The town consists of one street about half a mile in length, with a short transverse street its south end, where the Established Church marks original centre. Among its public buildings are an Original Secession Church, a Public School, a Boarding School for young ladies, and a Post Office. At an early period Auchinleck was noted for the manufacture of snuff boxes. The peculiar feature of the Auchinleck snuff box was a secret hinge, first discovered by a person residing in the village.
There is little or no trade carried on in the town, but before the ironworks at Muirkirk and the cotton mills at Catrine were started, the village was in a fairly prosperous state. These new industries, however, drafted away a considerable able number of the inhabitants, bent on earning higher wages than could be got at Auchinleck. The magnificent estate of the Marquess of Bute is adjacent to the village, and the parish is historically famous for men of note and abounds in legends of tragic events enacted in the olden times. Among the places of historical interest there are Auchinleck House, the ancestral home of the Boswells; Hoodstone, tenanted for a time by descendants of the famous outlaw, Robin Hood - and Logan House, once the abode of the witty Laird of Logan.
The barony of Auchinleck formed a part of the extensive territory of Kyle-Stewart, acquired by Walter, the son of Alan. The lands were granted by the first Stewart to a vassal who assumed from the place the local surname of Auchinleck. His descendants remained in possession of the barony until the end of the fifteenth century, when it was acquired by William Cunningham of Craigans, through marriage with Mariot Auchinleck, a female heir.
The parish is centred on the old town of Auchinleck, much of the town described above has been altered by the substantial modern housing estates built to the north and east of the old town centre. The most notable architectural feature is Auchinleck House built in the 1760s by a local builder who emulated the designs of the then fashionable Adams brothers. It was the home of the judge, Lord Auchinleck, who had the house built and his more notable son, James Boswell.
To the south of the parish, is the village of Lugar which grew up around the iron works of the Eglinton Iron Company, established in the 1840s. The works are now long gone, together with the coal mines which provide their fuel. The Lugar Church was built in 1867 was paid for by the Eglinton Iron Company. Craigstone House, built in 1820, became the Iron Works manager's house. Lugar's history is given at this page.
An 1837 description of the parish, including a listing of the key personalities of Auchinleck, is given in this extract from Pigot's Directory for Ayrshire. The transcript was provided by Keith Muirhead from Queensland.
James Boswell (1740-1795), the biographer of Samuel Johnson was born in Auchinleck, the son of Alexander Boswell, Lord Auchinleck. He was educated at Edinburgh High School and University; studied law at Glasgow under Adam Smith, and at Edinburgh. He first made acquaintance of Johnson in London, 1763.
Another son of Auchinleck was William Murdock or Murdoch [1754-1839] the Scottish inventor and technician, sometimes referred to as the "Scottish Edison". He was employed by James Watt and Matthew Boulton to build steam engines. Murdock was the first to develop coal-gas lighting on a commercial scale, holding the gas in gasometers.
Hugh Logan (1739 - 1802), the Laird of Logan was a celebrated wit in the late 18th century. The youngest of three brothers, he inherited the Logan estate after his brothers died young. His popular book of comic writing was published as "The Laird of Logan".