An isolated village in East Ayrshire, Muirkirk lies in the upper reaches of the River Ayr, 9 miles (15 km) northeast of Cumnock. It takes its name from a moorland church founded in 1650 and the settlement developed in association with coal mining, iron works and tar production. John Loudon MacAdam (1756 - 1836) was manager of the British Tar Company's works near here from 1789 and he is commemorated by MacAdam's Cairn nearby. The Iron Works operated from 1788 until 1923. During the 20th century local industry fell into steep decline but the relict industrial landscape which surrounds the village is now considered remarkable. A memorial at the junction of Main Street and Glasgow Road commemorates the ninety miners killed in nearby pits. Three drowned when the Bankhead Pit (Auldhouse) flooded in 1898 and the Kames Disaster of 1957 killed seventeen. The memorial was unveiled in 2004 by First Minister Jack McConnell (b.1960).
The railway arrived 1848 but closed in 1964. It is said to have been the first settlement in Britain to get gas lighting in 1859, but was also the last to lose its gas-works in 1977 with the coming of natural gas from the North Sea.
The village benefits from a small museum, primary school, post office, a good number of shops, a caravan and camp site, and, a half-mile (0.8 km) to the south at Kames, a motorsport complex and nine-hole golf course. The latter is home to Muirkirk Golf Club, established in 1991.
A cairn commemorates local Covenanters, while a memorial to the Covenanting Battle of Aird's Moss (1680) lies 4 miles (6 km) to the west southwest.