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Largs is a town on the Firth of Clyde in North Ayrshire, about 33 miles from Glasgow. The original name means "the slopes" (An Leargaidh) in Scottish Gaelic.
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 Mòd has also been held here in the past.
Despite its diminished status as a holiday resort, much of Largs is still geared towards tourism. There is the award-winning Vikingar Centre at Barrfields, an interactive look into the history of Viking life; Kelburn Country Centre, Barrfields Pavilion Theatre, Largs Swimming Pool, Douglas Park and Inverclyde National Sports Training Centre. But it is best known for Nardini's, the famous ice cream parlour, café and restaurant, that dominates the Esplanade and which re-opened in late 2008 following clearance from Historic Scotland and major renovation works.
St. Columba's Parish Church is situated opposite Nardini's and contains a Heritage Centre. The church itself was built in 1892 and is notable for its stained glass windows and Willis organ.
Also of interest is a neolithic tomb 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 3000 to 2000 BC.
Skelmorlie Aisle, adjoining the local museum, is in the care of Historic Scotland and is open during the summer.
Kelburn Castle, situated between Largs and Fairlie, 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 Noddsdale Water flows from the north to reach the sea at the north end of Largs, and Brisbane House sited in the dale about a mile up the river was the birthplace of the soldier and Governor of New South Wales Sir Thomas Brisbane, whose name was given to the city of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, and, in 1823, to "Brisbane Water" on the NSW Central Coast. Noddsdale was renamed Brisbane Glen in his honour.
The 'Prophet's Grave' is located in the Brisbane Glen close to Middleton Farm. In 1647 the Reverend William Smith died from the 'plague' whilst ministering to his parishioners who had temporarily forsaken Largs as a result of the aforementioned plague. William asked to be buried in the glen next to the Noddsdale Water and prophesised that if the two rowan trees planted at either end of his grave were prevented from touching then the plague would never return to Largs. The grave is in a delightful spot during the day and was a popular tourist attraction with postcards available and a thorough restoration in 1956. Night visits, however, have resulted in reports of ghost sightings and unusual phenomenon. The prophecy has been of debatable efficacy. However it has meant that his grave has been well looked after for around four hundred years.
A Caledonian MacBrayne ferry service runs from Largs to Great Cumbrae, and the paddle steamer Waverley also calls in at the pier during cruises. The town is served by the railway line from Glasgow to North Ayrshire (the Ayrshire Coast Line) and also lies on the main A78 road. It remains a popular destination for holiday-makers and weekenders from Glasgow all year round.
Largs is also the birthplace of the actors Daniela Nardini and John Sessions, the footballer Lou Macari and the golfer Sam Torrance. Though not born in Largs, musician and songwriter Graham Lyle of Gallagher and Lyle was brought up there and still returns to visit his holiday home. Musical partner Benny Gallagher was, in fact, born in the town and has even held Songwriting Masterclasses in the Vikingar to encourage local musicians to embrace their talent.
All in all, there are still many reasons to visit the fantastic town of Largs.
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