Just another WordPress weblog Fri, 16 Apr 2010 17:27:18 +0000 en hourly 1 Yuletide Night returns! Mon, 02 Nov 2009 09:41:56 +0000 admin Move over, Largs Yuletide Event- the traditional late night Thursday Evening is back! After all, you can’t fight tradition…

Local businesses requested the Largs Initiative to scrap the 3 day long yuletide weekend event in order to bring back the traditional Thursday Evening with extended opening hours, and they have finally agreed. The three day long Largs Yuletide Event was initially proposed to attract more business to the town, in order for the shopkeepers to get a trade boost to help them in this time of economic recession. However, local businessmen themselves asked for a return to the traditional approach, to be held on the evening of Thursday (as custom as always had it), December 10th.

Commenting on the change, a spokeswoman for the Largs Initiative group stated that: “Although the change of plans has resulted in the cancellation of some of the accompanying events, The Largs Initiative is determined to support local businesses and is happy to go along with their wishes.”

Don’t be so quick to ring out the old… sometimes, it’s just better to keep things as they are.

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Come to Church as you are Thu, 01 Oct 2009 08:41:54 +0000 admin Churches in Largs are trying out a new “no need to dress up” policy to encourage a more informal and welcoming atmosphere as part of a nationwide “Back to Church” drive.

Largs ministers are urging residents throughout their respective parishes to return to the church for worship. Gordon Fife, of St. Columbia’s Episcopal Church stated “It is a warm and welcoming community in an age where people feel quite cut off and alone.” Churches, after all, are not just looked upon as places of worship, but are important for fostering community feelings and building social cohesion and mutual support.

Several local churches, including the Church of Nazarene, St. John’s, Clark Memorial, St. Columbia’s Parish and St. Columbia’s Episcopal are participating in the “Back to Church” drive, hoping to pass on the message in a big way.

The campaign is to be held on September 27th, organized and coordinated by Action of Churches Together in Scotland. The theme of the campaign is ‘come as you are’- no formalities involved- with a very warm welcome for anyone and everyone who does so.

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The Viking Festival’s Continental Fair a smashing hit Thu, 01 Oct 2009 08:39:31 +0000 admin Chocolate croissants, pastas, prawns, frankfurters… There were flavours of every kind to tantalize the taste buds while taking in the delights of the arts and crafts flown in by traders from all corners of the globe, from as far away as Spain, Ecuador and South Africa.

The Viking Festival is the biggest and most important in Largs’ calendar, and it just keeps getting better, outdoing itself year after year. The continental market of the Viking Festival is one of its highlights, turning the Largs sea front into a massive global fairground for the duration of the festival. The food at the continental market is always to die for, keeping your palate delightfully engaged while you indulge the rest of your senses to the sights and sounds of one of the largest international carnival you will ever hope to see.

Most unfortunately, even with so many traders bringing with them relics of their perennially sun kissed tropical countries, the fairs had to contend with pouring rain that rarely ever let off during the four days of the market. But it takes more than a little rain to dampen such bright spirits; and speaking of spirits, Allan Henderson (Managing Director of Salwarth Brewers in Castle Douglas) got it spot on when he had this to say about the fair: “It always helps when the sun shines but we have done alright.”

Photography by Duncan Holmes

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The Battle of Largs Mon, 31 Aug 2009 08:34:10 +0000 admin 2838207712_a59f9855e9[1]The Largs Viking Festival is already underway this weekend, in memory of the historical Battle of Largs, so what better way to get into the Viking spirit than a short impromptu history lesson?

The Battle of Largs was fought 2nd October, 1263, between the forces of Norway (led by king Håkon Håkonsson) and Scotland (led by king Alexander III) on the Firth of Clyde in North Ayrshire, where the town of Largs stands today. Since the beginning of the 12th century, the Inner and Outer Hebrides and Kintyre, and the kingdom of Man had been under the suzerainty of the King of Norway. In the 13th century, Alexander III of Scotland had been attempting to buy the islands off him, but launched an offensive when that failed. This prompted King Håkon to respond by setting sail with what was reputedly the biggest fleet to ever leave Norway, with over 120 long ships and between 12,000 to 20,000 soldiers. He easily took back the Hebrides, and anchored his fleet by the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, where he was approached by envoys from the Scottish king, opening peace talks. But the talks failed, and King Håkon soon afterwards sent the kings Magnus and Dougal with 40 ships up Loch Long and into Loch Lomond, while the main fleet with King Håkon in charge moved closer towards the islands of Cumbrae and Largs.

It was then that the Scots found their deus ex machina in the form of a storm that drove five of the longs ships aground. The next day, King Håkon went onshore with some 800 men in an effort to rescue the longs ships, and were confronted by the Scottish forces- some 8000 men in all, including 500 armoured and mounted knights. Outnumbered ten-to-one, the battle began to quickly turn into a rout. King Håkon finally managed to escape back into main fleet, but could not send reinforcements because of the storm. Only one ship from the main fleet managed to reach land, and a lengthy long-distance battle ensued, which ultimately ended with both sides retreating. The Norwegians had survived the Scottish onslaught, but they were a spent force themselves. Winter was almost at hand, and the army was short of provisions. King Håkon was forced to sail back to the north, and never returned again- he fell ill and died on 15th December that very year.

The Battle still lives on in the form of the Largs Viking Festival every year, a celebration which dignitaries of both Scotland and Norway attend as a mark of the friendship between the countries. Image: Flickr

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Sports & Leisure at Largs Mon, 31 Aug 2009 08:31:33 +0000 admin 3791777063_c4232533af[1]Largs is a very popular destination for sporting activities of various kinds- particularly water sports, since it stands on the west coast of North Ayrshire.

Sportscotland National Centre at Cumbrae is Scotland’s premier water sports centre and instructor training facility. Surrounded by safe water with easy access to the open sea, the centre’s position offers exceptional facilities and training courses for water sports such as sailing, dinghy sailing, power boating, kayaking, windsurfing, cruising, yachting, and many others. The Flying Eagle Charters (operating from Largs Marina) offer activities such as sport fishing, angling and diving. The New Haylie Fishing Loch is another great place for hooking “the big ones”, including rainbow trout, blue trout, tiger trout and golden trout, while just enjoying one of the most breathtaking sceneries along Scotland’s West Coast.

But fishing and water sports aren’t the only activities on offer. Largs Tennis Club has 3 courts at Douglas Park, Irvine Road, and also provides coaching facilities. For football, Inverclyde Sports Centre has seven aside pitches, and two more pitches at Bowen Craig (next to the Marina), with the main football park Barrfields located behind the ‘Vikingar!’ Complex. Largs has two amateur football teams of its own- the Largs Thistles and the Largs United. The Kelburn Country Centre (approved by the British Horse Society, and Trekking & Riding Society of Scotland) offers horse-riding and trekking activities and training courses for all levels, and provide all necessary equipment as well. Largs has three bowling clubs as well, two outdoors- the Largs Bowling Club and the Douglas Park Bowling Club- and an indoor/outdoor facility at Halkshill Bowling Club. Also, Largs has two 18-hole golf courses at the Largs Golf Club and the Routenburg Golf Club, and a 6-hole training facility at the Inverclyde.

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Prophet’s Grave Mon, 31 Aug 2009 08:28:39 +0000 admin 2247221184_3abe1ed428[1]One mile from the town of Largs, along the North Promenade and down the winding country road, one will run across the grave of the late Rev. William Smith- known to the locals as the Prophet’s Grave.

Rev. William Smith was a minister of the Largs Church from 1644 till 1647- he died after just three years, a victim of the horrible plague that had struck Largs at the time. Hundreds fell victim to the disease, as medical science at the time was powerless to stop it. The plague brought about a burning fever, left the skin disfigured, paralyzed the body and wracked the victim with agonizing stomach cramps. Hundreds more fled Largs in an effort to avoid the plague, escaping to the hills on the upper reaches of Brisbane Glen and setting up makeshift huts of wood and turf.

At a time when victims could do nothing but wait for a long, agonizing death, the newly ordained minister tirelessly continued to serve them, even after he contracted the disease himself. Finally, at the young age of 28, he himself gave up the ghost, and was buried according to his wishes in the Brisbane Glen where he had lived and worked so lovingly and selflessly.

In the undulating stretches of Brisbane Glen’s emerald green fields stand two stone pillars with a gate of wrought iron between them, marked by a cross. Two great yew trees stand guard over this the entrance to his grave, a humble yet solemn tomb in the ground with a headstone to remind people of his life and service- a beautiful place of quiet contemplation.

There is, however, a legend which says that should that the Reverend had made a prophecy on his deathbed- as long as the yew trees over the entrance do not intertwine their branches, the plague will never return to Largs. In the nineteenth century, there had been two severe outbreaks of cholera in the region… but no one knows whether the trees had come to touch at the time of the epidemics. All that anyone knows is that today, at least, the leaning branches still are far from each other… and that Largs remains happy, healthy and prosperous. Image: Flickr

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Note to tourists- Please don’t feed/tip the gulls! Mon, 31 Aug 2009 08:26:18 +0000 admin s1Seagulls (birds of the family Laridae) are notorious all throughout the world for mobbing people, snatching food (in one instance, they have even been known to have snatched a housecat) and generally making intolerable pests of themselves, but in Largs the local gulls seem to have developed more… expensive tastes.

Local councillor Alex Gallagher and Ken Welch of the Largs Initiative group witnessed, much to their astonishment, a seagull coming down on Main Street with a £20 note.

Mr Welch said: “I was just standing in the Main Street and a seagull came down with a £20 note in its beak. I was standing talking to Councillor Gallagher, and my wife Charlotte took it to the police station. It just dropped it on to the road. I think it was looking for a change. You don’t expect them to be dropping notes around.”

As with most coastal town, Largs is plagued by seagulls, and visitors throwing them food tend make matters worse since that encourages the birds to take the initiative and go after food even when it’s not so generously offered. Largs Community Council chairman Ian Murdoch has called on a bye-law to prohibit members of the public from feeding the gulls, while other local authorities are considering a cull by introducing birds of prey, given the extent of the problem. This is, however, the first reported instance where a seagull has actually made off with cash.

The money was safely recovered and deposited at the local police station, as the gull simply dropped it onto the street before flying off. Maybe they don’t take less than fifty as tip on policy…?

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Largs Annual Festivals Mon, 31 Aug 2009 08:23:51 +0000 admin lThere is more to be experienced in Scotland than just the natural beauty of its hills, vales and lochs. No country, after all, is complete without its people. And few people live life larger and more colourfully than merry old Scotsmen. When you live in a place as breathtakingly beautiful as Largs, you want to celebrate life as often as you can. No wonder, then, that Largs has as many as three annual festivals of its very own.

In the first weekend of June every year, for example, Largs lives up to the sound of the blues. The Largs Jazz Festival is the first of the year (of their local calendar, at least), in which various bands from all over the world flock to participate. Unfortunately, the hugely popular event has been kept in abeyance for the last two years, but is hoped that it will take off in all its golden glory again in 2010.

In July Largs celebrates the Brisbane Queen Festival. It began as the Carnival Queen festival in 1934, but was renamed in 1936 to commemorate Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, born in Largs, who went on to become the 6th Governor of New South Wales, and after whom the town of Brisbane in Australia is named. Ena Baird was crowned the first Brisbane Queen, and the tradition has continued since then. Each year, the Brisbane Queen is chosen from among the local schools, and is presented the Queen’s scepter and full royal regalia (not a replica- they are actually presented to Largs by the Government of Queensland) and is afforded the treatment of royalty for the day.

Then comes the week long Largs Viking Festival, which takes place every August/September to commemorate the 1263 Battle of Largs when the Vikings were defeated for the final time by the Scotsmen. A Viking Village is reconstructed for the festival, a Viking parade, a re-enactment of the battle culminating in the ceremonial burning of a Viking longship, and finally ending with a spectacular fireworks show from the Pencil Monument.

Photography by Duncan Holmes

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Kelburn Castle Fri, 26 Jun 2009 16:32:20 +0000 admin Quite possibly the single oldest castle in the country of Scotland, Kelburn Castle has been inhabited by the same family since 1140. Originally the name of the family was De Boyville, but over the years changed to just simply Boyle. It is thought that the family came to Britain with William the Conqueror, sometime in 1066. The current family settled in Kelburn around 1140. Kelburn Castle is located in North Aryshire, Scotland and is the seat of the Earl of Glasgow.

There is little information available about the construction of the original keep, but it is assumed that it was built for defensive purposes rather than comfort, based on the similarity to the construction of other facilities of that time which was around 1200 AD. Sometime around 1581, David Boyle enclosed the original keep with a much larger and grander castle complex. This marked the emergence of the family’s start to power in the local community.

However, the 17th century proved to be troublesome for the Boyles and they obtained their wealth through ship building and shipping. Later, the family heavily relied upon the public service aspect of the community, especially when trying to put a stop to smuggling. John Boyle, the ruler in the 17th century, became the father of the first Earl of Glasgow. The changes that the first Earl, David Boyle, made were not unlike that of a French Chateau and stands virtually the same today, except for the Graffiti art which was done by invitation in order to stop the failing of the concrete facing on the castle, in 2007. The repairs for the concrete may start sometime this year.

Unfortunately for the Boyle family, trouble was arose in the religious controversies of the day and they became indebted by building and endowing churches all over Scotland. The buildings included a big building near Perth and one on Cumbrae. By the late 1800s they found themselves owing nearly one million pounds. A cousin, David Boyle of Stewarton, sold his lands near Irvine in order to have enough money to buy back the Kelburn Facilities at auction. Unfortunately all the rest was lost.

During the years much chaos and lore has been steeped into Kelburn Castle and the lands surrounding it. The present Earl of Glasgow and his wife Isabel started a country park in the 1977, opening the grounds and house to the public. It is truly a wonderful place to visit for those interested in history, or wishing to learn more about the castles and have fun in a modern setting with a historical base.

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Pencil Monument Fri, 26 Jun 2009 16:25:58 +0000 admin The Pencil Monument was built to commemorate the 1263 Battle of Largs. The monument, built in 1912, is for the Scottish people to remember the resolve they had in repelling attacks by the Norwegians. On this particular day in 1263, the Scottish army attacked a small force of Norwegians that were attempting to bring back some of their ships that were carrying parts of different armies that were beached during a major storm. Most historical scholars believe that the Battle of Largs is to have been one of the most important battles in Scottish history.

The Norwegians had been conducting several raids upon the Scottish isles and causing many problems the Scots. However, the armies of Alexander III were keeping tabs on this fleet in particular. A storm blew in, beaching over 160 longships of the Norwegians, which helped Alexander’s army defeat the Viking army of King Taco. There is some contention on this point with both sides laying claim to victory. It is also quite speculative as no other fables, or historical documents mention the battle at all.

However, the Pencil Monument stands today as a reminder to the people of the Scottish coast. It is a little over a mile from the center of the town of Prom. Resembling that of a pencil, the Pencil Monument stands vigil over the town.

While the Pencil Monument is a Scottish monument, it also has strong Viking ties. Each year there is a festival with a live interactive Viking experience. Fireworks are proudly displayed to signal the end of the Viking festival. Many places in the Largs areas are historical and have profound meaning. However, few of them cement the moments of both Scottish and Viking history like that of the Pencil Monument.

Visitors to the Largs area will have a great time looking over the various sites rich in Viking and Scottish lore, legend, and historical accounts. Stopping at the Pencil Monument will bring some of those lores to life. When visiting make a point to stop at the Pencil Monument and take in the rich history and beautiful Scot coastline.

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