Kilwinning Heritage Centre

The present clock tower was built in 1816 on the foundations of the original medieval abbey tower. It was designed by David Hamilton and contains the original clock mechanism, built by James Blair, also 1816. It is run as a small museum of local history and heritage. Most of the exhibits are on the ground floor which is the only part of the building accessible to wheelchair users.

The original clock mechanism, built by James Blair.
The original clock mechanism, built by James Blair.

Volunteer guides will accompany you up the winding stone staircase to see the exhibits on the first floor, the original clock mechanism on the second, and the bells on the third. Your reward for climbing the 143 steps in total is to reach the roof, for stunning views of the town and surroundings, the immediate Ayrshire coastline and the islands of Arran and Ailsa Craig.

Clock Tower Bells

A wide variety of items is on display; descriptions of the origins of the Abbey; medieval carved stonework; photographs of old Kilwinning; a model of Eglinton Castle in its heyday; an illustration of the Kilwinning connection with Robert Burns; information about ‘The Bard of the Yukon’, poet Robert Service who spent some of his youth in the town, and much more.

A display of items relating to the Papingo Shoot, held annually by the Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers, the oldest archery organisation in the world dating back to 1483, includes antique Papingo targets, arrows and bows, one of which is unique in the world. Papingo is the same word as popinjay or pigeon. In this case, and in common with most other European countries, target practice meant using a live bird attached to the end of a pole. Later the live bird was replaced with a wooden model, or ‘papingo’ with detachable wings. On display are antique wooden birds, dated to the late 1800s.

Three shoots are held at the Tower each year, with the Papingo placed at the top of the Tower, and archers shooting at it from below. The overall winner is the first archer to “ding doon the doo”, or knock the pigeon off its perch! It is the only competition of its type in the world. The magnificent Silver Arrow Trophy, dating from 1724, is on permanent display in Kilwinning Library. 

Silver Arrow Trophy

For a stunning 360-degree, Virtual Reality tour of the Abbey grounds and dizzying views from the top of the Tower, visit photographer John Patterson’s site.

Visit the Heritage Centre
Free Entry

Mid-May to mid-September
Friday, Saturday & Sunday 1-3.
Other openings to be arranged. 

Please check our Facebook page for details.
Climb the 143 steps for stunning views from the roof.
Under 16’s must be accompanied by an adult.

Latest News

Outing to National Museum of Scotland

KH members enjoyed a trip to Edinburgh and had a guided tour of relevant exhibits in the National Museum of Scotland.

41606988 2375025075871083 3291738471244234752 n[3] 

The Hunterston Brooch is a highly important example of Celtic art, made around 700 AD and discovered in 1826 by two ditch diggers from West Kilbride.

DSCI0730 002

The whalebone casket was once kept in Eglinton Castle.

Tower closes for the year

The Abbey Tower visitor centre closes on Sunday 16 September 2018 and reopens at Easter 2019. To arrange group visits at other times, please contact us.

View all news

Donate to Kilwinning Heritage

We are always happy to receive donations. These can be made via PayPal as a one-off or recurring payment, for a value of your choosing.