Wemyss Bay /ˌwiːmz ˈbeɪ/ is a village on the coast of the Firth of Clyde in Inverclyde in the west central Lowlands of Scotland. It is in the traditional county of Renfrewshire. It is adjacent to Skelmorlie, North Ayrshire. The villages have always been in separate counties, divided by the Kelly Burn.
Wemyss Bay was created in the early 19th century as a 'marine village' and watering-place by Robert Wallace of Kelly, whose lands were adjacent to the bay. Wallace became Greenock's first MP and was instrumental in establishing the penny post. London merchant James Alexander further developed the area by constructing the first steamboat pier, which was swept away by a hurricane in 1856. Its successor suffered a similar fate and was replaced by the current railway terminus and pier.
The opening of the railway connection in 1865 brought even grander houses. Among the village's notable residents included Sir George Burns, who with Samuel Cunard founded the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (later the Cunard Line), and his son John (later 1st Baron Inverclyde) who lived at Castle Wemyss, which stood on Wemyss Point above the bay itself.
The inventor of paraffin (kerosene) and industrial magnate James "Paraffin" Young had a house at Kelly, and was buried in the old Inverkip churchyard. David Livingstone was a friend of Young and a replica of a hut the explorer occupied near Victoria Falls was built in the grounds of Kelly as a memorial to Livingstone. Kelly House was rebuilt twice, the first structure dating from the 15th century, being destroyed by fire in 1740, the second, a William Leiper building, dating from 1793 and the third and final house also destroyed in a fire in 1913, only having been built in 1890. Blame was laid at the suffragettes but no evidence was ever found. Kelly remained a burnt out ruin for several years.
Other notable buildings
Neither Castle Wemyss nor James Salmon's Wemyss House remain, having been demolished in the 1980s and 1940s respectively. Also gone is J.J. Burnet's episcopal Inverclyde Church, which stood on the shore road of Undercliff Road and was demolished in 1970.
The Castle Wemyss estate and adjoining areas had been sold off in the 1960s to property developers and since then the village has grown considerably, albeit largely a dormitory settlement for Greenock and Glasgow.