MORE than 18,000 people flocked to see Irvine Harbourside shimmer and shine for the award-winning illumination: Harbour Festival of Light at the weekend.

Around 1,600 visitors also enjoyed the brand new Steampunk-themed Light, Fire and Aerial Art Spectacular, one of the highlights of the sparkling four day winter spectacular which began on St Andrew’s Day and which, once again, received support as part of the Scotland’s Winter Festivals events programme.

This year’s illumination was hosted by Scottish Maritime Museum and supported by North Ayrshire Council, BAE Systems, NPL Estates, Booth Welsh and in-kind sponsorship from Confida, Caledonian MacBrayne and Murray McDavid.

Organisers say this year's event was bigger and brighter than ever with new attractions including a Food and Craft Fair and illumiBike experience as well as more twinkling lighting along the Harbourside.

Most events at illumination, which took place along Irvine Harbourside and at the Scottish Maritime Museum, were free.

The festival also celebrated the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

David Mann, Director of the Scottish Maritime Museum, said: “We are delighted with the response to our second illumination : Harbour Festival of Light over the past four days. It was wonderful to see so many people from Irvine and further afield enjoying all the activities at the Museum and on the Harbourside, which looked absolutely spectacular.

“The Kelpie Maquettes, music-making Illumaphonium and 'On the Tide' artworks were hugely popular and the illuminated homes along the Harbourside and on Linthouse Vennel looked magical. Our maritime engineering and Paper Boat even sparkled for the occasion.

“We could not have staged this fabulous festival without the support of many organisations and individuals.

"Our first thanks go to everyone who came to illumination, enjoyed the festival and left so many positive comments.

“We are hugely grateful to our fabulous funders and sponsors and to local businesses, Irvine Housing Association and all the residents who put their own stamp on illumination by lighting their windows and creating such a wonderful atmosphere on the Harbourside.

“A huge thank you also goes to Laura Frood, Programme Manager at Ayrshire Youth Arts Network, for pulling together the illumination parade and everyone taking part in the wonderful beacon of light snaking along the Harbourside.

“We’re also very thankful to the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association for the sparkling flotilla of illuminated skiffs on the River on Saturday and Booth Welsh for putting on fun science-based activities in the Museum Courtyard.

We’re grateful too for the hard work and support of Denis Clancy and Sons, all the volunteers and stewards, the Police, our Community Photographers from Irvine Camera Club and our own staff who worked tirelessly throughout.

“Last but not least our thanks go to Largs Gaelic Choir, Dreghorn Musical Society, Irvine and Dreghorn Brass Band and The Shoes Brother of Irvine whose outdoor singing performances added yet another touch of sparkle to illumination.”

Irvine Police Officers were on hand to keep people safe during the event and were supported by local Special Constabulary Officers and Police Scotland Youth Volunteers to positively engage with visitors.

Sergeant Jason Peter, of the Irvine Locality Policing Team, said: “Events like illumination provide additional opportunities for the team to meet local people and those from further afield. It has been great to see so many people visiting the event to enjoy the aerial art show, the fireworks displays, community lantern parade and cycle event.

“We would like to thank everyone who took the time to speak with officers on patrol at the event and we look forward to working with the event team again for future events.”