Tag Archives: Ardeer Peninsula

The Ardeer Peninsula

Located near Irvine, Scotland, Ardeer is now a huge derelict industrial site that was once the largest explosives manufacturing factory in the world. The site was established in 1871 as the base for the Nobel Explosives Company Limited by its founder, Alfred Nobel. Ardeer was chosen as a location to manufacture explosives because its natural sand dunes could be used as a safety feature. Dynamite was manufactured in numerous small buildings and the sand dunes have been sculpted into blast walls on three sides. This was designed to direct an explosion upwards in case of an accident and not sideways which could cause a chain reaction. 1926, Nobel Explosives, Brunner Mond, The United Alkali  Company and British Dyestuffs Corporation formed Imperial Chemical Industries Limited (ICI). ICI ran the site until its downturn in the 1990s. At its peak, nearly 13, 000 people were employed in Ardeer by the factory and it even had its own railway station for workers and visitors. It made explosives for the military (ammunition, shells, bombs, grenades etc) and explosives for commercial use (mining, quarrying and construction) as well as many other industrial and commercial products that were derived from nitrocellulose. It is now the largest brownfield site in Scotland.

In 2008, NPL Estates who now own much of the area, announced plans to redevelop the site with housing estates, business parks, a marina and a golf course. On my visit, I could see evidence that buildings had been cleared and some rough landscaping had taken place, though none of it seems to be recent and there is no construction machinery around. As I understand, on part of the site, there is a huge deposit of highly volatile explosive material that is difficult if not impossible to remove and dispose of, which presumably has halted development work.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea is a closed museum that is located at the furthest south easterly point of the Ardeer Peninsula near Irvine, Scotland. It opened in the year 2000 at a cost of £14 million (provided by lottery funding for the millennium celebrations), housing interactive exhibits to celebrate invention and inventors. It closed in 2003 -low visitor numbers, its location (25 miles from Glasgow) and the opening of the larger science museum in Glasgow have been cited as reasons for its demise. The building is a dome shaped structure (standard for all millennium follies) with a grass-covered roof and glass front. It was accessible from a harbour area in Irvine by “The Bridge of Scottish Invention” which could be retracted to allow boats to pass. This bridge is now permanently retracted. Many exhibits and fixtures and fittings are still inside the building and are up for sale on this website. It is in very good condition; there are no signs of the vandalism, graffiti or theft, which could be expected from such a building left derelict for so long.