Ardrossan is a port in Ayrshire on the Clyde coast of Scotland. It's part of the "Three Towns" conurbation of Greater Ardrossan, which also includes Saltcoats and Stevenston. The town has few sights and amenities, and the only reason to visit is to catch the ferry to the Isle of Arran.
While nearby towns such as Largs and Troon developed as beach resorts in the Victorian era, the Three Towns have always been industrial. Trades included salt extraction, shipping, quarrying and mining, and in the early 20th C Stevenston was important for the production of military and commercial explosives. Little of these now remain and various regeneration projects are in hand. The population in 2016 was 10,760 for Ardrossan, 12,640 for Saltcoats, and 9230 for Stevenston.
From Glasgow, follow M8 west. Just past Glasgow Airport, exit at Jcn 29 onto A737, following signs for Irvine. With a light vehicle (and with a caravan or RV is okay), at Dalry take the signposted shortcut onto B780. (With fields and hills all around, it'll feel like you're many miles from the coast. But then you glimpse a line of wind turbines, as if an enormous aircraft was taxiing on the far side of the ridge; finally the sea and harbour come into view.) Otherwise stay on A737 to join A78 further south.
From England, take M6 then A75 to Dumfries, then A76 to Kilmarnock, then A71 west to join A78.
All approaches eventually follow A78, which bypasses Ardrossan, so ferry traffic loops round to the north of town then approaches the harbour along Eglinton road. (Don't follow what looks like a shortcut along A738 unless Stevenston or Saltcoats is your destination, you don't want to be part of the congestion on this road.) The final turn onto Glasgow St towards the harbour comes up with little warning, so when you reach the sign to the ferry, turn promptly.
There's long stay parking next to the ferry terminal, plus an Asda supermarket - stock up on fuel and supplies before crossing to Arran.
Stagecoach Bus X36 runs from Glasgow Buchanan station every couple of hours daily, taking 90 min, with a bus at midnight, 03:00 then 07:00. (But don't get on the X36 operated by First Scotland East, or you'll end up in Cumbernauld!) You can also reach Ardrossan just as quickly by taking the X34 (for Beith and Irvine), and changing at Kilwinning for Bus 11, which is the frequent Kilmarnock-Ardrossan service. A third option is to take the X77 (for Ayr) and change at Prestwick for Bus 585.
The latter bus, Stagecoach Bus 585 or "Clyde Coaster", runs between Ayr and Prestwick Airport in the south, through Saltcoats and Ardrossan, and on to Largs (for Great Cumbrae), Weymss Bay (for Isle of Bute) and Greenock. It runs every 30 min M-Sa and every two hours on Sunday.
Trains run to Ardrossan from Glasgow Central every 30 min M-Sa, hourly on Sunday, taking 40 min. Trains run via Paisley Gilmour Street (closest station to Glasgow Airport), Dalry, Kilwinning (change for Ayr and Prestwick Airport), Stevenston and Saltcoats to the main railway station 1 Ardrossan South Beach. Alternate trains then either continue north to Largs (ferry port for Great Cumbrae) or take the short branch line to Ardrossan Town and Ardrossan Harbour, which is next to the ferry terminal. These Harbour trains are timed to connect with ferries to Arran.
So the combined townships in effect have five railway stations: they're all just platform halts with no facilities. Ardrossan South Beach and the Harbour are a mile apart, so if you're coming here to catch the Arran ferry and have only light luggage, it may be quicker to take the "wrong" train and walk the last stretch, than wait 30 min for the "right" train. The last train to and from Glasgow is after 23:00, long after the ferries have stopped running. If your train is delayed and you risk missing your ferry, make your plight known to the conductor, and the ferry may be held. Combined rail + ferry tickets are available.
From 2 Ardrossan Harbour Calmac ferries ply to Brodick on the Isle of Arran, taking 55 min. In summer they run M-Sa 07:00-19:00 every 90 min, Su every 2-3 hours. There are fewer in the "shoulder" months of April and October, and in winter there are only 4 or 5 ferries per day. Return fares are £33 for a car, plus £8 for the driver and each adult passenger, children 5-15 £4 (Dec 2019). For ferry practicalities see Arran page and Calmac website.
There is also a Calmac ferry three days a week May-Sept to Campbeltown in Kintyre, taking 2 hr 30 min; return fares are £88 per car, £16.60 per passenger including driver (Dec 2019). From Campbeltown a foot-passenger ferry runs in summer to Ballycastle in Northern Ireland; there are no car ferries between Kintyre and Ireland.
Ardrossan has facilities for private boats in Clyde Marina (VHF Channel 80), with mooring, dry berthing, cleaning, marine diesel and marine fuel. On approach, beware of Horse Isle one mile out. It's an RSPB reserve, with a 19th-century stone tower to act as a day-mark but no light tower. It shelters the harbour, but the navigation channel is very close and there have been several wreckings.
Ardrossan harbour is expected to close for upgrading for two years from autumn 2022, at least for the Arran ferry which will probably divert to Troon. The details have yet to be confirmed.
Glasgow Airport (GLA IATA) is 8 mi (13 km) west of central Glasgow on the M8. Dozens of airlines fly to destinations in the British Isles, Europe, North America and the Middle East. The closest railway station to the airport is Paisley Gilmour Street Station, which is about 2.5 km (1.6 mi) away. From there you can take a train to Ardrossan. See the Glasgow page for details on how get from the airport to the train station.
Glasgow Prestwick Airport (PIK IATA) is much closer to Ardrossan but has very few flights. Ryanair is the only passenger airline. It flies to a variety of holiday destinations, principally in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. The Clyde Coaster Bus 585 (Stagecoach West Scotland) runs every 30 min (every 2 hours Sundays) between PIK and Ardrossan, taking 45 min. The airport has a train station from which you can get to Ardrossan, with a change at Kilwinning station required. The total train journey time is between 30-45 min.
Walking is enough to see the town, it is not huge and has few sights of interest.
There are plenty of local buses should walking be impossible, e.g. due to the often atrocious weather.
- 1 Ardrossan Castle. Interior closed. The castle was once ransacked by William Wallace and his followers and remained an important outpost until Oliver Cromwell took control of it, had it dismantled and sent the stone to build a new castle in Ayr. So it's just a stone stump, but prominently located on the hill above town centre. The ruins have become unsafe and are fenced off; either duck through a hole in the fence or just admire the exterior and views across the Firth to Arran.
- Beaches: see "Do".
- Barony St Johns (now a training centre) and St Peter in Chains (RC) are good examples of old and new styles of church architecture. They're close together at the north end of South Beach.
- 2 Montfode Castle is just a stump of masonry, all that remains of a 16th C tower. Cromwell's not to blame for this ruin however, as it was stripped of its stone in the 19th century to build a dam for a mill at Montfode Farm. You see it first from the bypass A78 just before this reaches the coast. For a closer look, turn onto the coast road then immediately right into the lane.
- 3 St Cuthbert's Church, Campbell Ave, Saltcoats KA21 5AF (Corner of Caledonia Road). Fine church, built in 1908. Note the stain-glass windows and the small carvings around the entrances and within. It's Church of Scotland, with regular services.
- North Ayrshire Heritage Centre, 12 Manse St, Saltcoats KA21 5AA (200 m west of Saltcoats station). M-F 09:30-13:00 & 14:00-17:00, Sa 10:00-13:00 & 14:00-17:00. Local history exhibits. Free.
- Abbottsford Nursing home, 98 Eglinton Rd, Ardrossan KA22 8NN. Location of plaque to remember first ever trans-Atlantic shortwave broadcast . On 11 December 1921, history was made in Ardrossan when the first radio broadcast from the United States of America was received in a field near Abbotsford.
- Beaches along this coastline are:
- - Ardrossan South Beach, just south of the main railway station, is the principal traditional seaside strip. Amenities, pubs, ice cream vans, Glasgow accents, beach football, gulls stealing chips, squalling kids, yappy West Highland Terriers, what's not to like about it?
- - Ardrossan North Beach, north of the harbour, is quieter. Best views are at sunset as the light drops over the mountains of Arran. Listen out for the story of how the Earl of Eglington was horribly slain here. No spoilers, but if you seize a cartload of contraband rum on a fine smugglers' beach like this, then beware reprisals, even if you let them keep the cart.
- - Saltcoats South Beach is another traditional seaside strip, close to Saltcoats railway station where hordes alight from Glasgow.
- - Stevenston Beach further south is much quieter, but the tide comes right in and with the wind behind the sea it can become hazardous.
- 1 Holm Plantation, a short way inland from Ardrossan South Beach, is a relaxing grassland for recreation and walking.
- Auchenharvie Leisure Centre, Saltcoats Road, Stevenston KA20 3JR (Any bus along B780 Canal St, eg 11 or 585), ☏ . M-W & F 09:00-21:00, Th 10:00-21:00, Sa Su 09:00-17:00. Activities include ice skating and the Olympic sized swimming pool.
- Ardrossan Bowling Club, Kilmeny Terrace, Ardrossan KA22 8DX (just off South Beach). Disclaimer - this is not a wise choice for the under 60s.
- Apollo Leisure, Saltcoats KA21 5DA. Cinema overlooking Saltcoats harbour.
- Basebowl, 58-60 Hamilton Street Saltcoats KA21 5DS, ☏ . Daily 10:00-23:00. Ten pin bowling.
- Sail the ferry to Arran even if you're not staying on the island. You can take a day-trip to Brodick and visit the castle, or just cruise there and back without stepping ashore. Have a scenic lunch on the way, or look for marine life in the Firth of Clyde.
- Ardrossan Highland Games are held on the second Sunday in June on Memorial Playing Fields. The 2020 and 2021 events were cancelled and the next games are on Sunday 12 June 2022.
There are few shops in Ardrossan. Glasgow Street and Princes Street have basic shops and the ASDA superstore.
There are many shops in Saltcoats' town centre. Most are found on Hamilton Street, Chapelwell Street, Dockhead Street and Countess Street.
- Cafe Palazzo (Plaza), 230-232 Glasgow Street (Junction with main road), ☏ . Daily 06:30-23:00. Traditional Italian fish and chips shop, cafe, and ice cream parlour. They also offer a sit down service, an extensive selection of sweets (some old fashioned) and newspapers.
- Alberts, 35 Glasgow Street KA22 8EP. Daily 11:00-22:00. Fish & chips takeaway.
- 1 Jaipur, 51 Glasgow Street KA22 8EP. Daily 16:00-23:00 plus W-Sa 12:00-13:45. Small friendly restaurant with usual Indian menu. Does takeaway. Set meals from £10 pp.
- Lauriston Hotel: bar meals and restaurant food, see "Sleep". It's best value before 6pm.
- Cecchini's, 5 Dock Rd KA22 8DA (The Marina), ☏ . Su-Th 09:30-00:00, F Sa 09:30-01:00. Good Italian, a tad pricey but worth it. Let them know if you prefer a well-fired pizza, they usually cook soft. Has another branch in Ayr.
Saltcoats has a huge number of places to eat.
- Cafe Melbourne, 72 Hamilton Street, Saltcoats KA21 5DS, ☏ . Daily 09:00-16:00. Coffee and snacks.
- Cavani West End Cafe, 68 Hamilton Street, Saltcoats KA21 5DS, ☏ . Daily 08:00-17:00. Coffee and meals, can serve gluten-free.
- The Kandy Bar, 2 Hamilton Street, Saltcoats. M-Sa 08:00-17:00. Bakery: breads, rolls, sandwiches, cakes.
- Indian restaurants are Motherland Spice (16 Bradshaw St), Punjab Grill (3 Dockhead St) and Sugar & Spice (18 Hamilton St).
Dalry six miles north along B714 has Braidwoods, a Michelin-starred restaurant, you need to book at least a month ahead. Open W-Sa 12:00-13:30 & 19:00-21:00, Su 12:00-13:30; May-Aug also Tu 19:00-21:00.
There are a few establishments in which to remedy a dry throat in Ardrossan.
- Charlie's Bar, 18 Glasgow St KA22 8EL. Daily 10:00-23:30. Friendly wee place.
- Castlehill Vaults (Alfies), 2-4 Princes Pl KA22 8HB. M & Th-Sa 09:00-01:00, Tu W 09:00-00:00, Su 10:00-00:00. Pub with games. Free wifi, beer garden, dog friendly, horse racing and football on TVs.
Saltcoats has a plethora of drinking establishments, mostly situated around Hamilton Street and Dockhead Street in the town centre.
- 1 The Salt Cot, 7 Hamilton Street Saltcoats KA21 5DS. Su-Th 08:00-00:00, F Sa 08:00-01:00. J.D. Wetherspoon pub with food.
- Nonsuch Sports Bar, 35-37 Windmill Street Saltcoats KA21 5EW. M-W 11:00-23:00, Th F 11:00-00:00, Sa 10:00-00:00, Su 10:00-23:00. Play pool here.
- 1 The Lauriston Hotel, 15 South Crescent Road KA22 8BE, ☏ . 3-star hotel with 5 rooms next to Ardrossan South Beach railway station. With bar meals and restaurant. £70.
As of July 2021, Ardrossan has 4G from all UK carriers, but the signal from O2 is patchy. 5G has not reached this area.
There is no land-based mobile signal on the ferries. Switch off, or check what they plan to charge you to use the ferry's connection.
There's free internet access at Ardrossan Library.
- The top attraction is the Isle of Arran, which can be done on a day-trip but deserves a longer stay.
- A short train-ride brings you to Largs, with a ferry to Cumbrae - and a day-trip will be enough here.
- Nearby Kilwinning has a ruined abbey, castle and country park.
- Visit Ayr, and especially Alloway, for the Burns Heritage Park.