Thursday, November 8, 2012

Kilmarnock Cross

Kilmarnock Cross is the large open square in the heart of the pedestrianised town centre, surrounded by several streets and some striking buildings including the former Royal Bank of Scotland, built in 1939, which has a large green dome. (Apparently there was an ornate mosaic floor in the banking hall with a 1939 threepenny bit in the centre; I don't know whether it is still there as I haven't been inside.)

There used to be seven streets which fanned out from The Cross but, owing to a major redevelopment in 1970,  some were demolished. Many shops, the bus station and a car park were built in their place. You can also find the modern (and controversial) Burns Shopping Mall to one side.

In the centre stands the striking statue of Robert Burns and his printer, John Wilson, where a roundabout used to be in the 1970s when traffic flowed around these streets. This replaced the marble statue of Sir James Shaw which was moved to its new position in London Road near the Dick Institute.

The shops which surround The Cross, as I write this, include Holland and Barrett, Barclays Bank, Aulds Bakery and Costa Coffee.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New Laigh Kirk

This town centre church was built in 1802, enlarged in 1831 and then completely refurbished in 1996 by W I Munro Architects, who won a Civic Trust Award for part of the town's regeneration. In 2002 a new stained glass window was added.

There are Covenanters' graves, which are historically very interesting, to be seen in the adjacent churchyard.

This church is close to The Cross in the heart of the town, standing today in a pedestrianised cobble-stoned side street. It is one of the main landmarks of Kilmarnock and I find it a very attractive building.

Church services there are currently on Sundays at 11.00am and also at 9.30am from June to August.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I wouldn’t have found this place if it hadn’t been recommended to me by some of the staff in Marks and Spencer in Kilmarnock. They take clothes there for repairs and alterations and explained that, not only is the work always of the highest standard, but probably cheaper than anywhere else. What higher recommendation could you ever need?!! Almost needless to say, I took some clothes straight down to the shop (which you’ll find just round the corner from ‘Subway’ – through the door and up the stairs) and left them (along with a deposit) with a friendly lady there. A few days later I went back to pick up the clothes, which were beautifully repaired, and to pay the balance of a few pounds. Certainly cheap for such professional work and I shall definitely return when I need any more sewing done!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mamita's Cafe

This is a small pleasant cafe in Bank Street with several small round 'plastic wood' tables and black chairs; a high 'Italian style' counter and gorgeous cakes displayed under glass domes.

I had coffee here at the end of August and it was lovely - a frothy latte in a tall glass. The Mocha Italian blend is served here and they offer to grind beans for you to take home. Many nice varieties of tea as well, plus "luxury hot chocolate with marshmallows, cream and flake" (wow!), and iced coffee.

There are shelves on the left as you go inside selling various goodies, including dried pasta, biscuits, chilli jams, chutneys and other preserves.

In the cafe you can have panini, sandwiches, tortilla wraps, salads, homemade pate, homemade soup of the day, bagels with imaginative fillings (including smoked salmon or banana and cinnamon); you'll find extra meals or snacks on the blackboard at the back of the cafe. Apparently, all produce is locally sourced wherever possible. There are milk shakes available and other soft drinks.

There are shelves containing magazines and newspapers, which are free to read, on the left of the counter.

I think the tables could be a bit nicer or, if not, then tablecloths would improve them, and the wooden floor is in dire need of a coat of paint as the black paint has mostly worn off and looks very scruffy. These things slightly spoil what is, otherwise, a lovely little cafe.

Grange Church

This imposing red sandstone church dates from 1879. The architects were the brothers, William and Robert Ingram, the sons of James Ingram - the famous Kilmarnock architect who designed many of the well known buildings in the town, including the beautiful Palace Theatre and St Marnock’s Church.

William eventually became an architect in Glasgow but Robert stayed in Kilmarnock. He later designed the Burns Monument and the Dick Institute.

When Grange Church first opened it was described as a "handsome cruciform structure with a spire of 140ft. There are 860 sittings and a hall and classroom to the E has accommodation for 500 people."

A memorial stone can be found below the arch on the left side of the window above the entrance to the church.

There is a steel bell in the tower which is thought to be the largest in the country. Corrosion makes deciphering the date on the side difficult, but it is thought to read ‘1867’.

The stained glass window behind the pulpit was donated in 1896 by Miss M. Taylor in memory of her father, William Taylor.

In 1902, an organ was added and it continued in use until 2009.

I don’t know how long it has been since this church stopped being used for worship as I see that it is now closed up and there are signs outside which state that it is now for sale or to rent. It will be interesting to see what happens to it in future.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Global Market 2012

The Global Market came to Kilmarnock twice this year, in May and then at the end of August/beginning of September. I missed it in May but I enjoyed having a look round the second time, in August. The Cross and King Street were a mass of colourful stalls and the weather was good enough to bring out lots of people!

Below: Just a few of my photos:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Kay Park

I walk through this lovely 30 acre park two or three times a week, on one side of the pond to get to the Library and Dick Institute, or the other side following the river, the Kilmarnock Water, down to the town.
The park was gifted to Kilmarnock by the local insurance broker, Alexander Kay and opened in 1879. 
You'll find the striking Reformers' Monument there and the attractive Victorian Fountain which commemorates the 1902 coronation of King Edward and Queen Alexandra. 
On the top of the hill there is the new Burns Monument Genealogy and Registrar Centre, built to replace the former Burns monument which very sadly burnt down in 2004. The beautiful statue of Burns fortunately remained intact and now stands in the middle of the new Centre. (I shall write a separate post about it before long!)
Above: one of the two lions which 'guard' the Burns Centre
Kay Park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including squirrels, rabbits, ducks and swans. It's a great place for a walk as there are many paths to follow including some mature tree avenues. I love seeing the many attractive flower beds in season and the daffodils are a sight to behold in spring!
I'm sure I shall write many posts in future about this wonderful park, so close to where I live, and add photos taken in the different seasons.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Edward VII Drinking Fountain

This attractive memorial fountain is found in Kay Park, within easy walking distance of where I live.

It was erected by McDowall Steven & Co Ltd in 1902, is painted cast iron on a stepped base and decorated on all four sides. There are lions' heads and deep water bowls with ornamental taps on each side.

On the north and south facings there are panels with the relief inscription, "Presented to his native town by ex Baillie James Craig of Hillhead and Dean in Commemoration of the Coronation of King Edward and Queen Alexandra 1902".

On the east (main) side, there is an E&R crown with a bust of King Edward VII; on the west (rear) side, another A&R crown and a bust of Queen Alexandra, and on the south side is the maker's name plaque.

On the top there's a gilded falcon and crown resting on thistles.

Henderson Parish Church

Henderson Parish Church was built in 1907 at the start of the London Road, next to the Kilmarnock Water. I often walk past it on my way to/from town!

The architect was the local man Thomas Smellie (1860-1938) and his home, at 46 Portland Road, still retains his architectural studio. He designed many buildings in the town around this time. 

The minister, as I write, is the Rev. Dr. David W. Lacy. There are always things going on at the church, besides regular services, meetings of the Guild, the Friendship Club and the Playgroup. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Portland Dental Practice

One of the most anxious things about moving to a new area is going to a new dentist for the first time, especially as, like me (and my husband) you had - after enduring some pretty poor ones in the past - had time to get used to a good one in our last location. It took me several months to finally decide that this practice was probably the best one, going by the various dental websites for the area. A tentative initial phone call, to ask if they were accepting new NHS patients, went extremely well and the receptionist was very friendly and helpful.

This resulted in my husband and I making an appointment and going along to have a check up a couple of days ago. The first impression of the place was good; the waiting area is large and comfortable, nicely carpeted with pleasant soft seating and attractive pictures on the walls.

We were both more than delighted to find we were registered with Anthony Bannon as he could not have been nicer - what a friendly, gentle and thoroughly professional dentist. He put us both entirely at our ease and (when our mouths weren't wide open!) we had a good chat, not only about our teeth but about our move to Kilmarnock too.

While I was waiting for my husband on the landing, I saw a couple of the other dentists welcoming their patients, which included young school children, and they were also very warm and welcoming.

It's probably obvious by now that we are extremely pleased with our choice of dentist and, even after only one appointment, I would not hesitate to recommend this dental practice to anyone.

For the Portland Dental Practice click here

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Johnnie Walker Statue

This statue of Johnnie Walker, one of the men who 'put Kilmarnock on the map', was sculpted by Alexander 'Sandy' Stoddart. 

Stoddart was born in Edinburgh in 1959 and has been 'Her Majesty's Sculptor' in Scotland since 2008. He has been quoted as saying, "My great ambition is to do sculpture for Scotland", and he has achieved this mainly through his large monuments to figures from the country's past.
John Walker (1805-1857) was a grocer, but, although his name was given to the spirit, his son, Alexander, became more important in its history. A terrible flood in the town in 1852 destroyed all the Walker stock and, when Alexander afterwards went into the family business, he persuaded his father to give up the grocery trade and to start selling whisky instead.

The family's blend of spirit was first known as "Walker’s Killme Whisky" and it quickly became extremely popular, thanks to Alexander, and later, his own son, also named Alexander. Between them, they made the Johnnie Walker Whisky a common name worldwide and were also responsible for introducing many other blends and mixes of the spirit. 

In 2009, the world's largest distiller, Diageo, announced that it was closing the Kilmarnock plant, where more than 700 people were employed.  It actually shut down on March 23rd, 2012 and the link between the firm and Kilmarnock came to an end after 192 years. The last bottle made was brought out to a single piper's lament. A song was especially written for the sad occasion, and the lyrics included, 

"The great striding man knows we're his best fan 
but Killie's no part o' Diageo's plan." 

(The "striding man" referred to the figure on the bottle's label, still used today)
 All employees and, indeed, the whole town, mourned the end of an era.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Olympic Mural, Sandbed Street

Our newest artwork here in Kilmarnock, I went down to see it two days ago. Sandbed Street, beside the river in the town centre, used to be a bit of a mess but the council has now cleaned it up and started making other improvements. This striking mural is very eye-catching and is the work of Frank Carty of nearby Newmilns.

The idea came from town centre manager, Fiona Nicolson, as part of the plans to regenerate the area.

The four local heroes depicted are triathlete Gregor Grant of Kilmarnock, karate expert David Coulter (Knockintiber), swimmer Alan Jardine (Hurlford) and boccia player Jamie McCowan (Dundonald). All four men carried the Olympic torch through the town recently.

It's certainly a huge improvement and I hope that more murals and other ways to make this old street, and indeed the whole area, more attractive, are in the pipeline.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dundonald Castle

A marvellous ruin to visit amidst the beautiful Ayrshire countryside just a few miles outside Kilmarnock. You can park at the bottom of the hill and call in at the visitor centre for a ticket to go inside the castle (you can also have some tea or coffee in the cafe there and see the exhibition showing the history of the castle and area). Then it's a short 140 feet climb (if a bit steep!) up to the castle - and where you can also admire the beautiful view.

The castle was built for Robert II on his accession to the throne of Scotland in 1371. It was his favourite home and he died here in 1390. The Stewart kings then lived in the castle for the next 150 years. 
The main room is the well preserved vaulted Laigh (or, lower,) Hall. There's a high-level annex which includes a pit prison, and a modern spiral staircase which will take you up to the Great Hall, the second largest room, which contains private areas at either end.
It seems, owing to extensive excavations, that the present castle was built on the remains of at least two other castles, of which little is known.

Dundonald Games 2012

I just loved going to the Games last Saturday!
The weather was awful when I arrived on the courtesy bus from the 'Park and Ride' site on the outskirts of the village (about 5 miles out of Kilmarnock). It was difficult to make out 'Dundonald Games' on the road sign below, through all the heavy rain on the bus window!
However, once I got there the rain stopped and blazing sun came out for a few hours, which was absolutely perfect for all the performers and spectators!
We were all treated to some wonderful piping...
The dancing was also lovely to watch
There were some 'fun' races too, including the egg and spoon and also the 'wheelbarrow race' (below)
There were also challenges where people could try to smash a coconut with a mallet or slice a melon in half with a sword!
The view of the parade ground is marvellous from Dundonald Castle hill. The music drifted up from below and was very atmospheric.
Just before I went down the road to catch the bus back to my car, the dark clouds threatened once again. These last two photos were taken just before the really heavy rain began. 
 A fantastic day out and I look forward to going again next year!!