Ailsa Craig (Scottish Gaelic:Creag Ealasaid) is an island in the Firth of Clyde off the coast of Ayrshire in Scotland. It is colloquially known as "Paddy's Milestone" as it is roughly marks the halfway point of the sea journey from Belfast to Glasgow. Ailsa Craig is a spectacular landmark, rising steeply out of the sea up to 1110 feet at its peak. It can be seen from all along the Ayrshire coast, as well as Kintyre and from Northern Ireland, although it is only 3/4 of a mile long by 1/2 a mile wide.
From the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, the island was quarried for its rare type of granite, known as "Ailsite" which was used to make curling stones. The floor of the Chapel of the Thistle in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh is also made of this rock.
Ailsa Craig is now uninhabited, the lighthouse having been automated in 1990. The quarry is still operated from time to time, but there are no resident workers. The island is now a bird sanctuary managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Huge numbers of gannets nest here and following a pioneering technique to eradicate the island's imported population of rats a growing number of puffins are choosing to return to the Craig from nearby Glunimore and Sheep Islands.
The only way to reach Ailsa Craig is by boat.
- MFV Glorious, ☎ +44 1465 713219, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sails from Girvan in Ayrshire, offering trips around the island, as well as trips onto the island. It claims to operate daily, all year round, but some customers have found the schedule may vary.
- Waverley (The World's last ocean-going paddle steamer). Round the island trips in summer months, from Ayr and Girvan.
Although there is a narrow gauge railway line once used by the miners, there are no actual trains on the island, so the only way to get around is by walking.
- The Castle
- The Lighthouse (automated, so don't bother knocking on the door!)
- The old narrow-gauge railway line from the mine
- The wildlife, and especially the tens of thousands of seabirds that nest here in spring and early summer
Bring everything you want to eat with you, as there are no catering facilities on the island.
Plans have been mooted to convert the former miners cottages into luxury holiday accommodation, but this has been opposed by conservation groups, so at the moment there is nowhere to sleep on the island.
Boats that operate trips to the island are generally open, or only partly covered, so it's important to take warm, windproof, waterproof clothing, at any time of year. The island is surrounded by steep cliffs, so care should be exercised at all times.