Inverclyde's main towns: Greenock, Port Glasgow and Gourock sit on the coastal strip. Our heritage, steeped in centuries of maritime and industrial history sits comfortably with a revitalised, modern economy of electronics, financial services and tourism. The transformation has been remarkable by any standards. Inverclyde boasts not only major improvements to the physical environment but an enviable track record in attracting new industries and development.
The largest and main settlement in the area is Greenock. Originally a small fishing village, Greenock, by the mid 17th century, had an extensive herring trade and was granted burgh status in 1635. During the Industrial Revolution the harbour expanded rapidly due to transatlantic trade and growth in the shipbuilding industry. Paper, pottery, glass, barrel making and sugar refining also flourished in the town.
Greenock was shaped by heavy industries but decline in this sector meant the town had to change to meet the demands of the new electronic age and service sector industries. Greenock is now host to a variety of big name service industry providers including IBM, National Semiconductor, Amazon and T-Mobile who all have their UK or European bases.The harbourside areas have now been cleared to make way for modern developments like The Royal Bank of Scotland's National Mortgage Centre, a new four screen cinema complex and a state-of-the-art ice and water leisure complex.
A civic square has been created in front of the Custom House. This Grade A listed building was built in 1818 and was used until recently by the Customs and Excise Service, The nearby quay was the departure point for many Scottish emigrants during the 19th century, and it is now a regular stop for the world's last ocean going paddle steamer - The Waverley.
Gourock is the smallest of Inverclyde's three main towns. It sits at the mouth of the Clyde and has a long-established rail and ferry terminal. In its early days it was a fishing community but it underwent a boom period at the end of the 1880s as a favourite holiday spot for thousands of Glaswegians who went 'doon the watter' for their holidays. Despite cheap foreign package holidays, Gourock is still a popular resort for day visitors.
The railway station adjoins Gourock Pier from which Caledonian MacBrayne operate their ferry terminal for crossing to the centre of Dunoon, and a pedestrian ferry operates to Kilcreggan and Helensburgh (summer only). Western ferries operates another vehicle ferry from McInroy's Point to Hunter's Quay in Dunoon.
There is a folly on Tower Hill, a short walk from the town centre, which provides excellent views over the Clyde and surrounding hills. Between Kempock Street and Castle Gardens is Granny Kempock Stone, a prehistoric monolith which resembles a huddled cloak figure. Legend says that sailors used to circle the stone to ensure good fortune.
The second largest town in Inverclyde, Port Glasgow grew from humble beginnings around Newark Castle in the 15th century to be the main deep water port for Glasgow and was the main customs centre for the whole of the Clyde until the 19th century.
From its shipping past, modern day Port Glasgow is host to modern manufacturing and service industries and Fergusons Marine, which is the last remaining shipyard in Inverclyde.
Major regeneration on the site of the former Scott Lithgow and East Glen ship yards is transforming Port Glasgow with a major mixed use development including a new civic square with links to the existing town centre retail area and a new retail park.
The towns provide a marked contrast to the small coastal settlements of Inverkip and Wemyss Bay to the south west of the area, and except for the picturesque rural villages of Kilmacolm and Quarriers Village, the landward areas are sparsely populated offering a further contrast.