Kempock Point and Cardwell Bay at sunset.
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
Gourock (// (listen) GOOR-ək; Scottish Gaelic: Guireag [ˈkuɾʲak]) is a town falling within the Inverclyde council area and formerly forming a burgh of the county of Renfrew in the West of Scotland. It has in the past functioned as a seaside resort on the East shore of the upper Firth of Clyde. Its principal function today, however, is as a popular residential area, extending contiguously from Greenock, with a railway terminus and ferry services across the Clyde.
The name Gourock comes from a Gaelic word for "pimple", in reference to the hill above the town. As far back as 1494 it is recorded that James IV sailed from the shore at Gourock to quell the rebellious Highland clans. Two hundred years later William and Mary granted a Charter in favour of Stewart of Castlemilk which raised Gourock to a Burgh of Barony. In 1784 the lands of Gourock were purchased by Duncan Darroch, a former merchant in Jamaica. He built Gourock House near the site of the castle in what the family eventually gifted to the town as Darroch Park, later renamed by the council as Gourock Park.
From a small fishing village in the traditional county of Renfrewshire, Gourock grew into a community involved in herring curing, copper mining, ropemaking, quarrying and latterly yacht-building and repairing. Within sight of Gourock, in the early hours of Friday 21 October 1825, PS Comet (II) was run into by the steamer Ayr, some 62 people losing their lives.
When the competing railway companies extended their lines to provide fast connections to Clyde steamer services the Pierhead was built as a railway terminus. Nowadays a passenger ferry serves Kilcreggan and electric trains provide a service to Glasgow from Gourock railway station at the pierhead. The David MacBrayne Ltd headquarters is at the pier, and CalMac run a passenger ferry service to Dunoon. A car ferry service is run by Western Ferries from McInroy's Point on the west side of the town to Hunter's Quay to the north of Dunoon.
Like many Scottish seaside towns, Gourock's tourist heyday was in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth. Evidence of this part of its past is gradually disappearing - The Bay Hotel and Cragburn Pavilion and The Ashton, three local landmarks, disappeared towards the end of the last century. At the same time, Gourock has continued to expand along the coastline, with new estates above the medieval Castle Levan which has been restored and is in use as a bed and breakfast. Further development is taking place, though a short stretch of green belt still separates the town from the Cloch lighthouse which looks out over the firth to Innellan in Argyll.
Places of interest
Gourock has one of the three remaining public outdoor swimming pools in Scotland. Gourock Outdoor Pool was built in 1909 and reconstructed in 1969, it was once tidal and had a sandy floor, but is now a modern, heated facility, with cleaned sea water used in the saltwater pool. The pool was closed at the end of the 2010 summer season for a major improvement project, now completed. The existing changing accommodation was demolished and replaced with a more modern leisure centre, incorporating an enlarged gymnasium and lift access from the street level down to the new changing accommodation and the upgraded pool.
The megalithic Kempock Stone, popularly known as "Granny Kempock Stone", stands on a cliff behind Kempock Street. The superstition was that for sailors going on a long voyage or a couple about to be married, walking seven times around the stone would ensure good fortune. A flight of steps winds up from the street past the stone to Castle Mansions and St John's Church, whose crown steeple forms a landmark dominating Gourock.
Kempock Street is the main shopping street, and has a variety of shops including a small supermarket, art and gift shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs. At the north end of the street, a statue of a "Girl on a Suitcase" with bucket and spade at her side, popularly known as "Wee Annie", commemorates the town's past as a seaside resort and setting-off point. She looks out over the pier where Clyde steamers took holidaymakers "doon the watter". The statue was created by Angela Hunter as part of a public art project commissioned by Riverside Inverclyde in 2011, and it has become a local tradition to keep Wee Annie warm with a scarf and woollen hat.
Gourock also has a golf course, which stretches from behind Trumpethill to Levan estates.
Gourock has a large yacht club named the Royal Gourock Yacht Club. Situated on Ashton Road at the junction of Victoria Road, it was known as Gourock Sailing Club when it was founded in 1894. It became Gourock Yacht Club in 1900, and acquired Royal status in 1908.
Clan Darroch's links with Gourock began in the later half of the 18th century with Duncan Darroch, 1st of Gourock, who had returned to Scotland after making a fortune in the West Indies. There is a story that as a lad, before leaving for Jamaica, he climbed into the garden of Gourock House to get apples from the orchard, and when chased out by the gardener said he would return to buy the estate with its orchard. He acquired the Barony of Gourock from the Stewarts of Castlemilk in 1784. He was also granted arms by the Court of the Lord Lyon and designated Chief of McIireich.
The present head of the Scottish clan Darroch is titled Claire Darroch-Thompson, 8th of Gourock, Lady of the Barony of Gourock, following the death of her father, the late Duncan Darroch of Gourock on 1 February 2011.
Gourock's principal industry, apart from tourism and fishing, was small craft repair and chandlery. An eponymous ropework opened in the town but later moved to Port Glasgow. More recently Amazon.com opened a distribution centre at Faulds Park, an industrial estate to the south of the town. The Amazon building was originally occupied by Mimtec who manufactured PC products in high volumes for IBM.
Areas of the town include Ashton, Cardwell Bay, Levan, McInroy's Point, Midton and Trumpethill.
The promenade at Ashton forms part of the Inverclyde Coastal Path.
McInroy's Point is a small peninsula in the west of the town. In the early 1970s, a pier was constructed here to form the departure point for Western Ferries services to Hunters Quay, near Dunoon on the Cowal peninsula. This provided a second ferry crossing of the Firth of Clyde operating in competition to the state owned Caledonian MacBrayne car ferry, which in 2011 was made a passenger-only service operated by CalMac, initially as their Argyll Ferries subsidiary, leaving Western Ferries as the only car ferry service from Gourock to Dunoon.
This Western Ferries service is aimed primarily at vehicular transport. It operates between the edges of the towns, rather than the town centres, and the Hunters Quay terminal is on the road from Dunoon to the Scottish Highlands.
McInroy's Point is also a common spot for rock fishing, particularly during the summer months.
Early Midton was started in 1944 and consisted of 11 pre-fabricated houses built on part of the "Tower Hill". The houses – Winston Churchill's solution to the post-war housing shortage – were made of asbestos with flat roofs; they were originally intended to last for only ten years, but in fact they stood well into the 1960s. They were fitted with an electric cooker, a refrigerator, a coal fire, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and front and rear garden space. The rent at that time was 10 shillings per week (50 pence in decimal money.) There was no bus service into the town of Gourock, about 1 mile (2 kilometres) away. With no shops and the roads still under development all provisions had to be carried from the town to Midton. The local farm (Holburns' Drumshantie Farm) could provide milk. The cows from the farm grazed on Tower Hill and were known to get into the resident's gardens causing havoc. However, manure supplies were plentiful and free from the farm.
Midton has two Catholic schools: St Columba's High School and St Ninian's Primary School.
Trumpethill is situated between Midton and Levan and lies to the north of Gourock Golf Club, which stretches all the way behind to the back of Levan. The area has Moorfoot Primary School, one of three primary schools in Gourock.
"Wee Annie" during the coronavirus pandemic
- Iain Banks (1954–2013), author
- Charlie Barr (1864–1911), yachtsman and three-time America's Cup winner
- George Wyllie (1921–2012), artist
- Fiona Ritchie (1960– ), radio broadcaster
- William Somerville Shanks (1864-1951), artist
- Melissa Stribling (1926-1992), actress
- Nicky Low (1992-) footballer
- 2001 census
- Taylor, Iain (2011). Place-names of Scotland. Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited. p. 83.
- "Inverclyde Leisure - Gourock Outdoor Swimming Pool". Retrieved 31 December 2010.
Gourock's famous outdoor pool is now closed ahead of a massive £2 million refurbishment
- Lochrie, Susan (2015). "Gourock's 'Wee Annie' back from her holidays". Greenock Telegraph. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
- "Royal Gourock Yacht Club". Royal Gourock Yacht Club.
- "History - Darroch Family Web Site". Retrieved 6 February 2011.
- "Darroch of Gourock". The Daily Telegraph. London.
Video by Gourockguy
Media related to Gourock at Wikimedia Commons