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Grid reference: NS203592
Location: 55°47’33"N, 4°52’4"W
Population: 11,241
Post town: Largs
Postcode: KA30
Dialling code: 01475
Local Government
Council: North Ayrshire
North Ayrshire and Arran

Largs is a town in Ayrshire, on the Firth of Clyde about 33 miles from Glasgow.

It is a popular seaside resort with a pier. The town markets itself on its historic links with the Vikings and an annual festival is held each year in early September. In 1263 it was the site of the Battle of Largs between the Norwegian and the Scottish armies. The National Mod has also been held here in the past.

Places of interest

Largs has declined as a beach resort but is still geared towards tourism. The award winning Vikingar Centre at Barrfields is an interactive look into the history of Viking life. Kelburn County Centre, Barrfields Pavilion Theatre, Largs Swimming Pool, Douglas Park and Inverclyde National Sports Training Centre. But it is best known for 'Nardinis', the famous ice cream parlour, cafe and restaurant, which dominates the Esplanade and which reopened in late 2008 following clearance from Historic Scotland and major renovation works.

A neolithic tomb is found behind Douglas Park. Known as the Haylie Chambered Tomb, it was once covered by a cairn of stones known as Margaret's Law. When it was uncovered in the early twentieth century the tomb was dated to around 3,000 to 2,000 BC.

Skelmorlie Aisle, adjoining the local museum, is in the care of Historic Scotland and is open during the summer.

Kelburn Castle, situated close to Largs, is the ancestral home of the Boyle (originally de Boyville) family, the hereditary Earls of Glasgow. Kelburn is believed to be the oldest castle in Scotland to have been continuously inhabited by the same family. The de Boyvilles who originated in Caen in Normandy came up after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The forebears of the modern day Boyles settled at Kelburn around 1140.

The Battle of Largs

The Battle of Largs in 1263 ended Norwegian supremacy in the Hebrides.

Largs was a minor battle but its effects were dramatic. Norwegians under King Haakon IV of Norway and his vassal King Magnus III Lord of Mann had been raiding the Scottish coast for some time, and the Scots under Alexander III had been following the fleet, attempting to intercept its raiding parties. In a storm, part of the Norse fleet bearing the combined armies was beached at Largs and the Scots attacked a small force of Norwegians attempting to salvage the ships. The outcome of this confrontation is uncertain, as both sides claim victory in their respective chronicles and sagas, and the only independent source of the war fails to mention the battle at all.

The battle was followed soon after by the death of the 59-year old King Haakon in the Bishop's Palace in Kirkwall on Orkney. After the king's death his more lenient son Magnus VI agreed the Treaty of Perth in 1266, under which the Hebrides were sold to Scotland, to be followed by the Isle of Man after the demise of Magnus III.

The "Pencil" monument commemorating the Battle of Largs stands just over a mile south of the town centre.


Further reading

  • McSherry, R&M (1997) Old Largs
  • Ross, David (2005) Scotland - History of a Nation

Outside links