It was at Largs that in 1263 that King Haakon of Norway was surprised and routed by King Alexander III before he had time to get his troops into battle array after their landing. The Norwegian king himself managed to escape to Orkney. Here however he died and was buried. His defeat caused the cession of the Isle of Man and the Hebrides to Scotland on condition of an annual tribute, which was paid until the days of King James I.
"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 & Co. of Kilmarnock, Dunlop and Drennan.
The Largs Parish Church was built in 1812. Other churches in the town included:
- The former Parish Church built in 1636, of which only the remnants: the Skelmorlie Aisles and the Brisbane Aisle are open to the public.
- The Clark Memorial Church, Bath Street, built in 1890-92.
- The former St John's Free Church, also in Bath Street, and built in 1886.
- St Columba's Church, Gallowgate, built in 1891-3.
- St Mary, Star of the Sea, Greenock Road, dating from 1962. This church replaced the original church of the same name, which was established in School Street in 1896, the first Catholic church in the town since the Reformation.
- St Columba's Episcopal Church, built in 1876.
- Skelmorlie Parish Church, built in 1895.
- The Skelmorlie Free Church, built in 1874, has been converted into a residence.
- Fairlie Parish Church, built in 1883.
- Fairlie Free Church, built in 1879, now the Church Hall.
The maritime and rural parish of Largs lies at the very north of the county, with Renfrewshire to the east. The parish which is bisected by Naddsdale Water, includes the town of Largs and the villages of Fairlie and Skelmorlie.
Largs is a popular and traditional Clydeside holiday resort whose 1930s bathing station, pavilion for dances, cinemas, have been superceded by amenities more attractive to late 20th century tourists. One survivor is the famed Nardini's ice-cream parlour. The town is some 20 miles from Glasgow and 10 miles from Ardrossan. The small commercial moorings have become adjusted to the recreational yachting trade.
Just off Largs is the north end of Great Cumbrae island, which, with its companion, Little Cumbrae, provides a popular excursion from many Clyde resorts. The chief town is Millport (population about 2,000) at the southern end of Great Cumbrae. It is an attractive little place with good bathing, boating, and golf. [The Cumbrae islands are not strictly part of Ayrshire.]
Skelmorlie is an attractive small village on the sea's edge, which has a number of substantial weekend and summer homes for Glasgow folk built on the cliff top in Upper Skelmorlie. Lower Skelmorlie has a more mundane housing crammed between the coast and cliff.
Skelmorlie Castle, built about 1502, has had a history of restoration, damage by fire and reconstruction. It remains an impressive sight albeit with a variety of architectural styles. The Castle was once home to John Graham (c 1795 - 1886) who made a fortune in the export of cloth from Glasgow and became an avid art collector.
Fairlie Village,lying in the south of the parish, had a reputation as the "best village of the wealthy in Scotland" [Lord Cockburn in 1842]. But its character has been changed by the building of bungalows in the inter-war and post-war years. Fairlie was renowned for the quality of the racing yachts produced by several generations of the Fife family, in a business on Bay Street which survived until the 1980s. Not far from the church is a 16th century Tower House. The Fairlie Parish Church has a plaque commemorating the pilot Alan Boyle, who flew the first British monoplane in 1909.
The 'gem of the Clyde' may be visited online at the Largs Community Website.
View photographs of Largs and the surrounding area.
- The transcription of the section for Largs from the National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) provided by Colin Hinson.
Information about boundaries and administrative areas is available from A Vision of Britain through time.
View maps of Largs.