Maidens harbour was established in its original form in the mid 19th century. It grew up round a small fishing community and was built by the Marquess of Ailsa to service a shipyard and gas works.
During the first part of the 20th century the Maidens fishing fleet along with the other fleets of Ballantrae and Dunure (both villages in the district ) became generally acknowledged as the most skilful proponents of ring net fishing in Scotland. Their harbours became central to this and also the centre of community activity related to this way of life..
In 1953 the fishermen of Maidens and the then Ayrshire County Council jointly funded substantial improvements which allowed the harbour to provide accommodation for larger craft and a more sheltered anchorage. The fishermen raised the money by levying 1 penny per basket of fish landed from every Maidens boat from the end of the War.The harbour at that time had been handed over to the Local Authority by Culzean Estate.
The harbour continued as a hive of activity until the early 1970's, when a combination of changes in the fishing industry and a poor maintenance regime led to a decline in its commercial use.
In 1988 Strathclyde Regional Council sold the harbour to Maidens Harbour Trust for a cost of £100. The trust consisted of 4 fishermen who along with the rest of the community were concerned that the harbour could have been sold to a private concern and turned into large marina from which fishing boats and the associated commercial activity would be excluded, as had happened in some other locations, and were also concerned about its state of decline. They wished to try and control and push forward any developments.
About the same time Kyle and Carrick District Council and the Scottish Development Agency ( subsequently Enterprise Ayrshire) launched the South Carrick Economic Initiative. As part of the initiative Enterprise Ayrshire commissioned the 3 Harbours study. The purpose was to identify possible improvements and costs. Both the above organisations along with the Trust funded an extension to a breakwater that helped reduce siltation in the entrance channel and Enterprise Ayrshire funded an engineering feasibility study on the harbour. Both agencies progressively implemented recommendations made in this report and Kyle and Carrick District Council, with the assistance of European funds, carried out significant environmental improvements to the area surrounding the harbour.
The decline in the harbour has been felt deeply by the community and there is a strong desire to see it revitalised. However there is also a realisation that any development has to be sustainable. The intention would be to dredge the harbour and install about 50 - 100, modestly priced pontoon berths. It is not the intention of the trust to compete in the large scale marina market but to cater for a local market and visiting boats. Revenue from these would allow regular maintenance regimes and allow the use of the harbour by fishing boats as well. This would bring life back into the harbour, create more jobs, attract more tourists, and realise its place at the heart of the community.
The harbours local significance lies not only in its position as the heart of the local community but also in its ability to attract and service tourists . As with many Scottish tourist areas Maidens has seen a decline in the numbers coming for a traditional seaside holiday. A functioning harbour would not only attract more visitors but will also offer the opportunity to develop water based activities such as diving, windsurfing, sailing and sea angling.
Maidens is also the safest harbour on this part of the coast and if opened would offer a safe haven for boats to run for in bad weather.
Maiden's Regional significance lies in its strategic situation between two of Scotland's major tourist attractions, Culzean Castle/ Country Park and Turnberry Hotel/Golf courses. Both of these attract a large number of tourists. Turnberry in particular attracts about 50% of its guests from Japan and North America. Culzean Castle and country park attracts around 28000 visitors from overseas and 76,000 visitors from outside Scotland each year.
As previously mentioned the harbour trust was formed in 1988 and its original constitution limited membership of the management committee to owners of fishing boats from the area. This reflected the concern of the community to ensure that the fishermen's desire to reopen the harbour for their boats was kept at the forefront of the agenda. With the decline in the fishing industry and in enlisting broader community support for the project members of the community council now serve on the committee and the constitution has been altered to encourage wider participation.