"With reference to the county town, an old historian says: "Aire is an ancient town and eminent for its privileges, having been built from patent by King Robert Bruce. Streams from the river drive several mills in the middle of the new town, which is joined to the old by a bridge of four arches. The old town was once called St. Johnstown-upon-Aire in contra-distinction to that upon the Tay. It is situated amidst pleasant fertile fields with delightful greens, that afford a good prospect winter and summer. It is reckoned the principal market town in the West of Scotland, next to Glasgow, has a beautiful, stately church, and is at present the seat of a presbytery, to which belong twenty-eight parishes, and with Glasgow constitutes a provincial synod." "We thus learn that in olden times Ayr was quite as enamoured of her greens as she is at the present day, and that her markets ruled the roost over the entire West of Scotland, the city of St. Mungo excepted."
"Ayrshire Nights Entertainment: A Descriptive Guide to the History, Traditions, Antiquities of the County of Ayr" by John MacIntosh of Galston, Ayrshire, published in 1894, by John Menzies and Co. of Kilmarnock, Dunlop and Drennan.
The Troon and District Family History Society has published the following books of Monumental Inscriptions relating to Ayr: Old Alloway, Newton Green Cemetery (Ayr), Six Kyle graveyards (includes St. Margaret's, John St., Ayr), The Secessionist Graveyard (King St., Ayr), Wallacetown Cemetery (Ayr), Ayr Auld Kirk.
"Pre-1855 Gravestone Inscriptions; an index for Carrick, Ayrshire" edited by Alison Mitchell, and published in Edinburgh in 1988 by the Scottish Genealogy Society covers the old graveyard at Alloway.
The South Ayrshire Libraries have published an index to the deaths in Ayr Parish OPRs 1766-1820.
The Parish Church (the Auld Kirk) off Kirkport, a narrow way a little below the
Wallace Tower, in High Street. The church was built between 1652 and 1654, paid for
by Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth Government which had requisitioned the original
medieval church. (All that remains of that church
is St John's Tower, close by the Fort.) In the lychgate of the Auld Kirk are some
of the heavy iron grave-covers which were common in the days of the body-snatchers.
The graveyard will interest epitaph hunters; the Martyrs' Tomb is near the river on
the east side of the church; its inscription concluding:
"Boots, thumbkins, gibbets were in fashion then,
Lord, let us never ace such days again."
In 1868, the town had a large number of churches besides the Auld Kirk, not all of which have survived into the late 20th century. These included:
The New Church of Fort Street was opened in 1810, built to accommodate the overflow from the Auld Kirk. This church was converted into a dance studio 'Dansarena' in the early 1980s.
Three Free Church of Scotland churches.
Two United Presbyterian churches.
An Original Seceder meeting house.
A Reformed Presbyterian meeting house.
The Baptist Church, also on Fort Street, built in 1817 as a Weslyan Methodist Chapel.
An Independent (Congregationalist) chapel.
A Roman Catholic chapel.
A Moravian chapel.
A Morrisonian chapel.
Ayr is a royal burgh created in 1205. Ayr is a busy and attractive town which owes something at least of its prosperity to its connection with Robert Bums. The town stands on the banks of the River Ayr, at the point where that river enters the Firth of Clyde, so that it can also offer the attractions of a seaside resort.
The Ayr Description Page offers a more detailed description of the town and its history. The page contains some basic travel information for the town.
An 1837 description of Ayr and neighbouring areas, including a listing of the key personalities of the town, is given in this extract from Pigot's Directory for Ayrshire. The transcript was provided by Keith Muirhead from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.
A note on a fragment of the history of the Ayr Grammar School.
Close by Ayr lies Alloway, the birthplace of Scotland's premier poet which is easily reached from Ayr town centre. Alloway was created as a quoad sacra parish within the original Ayr parish in the late 19th century.
View photographs of Ayr and the surrounding area.
- The transcription of the section for Ayr from the National Gazetteer (1868) provided by Colin Hinson.
Information about boundaries and administrative areas is available from A Vision of Britain through time.
View maps of Ayr.
Here are some figures showing the parish's population through time: