A fine Neo-Gothic clock-tower and prominent landmark located in the town centre of Kilwinning in North Ayrshire, the Abbey Tower was built in 1814-16 by David Hamilton (1768 - 1843) at a cost of £1590. This replaced a previous tower that was damaged by lightning in 1809 and subsequently collapsed. An extensive programme of conservation was undertaken by the local authority in 1993-95 and the tower is now the property of North Ayrshire Council. Surrounding the tower are the remains of a 12th Century Tironensian abbey.
The tower is home to a heritage centre which opened in 1995 and incorporates exhibits of local interest, including the history of the abbey and tower. The centre has displays about the poets Robert Burns (1759-96) and "Bard of the Yukon" Robert Service (1874 - 1958). A further display concerns the Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers, which is believed to date back to 1483. This club still meets regularly, including its annual papingo shoot held in the grounds of the Abbey on the first Saturday in June. This is said to be the oldest archery competition in the world and involves a wooden pigeon (the 'papingo' or 'popinjay') which is suspended from the clock-tower, with the archers attempting to dislodge its wings and then the bird itself. The centre also exhibits pewter communion-ware dating from 1765, which belonged to the original Secession Church of Kilwinning, and a number of matchstick models including the abbey, tower and Eglinton Castle, made by local model-maker.
The heritage centre is staffed by members of the Kilwinning and District Preservation Society.