West Kilbride, Portencross and Seamill are parts of a small area on the west coast of Scotland by the Firth of Clyde, looking across the water to Arran. The village of West Kilbride itself is nestled between Law Hill and Tarbert Hill (backed onto by the Crosbie Hills) and is home to Law castle.
West Kilbride's Coat of Arms is a shield split horizontally, with the bottom section divided again into three parts vertically. The top of the shield bears two fleur de lis with a hunting horn between them. The left and right sections of the bottom of the shield are depictions of two castles representing Law and Portencross castles. In the Centre section is a representation of the Spanish galleon which was sunk off Portencross. Below the galleon is the cross of St. Bride overlaid with a mill iron and above it the shuttle to represent the village's old weaving industry.
The Castles in the area are of significant interest to those who study the history of the area and as well as being easily seen and accessible they have been the subject of several myths and local stories.
Law Castle (situated on Law Hill) was built in the 1400's for King James III's sister Mary. The castle is a simple rectangular structure with a triangular roof and several large chimneys protdruding at each side.
The 14th century Portencross Castle is situated right next to the sea at Portencross harbour. It is "L" shaped and four stories high with a barrel vaulted ceiling. The castle is currently roofless due to storm damage but is otherwise in reasonable shape, even though unlike Law Castle, little has been done to restore it. Currently the Castle is under consideration for ownership by the people of West Kilbride, Seamill and Portencross after fierce battling to take it off the market by the residents.
West Kilbride is also home to several churches: Overton and St. Andrew's (formerly St. Bride's), which are both Church of Scotland, as well as the diminuitive St Bride's Catholic Chapel. "The Barony", a large 13th century sandstone church, is situated just across from St. Andrew's. This building is no longer in use as a church; however, it remains in public hands, being used for many events such as auctions and art shows.
St. Andrew's is not only a church but has several large function rooms which are used for some local groups. It has a large rose stained glass window and a tall gothic spire belltower. Overton church is a large red sandstone building with a spectacular interior and a very loud, working belltower. St Bride's is small though has recently been refurbished and also has a large garden behind it.
West Kilbride was a weaving town as well as agricultural, with oats, barley, flax and potatoes all being produced in the 1700's. Today the farmland is mainly used for sheep and cattle, though the famous (and very tasty) local potatoes are still grown as well as sweetcorn.
The other major industries which now overshadow the village are Hunterston nuclear power station and the nearby ore teminal owned by Clydeport (Hunterston ore terminal).
Trains from Clydeport and Hunterston run through West Kilbride's small station on the second line which no longer has a platform (as it originally did when first built in late 1870's)
The line at West Kilbride extends from Largs, further up the coast, to Glasgow Central. Rail is probably the easiest way to get to the village, since there is little other public transport other than an hourly bus service to Saltcoats / Stevenston. By train the journey is around 50 minutes from Glasgow and by road anywhere between 45-60 via the M8, A737 and B781.
Recently, the village has been undergoing major changes due to its entering of the "Scotland in Bloom" competition. Although it has never won, it has reached the finals three times. With the help of the local initiative group, West Kilbride is also aiming to become the "Crafts town of Ayrshire". The village contains (to my knowledge) at least 6 craft shops / studios as well as a range of famous artists. The Initiative centre provides a convenient way for people to sell their art or craftwork, in return for a small share of the profits.
There are almost 6,000 residents in the village which has its own local primary school as well as a public hall (home of the West Kilbride Horticultural Society's two yearly shows as well as the West Kilbride Players productions and the local museum), community centre, war memorial, brand new library and a wealth of hairdressers (there have, in the past, been six hairdressers in the village - one for every thousand people.)
Much of my information was gleaned from the following sources :
West Kilbride, Seamill, Portencross & thereabouts (A local book published by the West Kilbride Amenity Society.)
Personal local knowledge.
For a map of the local area :