bay extending from the point of Ardrossan, to a headland of the Brown Carrick hills, on which stands Grennan Castle beyond Ayr, is flat and sandy, and its whole extent is distinctly seen from Ardrossan Castle. In the foreground of the picture is seen the ancient castle, and part of the town of Ardrossan; in the middle distance the town of Saltcoats, partly erected on a point of land stretching into the sea; beyond this is seen the point of land on which the present Duke or Portland has erected the village and harbour of Troon, and to which he has constructed railways leading from his extensive Coal works near Kilmarnock; and in the extreme distance is seen the Brown Carrick hills, which, forming a bold headland a few miles beyond Ayr, thus terminate the view.
Ardrossan is a fashionable sea bathing place of modern origin. It was entirely built, and an extensive harbour constructed at it, by the late Earl of Eglinton who, however, did not live to finish the magnificent projects which he had formed with regard to it. Several broad and spacious streets have been formed, which have been but very partially built. The houses, however, are all elegant, and according to a regular plan. Two crescents were to have been built, in the centre of one of which it was proposed to erect an elegant church. Extensive and commodious markets, and many other splendid projects were formed, which had they been executed, would have made Ardrossan the most beautiful little town in Scotland. In its present state, however, it barely presents the outline of what was intended.
The harbour was also a noble design, in which though still unfinished, the Earl is said to have expended about L84,000 sterling. Had the canal projected from Glasgow to Ardrossan, been finished in its whole course, the utility of the harbour might have in the end been proved. But the profits of that part of the canal which was executed, did not encourage the proprietors to proceed farther; and the visitor of Ardrossan has the mortification to behold a capacious and noble harbour, without trade or shipping of any kind. So earnest, however, was the projector in favour of its completion that even on his death-bed he did not forget it, but instructed his trustees to expend L5000 yearly for that purpose.
The Castle of Ardrossan stands behind the town, upon a hill which appears to have been at one time surrounded by the sea. So small a portion even of the ruins now remain, that it is impossible to say what was its original extent. Previous to the middle of the fourteenth century, it was the residence of an ancient family, who took their name from their lands. From this family it passed by marriage to the De Eglintons of Eglinton; and from them in the same manner, to the ancestors of the present Earl of Eglinton. The barony of Ardrossan has been transmitted undiminished, in this noble family for 500 years. When Cromwell invaded Scotland the castle was quite entire, and was often the residence of the family of Eglinton. It was however destroyed by Cromwell, and the very stones carried off to build his fort at Ayr. The Earl having in the mean time retired to his Castle in the lesser Cumbrae.