Ardrossan Harbour was linked to the proposal to build a canal linking Glasgow to the Ayrshire coast. It has originally been proposed by the 12th Earl of Eglinton and he supported development of Ardrossan Harbour, with visions of it becoming the principal port for Glasgow. At the time, Saltcoats already had a harbour and Thomas Telford had recommended Ardrossan as the ideal outlet to the sea for the canal. Telford said: 

Ardrossan Bay is a fituation peculiarly well calculated 

for an extenfive and fafe harbour. A rocky head of about half 

a mile in length, forms a complete protection against the fouth 

and weft winds: and the fmall island called the Horfe Ifle 

forms a complete protection against the only other reach of fea, 

which comes from the North End of the Ifland of Arran. 

The 12th Earl of Eglinton ordered the commencement of the works in 1806, with the foundation stone of the harbour being laid that same year. It was a natural harbour, greatly improved by the implementation of a design by Thomas Telford, who also planned to create a canal running from Glasgow to Ardrossan, via Paisley, Johnstone and Kilwinning, linking in with the harbour and thus facilitating the export and import of goods to and from the Irish market (lack of monies meant that this scheme was never completed). Work on the harbour halted on the death of the 12th Earl, standing in abeyance until much later. 

Between 1886 and 1891, the Eglinton Dock, an outer basin, and a new breakwater were constructed by the Ardrossan Harbour Company. At its peak there were three basins, one locked, but the latter has been filled in. The harbour has been the subject of a painting by the 19th century English landscape and marine painter William Daniell, who featured it in his book ‘A Voyage Around Great Britain’. 

Civil engineer and architect (1757 – 1834), Thomas Telford was born in Eskdale. He was a noted road, bridge and canal builder. After establishing himself as an engineer of road and canal projects in Shropshire, he designed numerous infrastructure projects in his native Scotland, as well as harbours and tunnels. His report in 1805 established the scheme that was to deliver the canal from Glasgow to Ardrossan. He also developed the plan for the harbour at Ardrossan at the same time. 

Further Reading

Ardrossan Harbour at Canmore

Ardrossan Harbour at

Ardrossan Shipyards: Struggle For Survival 1825 -1983 by Catriona Levy and Ardrossan Local History Workshop (Glasgow University)