WoSAS Pin: 5183

Site Name: Portencross Castle

Alternative Name(s):

Monument Type: Cannon

Council: North Ayrshire

Parish: West Kilbride

Map Sheet: NS14NE

Grid Reference: 217553, 648908 Former location, refined from O.S. 1st Ed. 25-inch mapping

Canmore Number: 40605

Non-Statutory Register Code: F

Site Report


An iron cannon, about 8ft long, traditionally from "one of the large ships of the Spanish Armada which sank in about ten fathoms of water at no great distance from the shore," was recovered from the sea in 1740 and now lies at Portencross. Hewitt, after examining various accounts, concludes that the gun is either of late 16th or 17th century design, and is almost certainly Spanish. The remains of the ship that carried it lie somewhere between the point and Little Cumbrae. Although not necessarily a member of the Armada, as the Spanish navy was frequently in Scottish waters after 1588, it could be that the wreck was of a ship listed as "fate unknown" by Philip's officials.
G R Hewitt 1967; NSA 1845

NS 1756 4890. A much-rusted iron cannon, bearing an indecipherable coat of arms, lies on the beach 10.0m SE of Portencross Castle.
Visited by OS (DS) 12 September 1956

No change to the previous report. The cannon, 2.3m long with central pivot rods, rests on stone paving.
Visited by OS (JRL) 18 November 1982

Re-sited 1990 to location outside administrative offices of Hunterston Power Station (NS15SE 28). Other discoveries probably from the same wreck in McLean Museum, Greenock.

In 2002/3 this site was examined as part of the Coastal Zone Assesment Survey of the Firth of Clyde (GUARD/CRG for HS,Firth of Clyde Forum and the SCAPE Trust). The site was visited on 06/01/2003 its location was/is 'not identifiable' The sites condition was noted as 'Unknown' and the erosion class of the coast at this point is noted as 'Eroding' (HS defined erosion classes) Further action reccomended by GUARD/CRG for this site is 'Nil' .

A89. The iron cannon, about 8ft long, traditionally from "one of the large ships of the Spanish Armada was not located during the field survey at Portencross.
Sneddon, D., 'Coastal Zone Assessment Survey: Firth of Clyde', GUARD, 2003
Entered WoSAS (MO'H) 11/04/08

NS 17553 48908
The Ordnance Survey First Edition 1:2,500 map of the area (Ayr Sheet X.7 surveyed in 1855, published 1858) shows the cannon at the above location, some 11m SE of the SE corner of the castle (see WoSASPIN 5176), and a little in advance of a line extending its SW-facing elevation. The cannon is depicted by what appears to be a somewhat old-fashioned mapping convention for artillery pieces (a long line for the barrel, with a very short line or dot on either side to represent the trunnions or the carriage), and appears to represent a gun aligned NE-SW, presumably with the muzzle facing the sea.
Entered WoSAS (HMcB) 10/12/2014

Further Reading and Sources

NSA , The new statistical account of Scotland by the ministers of the respective parishes under the superintendence of a committee of the society for the benefit of the sons and daughters of the clergy. Edinburgh.(1845)

Hewitt, G R , 'A Portincross cannon', Aryshire Archaeol Natur Hist Collect, Vol 7, 1961-6, pp.53-7.(1966)

Ridley, G , Dive West Scotland, LondoN(1984)