illumination: Harbour Festival of Light

Please note this event runs from: Thursday 30th November - Sunday 3rd December

Irvine’s historic waterfront will twinkle with lights this St Andrew’s Day (30th November) as the Scottish Maritime Museum’s award-winning four day Winter spectacular, illumination: Harbour Festival of Light, returns with even more sparkle and some giant, kaleidoscopic seaweed!

Over 15,000 visitors enjoyed the inaugural illumination festival held at the Scottish Maritime Museum and across Irvine Harbourside last year.

For this year, event organiser the Scottish Maritime Museum has increased the number of ticketed performances of the Light, Fire and Aerial Art Spectacular at the heart of the festival, which, once again, has received support as part of the Scotland’s Winter Festivals events programme.

Other new additions to illumination, which has also been made possible through funding from North Ayrshire Council, BAE Systems, Caledonian MacBrayne, Booth Welsh and in-kind sponsorship from NPL Estates and Confida, include a Harbourside Food and Craft Fair with over 40 stands.

illumination: Harbour Festival of Light will begin on St Andrew’s Day with a free firework display over Irvine Harbour.

The pyrotechnics on Thursday 30th November will mark Scotland’s national day, designed to celebrate the country’s history, culture and heritage with people both at home and abroad.

Visitors to the ticketed Light, Fire and Aerial Art Spectacular at the Scottish Maritime Museum will enjoy a fire show in front of the vast A Listed Linthouse as well as historic vessels SY Carola and puffer Spartan lit up, light installations, a Vintage Bus Bar and the monumental story of shipbuilding projected across the colossal façade.

Inside the glass-roofed ‘cathedral of engineering’, suspended from the original girders, Spinal Chord will perform gravity defying aerial acrobatics on rope silks and trapeze high above beautiful boats and awesome relics of maritime engineering.

The illumination Light Trail will also twinkle from dusk to 10pm daily.

Highlights of the Light Trail this year include a stunning, interactive light sculpture by light artists Squidsoup and the three metre high maquettes of the world’s largest equine sculptures, Andy Scott’s shimmering steel Kelpies.

‘On the Tide’, Squidsoup’s mesmerising light installation of sparkling ‘kelp’ will snake from the Harbourside out onto the River Irvine. Visitors will be able to interact with the 1,000 multi-coloured beads via their phone or tablet.

The Kelpie maquettes, which will be lit up on the Harbourside, are a tenth of the size of the towering Kelpies, which mark the gateway into The Helix and Forth & Clyde Canal in Falkirk and Grangemouth.

Visitors will also discover brightly lit historic vessels including the small Tall Ship La Malouine and illuminated buildings and maritime engineering along the waterfront. The Museum’s beautiful George Wyllie inspired paper boat will twinkle on the water.

Over the next two months, the Scottish Maritime Museum will work in collaboration with Harbour Arts Centre and Ayrshire Youth Arts again to create a fabulous community Lantern Parade for everyone to enjoy on Saturday 2nd December.

Murray McDavid will lead whisky tastings and entertainment aboard a 1960s cutter boat with ‘Whisky Bard’ Robin Laing.

Scottish Coastal Rowing Association members will bring their sparkling skiffs to illumination, racing them on Saturday afternoon then taking a gentler pace glittering on the water at night.

illumination, which also celebrates the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, will then come to a close with a second free firework display on Sunday 3rd December.

Dr Alasdair Allan, Minister for International Development and Europe, says:

“Our patron saint, St Andrew was known for being strong, sociable and fair, encouraging people to share what they had with those in need. 

“Celebrating St Andrew’s Day presents a powerful opportunity for Scots to keep the spirit of St Andrew alive, by coming together and helping others within their community.

“This year, a wide range of events will take place across Scotland from Friday 17th November until 3rd December where communities will be invited to champion the values of St Andrew by coming together in a celebration that helps others.”


Councillor Louise McPhater, Cabinet Member for Communities, adds:

“We are delighted to support illumination: Harbour Festival of Light for the second year running.

“Last year’s event was a huge success, attracting thousands from our local communities as well as visitors from near and far – putting North Ayrshire firmly on the national stage.

“The success is thanks to the dedication and creativity of the team at the Scottish Maritime Museum and its partners. 

“We have no doubt that the 2017 event will be a spectacular follow on from last year’s debut and we look forward to seeing even greater levels of visitor numbers and community participation.”


David Mann, Director of the Scottish Maritime Museum, concludes:

“We are thrilled to bring illumination : Harbour Festival of Light back to celebrate St Andrew’s Day and showcase Ayrshire and Arran as an exciting, year-round destination.

“Over 15,000 people came out to enjoy illumination last year. This year, we’ve an extra glittering programme lined up and, again, most events are free. It’s going to be a fabulous winter adventure and start to the festive season for people living in Ayrshire and travelling here from across Scotland and beyond.”

illumination Light, Fire and Aerial Art Spectacular tickets can be purchased via


Getting SMMArt

illumination: Harbour Festival of Light also shines a light on the Scottish Maritime Museum’s ambitious programme to create an art collection of national significance to complement the nationally recognised maritime collection. The growing art collection now includes works by artists including Ian Hamilton Finlay, Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, George Wyllie, Tom McKendrick, Muirhead Bone, Benno Schotz and Patricia Cain amongst others.

For more information, visit


scottish maritime m illumination: Harbour Festival of Light