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A HISTORY OF LARGS
THE VIKINGS IN LARGS
The Pencil Monument, built in 1912, commemorates the Battle of Largs which took place
in 1263, when the people of the area successfully vanquished attacks by the Norwegian
Vikings. There had been many raids on the west of Scotland, and during a heavy storm,
more than 160 Viking longships were beached in the Largs area. It is believed this
allowed the Scottish King Alexander III and his armies to defeat the attackers. The
Battle of Largs is considered one of the most important battles in the history of
Scotland and the Pencil Monument reminds locals and visitors of the defeat of the
Vikings for the last time in the UK.
Every year at the end of August, a Viking Festival is held in Largs to celebrate
the current friendly alliance between the Scots and those with Viking ancestry. A
replica of a Viking village is constructed on the seafront and many Scandinavians
return year after year to join the celebrations. Re-enactments of Viking weddings
and funerals take place and visitors can learn about how the Vikings lived. After
a full week of events, the festival ends with a spectacular firework display next
to the Pencil Monument, after a mock Viking longship is ceremonially burnt on the
The Viking Experience is situated in Vikingar on the seafront and offers a realistic
representation of the saga of the Vikings in Scotland. It includes costumed storytellers,
a five screen film of a typical Viking family of the period and multi-media displays
in the Hall of Knowledge. For more information call 01475 689777.
Largs Museum is in the town centre and opens for the summer, thanks to the volunteers
from Largs Historical Society. The Museum has been at its present site since 1975,
but it opened in 1967 in two weavers’ cottages in Manse Court.
The Museum is open from 2pm to 5pm Mondays to Sundays, inclusive, from the last week
of May until the first Sunday in September. Visits at other times can be arranged
by contacting the Historical Society at www.largsmuseum.org.uk. From September to
April, there are monthly lectures by invited speakers on a wide range of topics relating
to Largs and the surrounding area.The Museum is also open for the North Ayrshire
Open Doors Day on the first Sunday in September.
This tomb dates from the Neolithic period, approximately beginning in 9500BC, commonly
known as the New Stone Age. The tomb is in Douglas Park in Largs.
THE THREE SISTERS
The Three Sisters are actually three stone pillars erected as a monument to Sir Thomas
Brisbane who built an observatory in 1808 at Brisbane House. They are on Green Hill
and are meridian sighting posts which enabled Sir Thomas Brisbane to establish due
north, even when the north star wasn’t visible. In Brisbane Glen, there is another
pillar near his observatory but it’s much smaller. Originally, it was used as a
point of sight for the Three Sisters.
THE PROPHET’S GRAVE
The Reverend William Smith, a Largs minister during the time of the Plague, is buried
on a site just off Brisbane Glen Road. The legend is that if the two yew trees growing
at the entrance to the grave ever join at the top, the Plague will return to Largs.
THE BURNS GARDEN
A memorial to Robert Burns, designed by Robert McKay, was opened in 1978 in Douglas
Park. It is situated at the back of the park in a Victorian garden.
The Aisle is the only remaining part of a church (a kirk) demolished in 1802 when
a new parish church was built. The Aisle was retained because it contains the mausoleum
of the Montgomerie family. Sir Robert Montgomerie, a local Laird, built the mausoleum
for the burial of his wife, Dame Margaret Douglas, and himself. It was added to the
original kirk in 1636,
Skelmorlie Aisle comprises a Renaissance tomb above the canopied entrance. The ceiling
is painted timber and depicts scenes showing the seasons as well as the Montgomerie
and Douglas coats of arms which are joined together.
Admission is free, but as the Aisle is usually closed, visitors need to obtain a
key from the Largs Museum next to it. The Museum and the kirkyard are open 2pm -
5pm from late May until early September. See the website wwwlargsmuseum.org.
LARGS AND WWII
To commemorate the important part that Largs played in the Allied Forces winning
WWII, the Director General of the Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust unveiled
a memorial next to the RNLI Station on Largs seafront in 2010.
During the war, Largs was used as a Seaplane Base for the reception of flying boats.
Catalina airplanes landed there, some fitted with special equipment to enable them
to win the Battle of the Atlantic and bring down German U-Boats. Countless lives
were saved. The planes were then deployed to Russia to help protect the shipping
THE HERITAGE CENTRE
The Centre, in St Columba’s Parish Church, is a recent, valuable addition to Largs.
It houses many exhibits from pre-Christian times, a history of the church itself
and information on several well known residents of Largs, past and present.
The red sandstone church was built in 1892 but the original church on the site is
believed to have been constructed about 625AD.
There is information on the Brisbane Family whose most famous member was Sir Thomas
Makdougall Brisbane. He became the 6th Governor General of New South Wales, Australia
and gave his name to the city of Brisbane. There are still strong links between Largs
and Brisbane. Sir Thomas and his family were buried in the tomb at Skelmorlie Aisle
Other famous sons and daughters of Largs include the golfers Bob and Sam Torrance,
the singers Gallacher and Lyle and the actress Daniela Nardini.
The Heritage Centre is run by volunteers and opens from April to October, 10am -
4pm and November to March 11am - 3pm, if volunteers are available. Further information
is available from www.largscolumba.com or 01475686212.
KELBURN CASTLE AND COUNTRY PARK
Kelburn Castle is the home of the Earls of Glasgow. It is considered the oldest castle
in Scotland to have been continuously inhabited by the same family. The Boyle family
came from Normandy with William the Conqueror and settled at Kelburn in 1143. The
Castle incorporates a 13th century keep and the present building was constructed
in about 1580. A mansion house was added in 1700 by the first Earl of Glasgow and
in 1880 a Victorian wing was added.
The extensive grounds contain historic gardens, a glen with waterfalls and gorges
and two heritage trees. There are views over the Firth of Clyde and the islands of
Arran and the Cumbraes. There is also a riding and trekking centre, a falconry centre
and regular Ranger-led walks throughout the year.
The Country Centre includes The Secret Forest, a family history cartoon collection,
the Home Farm, a café and gift shop and a New Zealand Museum. The exterior wall of
the Castle bears a colourful graffiti mural created by four graffiti artists from
The Country Centre is open 10am - 6pm daily from April to October. Contact www.kelburnestate.com
or 01475 568121.
THE FIFE DYNASTY
Fife boats are famous all over the world. William Fyfe began building fishing boats
in the 19th century on the shore at Fairlie, a mile from Largs. He built his first
yacht in 1812, making them on the foreshore, which he rented from the Earl of Glasgow.
At that time there was no demand for pleasure craft so William gave the task to his
son William, while the elder William continued to make fishing and trading boats.
The younger William built “Stella” in 1849 and after that, the boatyard was the focus
for yacht building. As people became wealthier, pleasure yachts and yacht racing
became more popular. The younger William created the now famous Fife yachts, which
were beautiful and fast. There were many experienced boatbuilders and craftsmen in
the area to work in the boatyard.
The third William joined the business in 1885. His father died in 1902, but the third
William is probably the most famous for his ocean racing and cruising yachts. He
died in 1944 and his nephew Robert sold the business after the Second World War.
NARDINI’S CAFÉ AND RESTAURANT
Arriving from Italy, Rosa and Pietro Nardini set up their first ice cream shop in
Paisley in 1890 and soon became famous for their delicious desserts. Their sons,
Augusto, Nardino and Sandrino saw that there was a market for a business in Largs,
where day visitors came “doon the water” on holiday. Their Largs café opened in 1935
and is still a popular and well known venue. The newly refurbished café and restaurant
has retained its Art Deco style and is easily recognisable on the esplanade with
views of Cumbrae, Arran and the Firth of Clyde.