Scotland’s rich maritime heritage is salvaged and brought to life
THE rich heritage of ships and shipbuilding in the west of Scotland isn’t limited to the Clyde and its estuary. Go “doon the watter” to the Firth of Clyde, to the town of Irvine in particular, and maritime history, culture and heritage is there for all to see – particularly if you visit the Scottish Maritime Museum.
The museum collects, preserves and presents vessels, engineering and maritime artefacts representing shipbuilding and seafaring, both in Irvine and along the length of Scotland’s coastline.
It’s quite obvious why it’s a top Ayrshire attraction. The MV Kyles, launched in 1872 and the oldest Clyde-built vessel still afloat, is berthed in the harbour as is the Spartan, the only surviving Scottish-built puffer.
The puffer was a single-mast steam cargo vessel that plied the west coast of Scotland.
The museum has also established a national art collection that brings the maritime heritage to life. Its “home” is an attraction in itself – a former Victorian engine shop which lay derelict in a Govan shipyard, before being salvaged and rebuilt in Irvine.
The result of this ambitious project is The Linthouse, a stunning red-brick and iron Victorian edifice comprising 3700 sq m (40,000 sq ft) and with 2100 panes of glass. If anything can shed light on Ayrshire’s maritime history, this building can.
After absorbing all The Linthouse has to offer, you can enjoy a tour along the harbourside where you can clamber aboard the MV Kyles and discover what life would have been like on this, one of the UK’S most historic vessels.
A short walk will take you to another jewel in the museum’s crown. Presented to the museum by the Irvine Historical Society and North Ayrshire Council, the Shipyard Worker’s Tenement Flat it is an authentic two-room dwelling, lovingly restored to its original 1920s condition.
You’ve just experienced what life was like on the ocean wave thanks to the Kyles. Now you get a real feel for what life was like for the thousands of shipbuilders who worked in Irvine harbour.
The attraction began life in the early 1980s when a group of enthusiasts, the West of Scotland Boat Museum Association, were determined to establish a maritime collection and open it in Irvine, such was its rich shipbuilding tradition. It opened in 1983, with the Linthouse in place by 1991.
The museum’s director is David Mann. “Beyond tourism, the museum plays a major role within the local community,” he says. “As well as being an employer through staffing and through the Boat Building School trainee scheme, it is committed to
“We want to fire the imaginations of our visitors” youngest
A lifeboat has pride of place
A moment of awe!