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Historically, most of what is now Barrhead lay within the parish of Neilston, in the county of Renfrew. The name Barrhead derives from the agricultural term Barr meaning long ploughed furrows for cultivation of crops. The original homestead or hamlet was literally situated at the head of barrs and became known as Barrhead.
In 2007, Readers Digest magazine voted East Renfrewshire the second best place in the United Kingdom to raise a family. The magazine visited and cited Barrhead in their decision.