New volume is landmark in Ayrshire heritage

A NEW volume in the celebrated Buildings of Scotland series is set to be a landmark in the understanding of the heritage of Ayrshire and Arran.

The ‘Pevsner’ series, founded in 1951, has become the byword for authoritative and comprehensive coverage of England’s architecture.

The Buildings of Scotland was founded by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-83) and Colin McWilliam (1928-89) as a companion series to The Buildings of England. Churches and public buildings are covered in depth, alongside unusual and unpredictable structures such as folly towers, toll houses and railway viaducts.

Castles and mansions are described in detail, along with a selection of lesser houses. Towns are explored in a series of enjoyable perambulations, setting the streets and buildings in historical context. Contemporary architecture is included too, viewed with a critical but appreciative eye. Major themes are surveyed in a historical introduction, including chapters from specialist contributors, and there are full indexes for ease of use.

Ayrshire and Arran is an area of striking contrasts. Its landscape ranges from the brooding Highland fastnesses of Goatfell, through the dune-backed sands of its long coast, to the rolling pastures of its agricultural heart and onto the lonely moorlands of Carrick. This is a county not only of seaside holidays and golf, but also of iron and steel works, heavy engineering and textile manufacture.

The local architecture is similarly diverse, marrying natural beauty with industry and modernity. It is the county of Robert Burns, commemorated by an exuberant monument at his birthplace in Alloway. Other highlights include the monument at the Skelmorlie Aisle in Largs; the stones of Machrie Moor; medieval castles, such as Dean, Lochranza and Turnberry, all with royal connections. The abbeys at Crossraguel and Kilwinning are rivals in significance to those of the Borders, and there are early churches at Dailly, Loudoun and Kilbirnie.

Country houses, too, are numerous and include two of the best known of the eighteenth century – Culzean Castle and Dumfries House – as well as houses of every period and style, including Kildonan, perhaps the last great country house in Scotland. Ayr is the archetypal seaport county town, with a medieval street pattern and attractive Georgian and Victorian residential areas, while Kilmarnock has one of the finest streets of Victorian commercial buildings outside the major cities, and Irvine is most remarkable for the pioneering architecture associated with its rebirth as a New Town in the twentieth century.

This is the twelfth volume in the Buildings of Scotland series and includes over 100 specially commissioned colour photographs, maps and plans.

Rob Close is the author of Ayrshire & Arran: An Illustrated Architectural Guide (RIAS, 1992). Anne Riches is co-author of the volume in this series on Glasgow (1990) and a former Chairman of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.