Greenock is a port on the Clyde estuary, with a population of 44,248 in 2011. Historically it was part of Renfrewshire but is now within Clydeside in the Central Belt of Scotland. Most visitors are just passing to and from the ferry piers, but the town has several interesting mementos of its history.
Greenock (say "green-OCK", never "GREN-ock") was a fishing village for many centuries. It remained small until the 1707 union of Scotland with England, which meant Scotland was free to trade with England's far-flung colonies. Upstream Glasgow then grew into a city through trade in tobacco, cotton, sugar, liquor and slaves, but the River Clyde there was too shallow for ocean-going shipping. A series of ports sprang up along the "Tail of the Bank" where the river broadens out into the Firth: Port Glasgow, Greenock and Gourock had deep water, shelter from the prevailing sou' westerly weather, and easy onward transport to the city by road and later by rail. Ship-building and other marine industries became established here, along with sugar-refining. Deepening the Clyde took until the 1880s, whereupon ship-building moved upriver to Glasgow, but continued locally until Far East competition from the 1970s closed it down.
The town's name may be from Gaelic greannach, gravelly, which the Highland glaciers left behind, or from grianaig, a sunny knoll. Its multiple spellings included the 18th-century variant "Greenoak", which created a bogus woodland legend, reflected in the shopping centre's name of Oak Mall. Well-known people from Greenock include engineer James Watt, novelist John Galt, playwrights Bill Bryden and Neil Paterson, comedian "Chic" Murray and Antarctic explorer "Birdie" Bowers. Pirate Captain Kidd said at his trial that he was from Greenock, but more likely he was from Dundee.
Cruise ships often call at Greenock Ocean Terminal. However for passenger ferries you need to go further west: to Gourock to sail to Dunoon or Kilcreggan, and to Wemyss Bay for Rothesay on the Isle of Bute.
- From central Glasgow or Glasgow Airport go west on M8, which becomes A8 then A78.
- From Ayr or Prestwick Airport take the A78 north along the coast. A scenic alternative is to leave A78 at Largs and follow the Brisbane Glen road.
Trains from Glasgow Central run every 15 mins via Paisley Gilmour Street, Bishopton and Port Glasgow, taking 30-40 mins to Greenock Central and continuing via Greenock West to Gourock. The first train is around 06:00 and the last is towards midnight.
Hourly trains run from Glasgow to Wemyss Bay (for ferries to Bute) along the same route as far as Port Glasgow, then branch off and skirt the southern edge of Greenock, where they stop at Whinhill and Drumfrochar.
1 Greenock Central has a ticket office and machines, toilets and a waiting room. There is level access to Platform 1 and a ramp to Platform 2.
McGill's Bus 901 runs M-Sa every 30 min from Glasgow Buchanan station, via Braehead and Port Glasgow to Greenock (65 min), and continuing hourly to Gourock, McInroy's Point, Inverkip, Wemyss Bay and Largs, another 40 min. Sundays it only runs every couple of hours.
McGill's Bus X7 from Glasgow extends to Greenock 05:00-07:00 then 18:00-23:00, between times it only runs as far as Kilmacolm.
Stagecoach West Bus 585 ambles along the coast from Ayr via Prestwick, Irvine, Ardrossan (for ferries to Arran), West Kilbride and Largs to Greenock, taking two hours. It runs M-Sa every 30 min and every two hours on Sunday.
The town is fairly compact, and you could walk the couple of miles west into Gourock along the Esplanade. For Newark Castle take the bus: the coast east of town is industrial and the road is busy, so it would be a tedious three miles to walk. Just about any bus heading east from Gourock or west from Port Glasgow is going via Greenock, so service along this strip is every five minutes.
You need a bike or car to reach Loch Thom and The Cut.
You can walk to the Gourock ferry terminals for Kilcreggan on the Rosneath peninsula and for Dunoon on Cowal peninsula, but you need transport to reach McInroy's Point the terminal for Hunter's Quay north of Dunoon; a taxi might be £10, see Gourock for options.
Taxi operators in town are ABC Inverclyde and ABC Central, but both get bad reviews for reliability.
- Town centre has many fine old buildings including the 1818 Customs House, the 1886 Victoria Tower, and the plush Esplanade villas of bygone ship-owners and merchants.
- 1 Scottish Fire & Rescue Service Museum, Fire Station, Dalrymple Street, Greenock PA15 1LZ (A78 Bullring roundabout), firstname.lastname@example.org. Last Sunday of each month 12:00-16:00. A museum in an old fire station with an extensive collection of fire engines, explained by knowledgeable ex-firefighters. It also opens when cruise liners are in port. Free.
- 2 McLean Museum and Art Gallery, 15 Kelly Street, Greenock PA16 8JX, ☏ . W-Sa 10:00-16:00. Founded in 1816 and housed here from 1876, it has the usual curios (think pinned butterflies, Egyptian amulets and genteel watercolours) but the best of the collection covers James Watt and the era of local ship-building. Free.
- The Esplanade stretches west along the shore from the Cruise Ship terminal round to Cardwell Bay at the edge of Gourock. By the terminal is Old West Kirk (occasionally open), completed in 1591 but not on its present site - it was moved in 1926 to make way for shipyards. Note the Pre-Raphaelite stained glass. The Esplanade has great views over the Clyde towards Helensburgh, Kilcreggan and the cloud-wrapped Highlands. Watch for marine life out in the estuary. Battery Park at its west end has playing fields, a couple of play-parks, a skate-park and a cafe. Catch the bus back either along Eldon St or Newark St, or train from Fort Matilda. The fort was built in case the Yankees attacked but has been demolished.
- 3 Lyle Hill is west of town: much of it is Greenock Golf Club, with 18-hole and 9-hole courses. The summit "Craig's Top" commands a panorama of the Firth of Clyde and Highlands. A large Cross of Lorraine officially commemorates the Free French Naval Forces of World War II, and unofficially the 37 killed in April 1940 when French destroyer Maillé Brézé suffered an explosion and fire from one of her own torpedoes. She was flooded to prevent the magazine exploding, and sank with those men trapped below.
- 4 Loch Thom and the Cut: when 19th-century Greenock outgrew its nearby water supply, a small loch on the south side of the hills was developed into a reservoir. It was dammed to create Loch Thom, which feeds a subsidiary reservoir then cascades into an aqueduct "The Cut" winding around the contour line to bring the water onto the north slope above town. The Cut captured other streams, with a cunning system of sluices and buckets to regulate flow, like something concocted between Heath Robinson and Oor Wullie. It still wasn't enough to supply Greenock - mill wheels rather than people being the demand - so Gryffe Reservoir was built above Loch Thom. There's a firm walking trail along The Cut, or you can drive to the head of it; the loch is used for leisure fishing. The visitor centre has closed.
- 5 Newark Castle is in Port Glasgow 3 miles east of Greenock. It's a well-preserved 15th-century tower house converted into a Renaissance mansion; an early owner used the cellars to house bears and lions. It's open April-Sept daily 09:30-17:30, adult £6.
- 1 Waterfront Cinema, 10 Custom House Way PA15 1EG, ☏ . Small multiplex cinema shows the standard releases. If you come mid-week you may have the film to yourself.
- 2 Waterfront Leisure Complex, 8 Customhouse Way PA15 1EW, ☏ . The centre has a swimming pool and another with slides, plus ice rink, gym and sauna. Nice views over the Clyde through the waterside glass wall. Hours vary by facility.
- Football: Greenock Morton FC, always abbreviated to "Morton" or "The Ton", play soccer in the Championship, Scotland's second tier. Their home ground is Cappielow Park, capacity 11,600, on Sinclair St a mile east of town centre. Cartsdyke station is close by, with trains between Glasgow, Greenock and Gourock.
- Golf: Greenock GC is on the hill west side of town: "The Big Course" is 5850 yards, "The Wee Course" is nine holes. Whinhill GC is south side of town.
- Oak Mall is the town's main shopping centre, next to the Bullring roundabout on A78. It's got the usual High Street retailers eg Wilko, Argos, Primark, Boots - and lots of empty units and a run-down atmosphere. It's open M-Sa 08:00-18:00 and Su 10:00-17:00, individual retailers vary. Park at Hunters Place or King Street, £1 for four hours.
- There's a Tesco Extra next door with a filling station.
- The other main shopping areas are along West Blackhall Street and Cathcart Street.
- Aulds[dead link] is the long-established local bakery chain, with their main outlet on Brisbane St (M-F 08:00-17:30, Sa 08:00-12:00) and another in Oak Mall. But they're struggling to compete with Gregg's on either price or quality, and most of their outlets elsewhere across Scotland have closed.
- 1 Priyas Palace, 2 Robertson St, Greenock PA16 8DB, ☏ . Daily 16:00-22:00. Very mixed reviews, you may be delighted or disgusted at this Indian, at least you won't be bored.
- 2 Tokyo Joe, 20 Westburn Street, Greenock PA15 1JR, ☏ . M-W 11:00-21:00, Th-Sa 11:00-23:30. Casual restaurant with beer garden.
- Others east to west along main drag are Delhi Deluxe, China Garden, 134 Steak House and The Albany Brasserie. Plus the usual fast-food outlets.
- Horseshoe Bar, 30 Kilblain Street, Greenock PA15 1SR, ☏ . Su-Th 11:00-00:00, F Sa 11:00-01:00. Old fashioned pub with a great welcome, food served to 19:00.
- Black Cat, 7 Laird Street, Greenock, PA15 1LB (off Dalrymple St), ☏ . Daily 11:00-00:00. Friendly authentic trad pub.
- The James Watt, 80–92 Cathcart Street, Greenock PA15 1DD, ☏ . Su-Th 08:00-00:00, F Sa 08:00-01:00. Standard JD Wetherspoons, large bright building, no music, beer garden.
- Word Up, 210 Dalrymple Street, Greenock PA15 1LF, ☏ . Th-Su 21:00-02:00. The main nightclub in town, three rooms with a mix of music, dance, R&B, Pop, oldies or Indie.
- Text nightclub (formerly Harwoods) is at 208 Dalrymple St, open Sa 21:00-03:30.
- 1 Tontine Hotel, 6 Ardgowan Square, Greenock PA16 8NG (corner with Union St), ☏ . 3-star hotel of character, does a lot of functions. The Premier rooms in the original Georgian building are pricier but better value than the so-so Executives. Double B&B Exec £85, Premier £105.
- 2 Premier Inn, 1/3 James Watt Way, Greenock PA15 2AD, ☏ . Reliable budget chain hotel. No a/c. By train, Cartsdyke station is closer than Greenock Central. B&B double £80.
- Holiday Inn Express, Cartsburn West, Greenock PA15 1AE (near Premier Inn), ☏ . This remains closed.
Greenock and its approach roads have 4G from all UK carriers. As of Aug 2022, 5G has not reached town.
- Gourock for ferries across the Firth to the Cowal peninsula - it's a pleasant sailing even if you don't disembark.
- Wemyss Bay for ferries to the Isle of Bute, with wacky Mount Stuart House, and the world's grandest gents' public lavatory on Rothesay pier.
- Ayr for Robert Burns' birthplace at Alloway.
|Routes through Greenock|
|Largs ← Inverkip ←||SW E||→ merges with → Paisley → Glasgow|