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The History of Ayrshire

Ayrshire, like the rest of Scotland, has a convoluted history going back many thousands of years. Although there is evidence of human presence dating back 20,000 years, the Picts from about 3000 years ago were the earliest identifiable group of settlers, followed by Celts 700 years later. Then the Romans came for a visit about 2000 years ago before the original Scots (actually Celts from Ireland, who had come from Indo-Europe via Spain some time before) arrived around 300 CE. After surviving the Viking invasions around 800 CE and the Norman occupation 300 years later, there followed a long period of as yet unresolved dissent involving both the English/German throne and also the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.

The 'capital' of Ayrshire is Ayr, on the River Ayr (in case you're wondering, 'Ayr' means 'river'). The town was established with the construction of a fort on the south side of the river around 1200 CE and was soon granted the status of Royal Burgh in recognition of its important harbour. A hundred-odd years later it spread to the north side of the river in the form of Newtown-upon-Ayr. That lovely man Oliver Cromwell commissioned the building of a new fort in Ayr in 1652. Other villages such as Wallacetoun sprang up later in the vicinity, and these various hamlets eventually all amalgamated into the 'metropolis' of Ayr. To the south lay Alloway where Robert Burns was born, and to the north was Prestwick, where the first golf Open was held in 1860.

Some notable progeny of Ayrshire are: Alexander Fleming (born near Darvel) who discovered penicillin in 1928; John Dunlop (born near Dreghorn) who invented the pneumatic tyre); and John MacAdam (born in Ayr) who, despite being both a road-builder and the proprietor of a tar-works, failed to see the value of binding road-iron with tar, yet lends his name to the process known as tarmacadam.
Burns Cottage, Alloway