The northeastern Ayrshire community grew into the second largest town in the county and lies in the southwestern region of Scotland. St. Mernock, disciple of St. Colomba, established a church here in the 6th century and his followers founded a hamlet bearing his name. Lord Boyd was a faithful follower of Robert the Bruce and fought beside him in many battles including Goldberry Hill, where they defeated the Norse in 1263. As a reward for his loyal service, Robert bestowed Kilmarnock to Boyd and his family in 1316. Boyd constructed the castle in 1350. The family later added a palace in 1468. Kilmarnock became a barony burgh in 1591.
Kilmarnock began a textile industry in 1603 and besides woollen cloth, the community gained notoriety for striped cowls and broad, flat bonnets often worn by peasant women. Besides farming, other medieval trades included coal mining, leather tanning and numerous leather products that included shoes. In 1668, a fire destroyed the community, leaving 120 families homeless, destitute and residing in the fields around Kilmarnock. Dependant on the good graces of the Lord of the castle, the town survived and reconstructed.
Maria Gardiner was responsible for introducing the blanket and carpet industry to Kilmarnock in 1728. She began the business using handlooms. Carpets remained a main industry and in the 1800s, factories employed thousands. Dependant on the good graces of the Lord of the castle, the town survived and reconstructed. A kitchen fire consumed the internal structures of the castle in 1735 and Boyd sold the remains 11 years later. By 1786, the Lord of Walden renovated the structure and in the new palace, the royals convinced famed poet Robert Burns to publish his works. The first milking machines developed in Kilmarnock.
In the 1800s, local grocer Johnnie Walker distilled and began selling his Walker’s Kilmarnock Whiskey in his store. Walker’s son and grandson were responsible for making the Scotch a popular brand now known worldwide as Johnnie Walker’s. In 2002, the Robert Burn World Federation and the East Ayrshire Council created a plaque in remembrance of the United States’ 911 tragedy. The commemorative plaque sits in the rose garden in front of the castle.
Activities and Attractions
Strolling through town, guests encounter a variety of historic statues and modern street art displays. Venture to the Dick Institute, which houses two art galleries and three museums. The galleries contain collections of fine art along with contemporary pieces in multiple genres. The museums feature Kilmarnock industrial and social history, and additionally contain natural science exhibits. Here, visitors have the chance to see the printing press used to publish the works of Robert Burns. Visitors may take guided and self-guided journeys around Kilmarnock, exploring the city and surrounding areas.
Now called Dean Castle, the Kilmarnock fortress lies north of the town. Lord de Walden continued renovations in 1908 and during the 1970s; his family donated the structure and surrounding Country Park to the public. Inside, visitors have the chance to see Walden’s interesting and complete collection of historic armour and weaponry. His lordship also amassed antique musical instruments dating from 1500. The exhibit contains numerous music making devices that include guitars, harpsichords and wind instruments. The castle walls also bear various tapestries. Guests may additionally tour the building, exploring the many rooms and quarters while hearing the story of their uses.
The Castle Park encompasses a vast acreage and contains biking/walking paths, which travel past expansive lawns and gardens into wooded areas. A portion of the property features two rivers narrowing to a single branch. The location also has a specially designed adventure playground, petting farm and numerous sculptures. Many native wildlife species make the park their home. Guests might see everything from colourful butterflies to the illusive fox. Birdwatchers see an array of feathered friends from waterfowl to woodpeckers. The visitor’s centre details the local animal and plant life and houses nature cams. The facility also has a shop and tearoom.
Places To Stay and Dining
Kilmarnock hotel selections include historic buildings containing a host of modern and unique features. Some facilities go the extra mile to accommodate travelling families. Younger guests enjoy game rooms and specially designed TV/theatre rooms showing a number of children and family films.
The local Jefferson Restaurant offers International cuisine and traditional Scottish favourites with a twist. Try spiced Cajun chicken casserole with wild rice and a creamy coconut sauce. Have fajitas prepared with spiced prawns or other meat served on warm flatbread with guacamole and sour cream.
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