Girvan (Scottish Gaelic: Inbhir Gharbhain, "mouth of the River Girvan")[2] is a burgh and harbour town[3] in Carrick, South Ayrshire, Scotland. Girvan is situated on the east coast of the Firth of Clyde, with a population of about 6,450. It lies 21 miles (34 km) south of Ayr, and 29 miles (47 km) north of Stranraer, the main ferry port from Scotland to Northern Ireland.

Girvan Steeple, South Ayrshire.
Girvan is located in South Ayrshire
Location within South Ayrshire
Population6,330 (2022)[1]
OS grid referenceNX185975
• Edinburgh81 mi (130 km)
• London323 mi (520 km)
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townGIRVAN
Postcode districtKA26
Dialling code01465
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
List of places
55°14′17″N 4°51′22″W / 55.238°N 4.856°W / 55.238; -4.856

Deriving its name from the river which runs through the landscape the etymology of Girvan has possible Brythonic origins, related to the Welsh: Gearafon or Gwyrddafon, "river flowing through the green flourishing place, from afon or avon, a river, and Gwyrdd, green, flourishing".[4]

Prehistory and archaeology


The earliest evidence of human habitation in the Girvan area dates to the Mesolithic.[5]

Between 1996 and 1998, archaeological investigations were undertaken by GUARD archaeology (then part of the University of Glasgow) as part of an expansion of the William Grant & Sons distillery. This work discovered several burnt mounds that dated to the later third millennium/early second millennium BC and an Iron Age trackway. They also discovered a Medieval moated enclosure, which is a house or compound surrounded by a moat. These are usually the homes of minor aristocracy but are rare in Scotland (of the roughly 5400 known from mainland Britain, only ~120 are in Scotland). It is surmised that it might have belong to the Bruce family group, either a relative or a supporter and that it was likely that the house would have been known to Robert the Bruce, as he was born at Turnberry.

Two Roman camps lie half a mile (0.8 km) north of the estuary of the Water of Girvan in level fields of Girvan Mains Farm. The discovery of a fragment of a late first-century glass vessel in the primary ditch-fill of the second camp, combined with the almost square plan of the first, makes it entirely reasonable to assume that these were bases used by the forces of Agricola during the campaigns 78-84 AD mentioned by Tacitus in (de Vita Agricolae, cap xxiv) as relating to a possible descent upon Ireland. The provision of a beach head at either site would have allowed the camps to fulfill the function of a base for Agricolan combined army and naval operations around the Scottish coast.[4]



Girvan was originally a fishing port. In 1668, it became a municipal burgh incorporated by charter.[6]

The opening of the railways, initially with the Maybole and Girvan Railway at the end of the 1850s, encouraged the development of Girvan as a seaside resort[6] with beaches and cliffs. Holidaying here from 1855 to 1941 were Robert and Elizabeth Gray and their children; particularly Alice and Edith Gray. The family, led principally by Elizabeth and Alice, created scientifically organised collections of fossils for several museums including the Natural History Museum.[7]

Girvan Lifeboat Station was opened by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1865 with a boathouse was built on land donated by the Duchesse de Coigny.[8] It moved to its present site in 1993.[9] Since 2018 it has operated the Shannon-class lifeboat RNLB Elizabeth and Gertrude Allan.[10]

Just north of the town is Grangestone Industrial Estate, which hosts a William Grant & Sons distillery which opened in 1964. There is a Nestlé factory that manufactures chocolate that is shipped down to York and used in Kit Kat and Yorkie bars.[6]



Girvan railway station is served by ScotRail on the Glasgow Central to Stranraer line. All services call here, and several more start/terminate here.

Girvan is also served well by bus. Bus services are run by various providers.

By Stagecoach West Scotland:

By Shuttle Buses:

  • 362: Girvan to Colmonell
  • 363: Colmonell to Kilwinning

By South Ayrshire Community Transport:

  • CB8: Girvan to Barr

Places of interest


Knockcushan Gardens contains the old 'Hill of Justice' stone and a plaque records that King Robert the Bruce, Earl of Carrick held a court here in 1328.

The McKechnie Institute was endowed by local businessmen Robert and Thomas McKechnie, was opened in 1889. The Institute plays host to regular displays and sales of local artists, offers tours and historical information about Girvan and the surrounding area. And is free to access when open.[11]

Culzean Castle is about 8 miles (13 km) north of the town, and the volcanic island of Ailsa Craig is visible about 10 miles (16 km) offshore. Turnberry golf course and hotel are located 5 miles (8 km) north of Girvan. The coastline south of Girvan is famous for its geology, and also for the Sawney Bean Caves at Bennane Head or Balcreuchan Port, where the murderer and cannibal Sawney Bean supposedly lived until his arrest and execution in Edinburgh.

Local festivals

Girvan, Scotland, 1890s
The RNLI Lifeboat and fishing fleet

Girvan lifeboat harbour gala takes place each summer, usually in July, with music, stalls, fun fair, rescue displays and emergency services.[citation needed]

The Girvan Traditional Folk Festival takes place on the first weekend of May each year.[12] Girvan also has a folk music club.

The Lowland Gathering takes place on the first Sunday of June each year in the Victory Park in the centre of the town.

The annual Festival of Light takes place in October with a six-week lantern project resulting in the river of light lantern procession and shorefront performance. The autumn lantern project is a celebration of the lanternmakers and the people of Carrick.[13]

An additional new years event for families, involving lantern trails, lights and art aimed at families is run on new years Eve (Hogmanay), by Carrick Rural Arts.[citation needed]

Education and community

Girvan harbour

Girvan has its own secondary school, Girvan Academy, which the majority of local children attend. Roman Catholic families have the option of Queen Margaret Academy in Ayr. There are also two primary schools, Girvan Primary School (non-denominational) and Sacred Heart Primary School (denominational) and there is one non-denominational specialist school, Invergarven School.[14]

The town's swimming pool was closed in 2009 by South Ayrshire Council, on the grounds that it had reached the end of its operational life. The building has since been demolished. A new leisure centre, named 'The Quay Zone' was officially opened on 26 April 2017. 'The Quay Zone' was built in a way to help redevelop Girvan. It is sited on the old swimming pool's location at the harbour.[15][16]



The 2022 Scottish census found that 50% of Girvan's population identified as having no religion, while 42% identified with Christian denominations and 1% other religions. 7% of Girvan's population did not answer the optional question.[17]

Christian Churches


The Roman Catholic church in the town, "Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary", built in 1860 in a plain gothic style.[18] For many years the convent and the church were closely connected with Roman Catholic primary and secondary schools in Girvan. The secondary school closed in 1991.[19]

Girvan has two Church of Scotland congregations: Girvan North Parish Church dating from 1883 in Montgomerie Street (with a spire over 100 feet or 30 metres tall)[20] and Girvan South Parish Church dating from 1839.[21]

Milestone Christian Fellowship, a local congregation which began meeting in Girvan's Community Centre in 2005, moved into a redeveloped nightclub on Bridge Street in 2016.[22] Milestone is a member of the Baptist Union of Scotland.

The town's Episcopalian congregation of St John was closed in 2014: they had been using the town's Methodist church building for services after their building became unusable in 2009.[23]

Twin town


  Torcy, Seine-et-Marne, France - in honour of a Scottish knight named Sir Thomas Huston originally from Girvan, who fought the English as part of the Auld Alliance during the Hundred Years War. Rewarding him for his bravery during the capture of Meaux in 1439, the King of France granted him the fiefdom of Torcy.

Notable people




Girvan has an oceanic climate (Köppen: Cfb).

Climate data for Girvan (9 m or 30 ft asl, averages 1991–2020)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 7.9
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 3.2
Average rainfall mm (inches) 109.6
Average rainy days (≥ 1 mm) 17.4 14.6 14.0 11.5 11.2 11.3 12.8 14.4 13.6 16.4 17.3 17.2 171.7
Mean monthly sunshine hours 40.2 63.9 101.8 154.1 200.9 166.6 159.5 152.1 114.4 79.8 49.6 36.2 1,319.1
Source: Met Office[24]

See also



  1. ^ "Mid-2020 Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland". National Records of Scotland. 31 March 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  2. ^ "Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba - Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland - Database". 6 March 2016. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  3. ^ "". Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
  4. ^ a b Arthur, William (1857). An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names: With an Essay on Their Derivation and Import. Sheldon, Blakeman & Company.
  5. ^ MACGREGOR, GAVIN; DONNELLY, MICHAEL; MILLER, J.; RAMSAY, S.; ALLDRITT, D.; Donnely, Mike (2001). "A Mesolithic Scatter from Littlehill Bridge, Girvan, Ayrshire". Scottish Archaeological Journal. 23 (1): 1–14. doi:10.3366/saj.2001.23.1.1. ISSN 1471-5767. JSTOR 27917444.
  6. ^ a b c "Girvan; South Ayrshire". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  7. ^ Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Vol. 17 (reprint ed.). London: British Museum. 2013. pp. 170–252. ISBN 978-0-565-09011-1. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  8. ^ "Additional stations and new life-boats". Life-boat. Vol. 5, no. 55. 1865. p. 549.
  9. ^ "Portpatrick's station history". RNLI. Retrieved 16 June 2024.
  10. ^ Leonard, Richie; Denton, Tony (2024). Lifeboat Enthusiasts Handbook 2024. Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. p. 57.
  11. ^ "McKechnie *fInstitute". South Ayrshire Council. Archived from the original on 16 December 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  12. ^ "Girvan Traditional Folk Festival". Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  13. ^ "Local legends fire up for Girvan's Festival of light". 5 November 2010. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  14. ^ "Our School". Invergarven School. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  15. ^ "Girvan pool: Your questions are answered".
  16. ^ "The Quay Zone Girvan. The website gives detailed information about the building and what you can do!". Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  17. ^ "Scotland's Census 2022 - Ethnic group, national identity, language and religion". Scotland's Census. Retrieved 17 June 2024.
  18. ^ sct-admin (24 September 2017). "Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary, Girvan". Scotlands Churches Trust. Retrieved 17 June 2024.
  19. ^ "The giving hearts of Girvan - SCO News". Retrieved 17 June 2024.
  20. ^ "Girvan Girvan North Parish Church | National Churches Trust". Retrieved 17 June 2024.
  21. ^ Green, Graeme (16 October 2018). "Girvan South Church of Scotland". Scotlands Churches Trust. Retrieved 17 June 2024.
  22. ^ "Praise for new church as it takes over old Girvan nightspot" Daily Record. 28 February 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  23. ^ "St John's final service in Girvan tomorrow". Carrick Gazette. 17 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  24. ^ "Girvan (South Ayrshire) UK climate averages". Met Office. Archived from the original on 8 November 2023. Retrieved 8 November 2023.