As you meander down Girvan’s high street, it is impossible to miss the striking architecture and octagonal tower of The McKechnie Institute. However, the exterior is only part of the appeal of this historic building, the ornate interior is also open to the public. Housing a heritage museum, exhibition gallery, rooms decorated in Victorian style, and a hidden garden – this free Girvan attraction is well worth a visit.
Located on the corner of Dalrymple Street and Ailsa Street West, The McKechnie Institute was built in Scottish Baronial style with some Renaissance detailing. First opened in 1889, it was designed by renowned Glasgow architects, McKissock and Rowan. who also devised Girvan’s North Parish Church. The institute was donated to the town by local businessmen and brothers, Thomas and Robert McKechnie.
The building originally housed a library, reading room, and a ladies room on the ground floor, with a billiard room and librarian’s house on the first floor. It continued to serve as the town’s library until 1975 when a new library was opened in Girvan. In 1982 it was saved from potential dereliction and reopened as a museum and gallery. Today it is run in partnership with The Friends of The McKechnie and South Ayrshire Council.
Those that venture inside will discover an eclectic mix of artifacts covering thousands of years of local history, and a geology section that dates back even further! Some of the highlights include a section about Ailsa Craig, old photographs of Girvan, and Bronze Age cinerary urns dating back to 2100 – 1500 BC.
Upstairs in The McKechnie, there are two rooms styled as a Victorian lounge and bedroom, decorated with furniture and objects from the period. Throughout the year there is also a calendar of changing exhibitions in the gallery space.
Follow the signs for the hidden garden at the rear and you are rewarded with an oasis of calm in the middle of Girvan town centre which also acts as a suntrap on good weather days.
Make sure you don’t miss The McKechnie Institute on your visit to Girvan.
The McKechnie Institute is free to visit
Current opening times are –
Tuesday 1pm – 4pm
Wednesday 1.30pm – 4.30pm
Thursday 1pm – 4pm
Friday 1pm – 4pm
Saturday 10.30am – 4pm
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