Ailsa Craig, in the Firth
of Clyde, is an Island rising abruptly from the sea to an elevation of 1,114
feet. It has a conical summit and is very precipitous except on the North
East Side where it slopes more gently and is accessible by boat. It is
normally accessed by boat from Girvan approx 10 miles to the east on the
It is known that Ailsa Craig was owned by
the Abbey at Crossraguel in the early 1400's.
It was famous for a number
of years for the curling stones fashioned from its rock. It was here that
the curling stones used by the Scottish Women’s Curling Team, Winter 2002
Olympic Gold medal winners, were made. Most curling stones still in use
today were made from Ailsa Craig granite.
which was built in 1883-6 by Thomas Stevenson was automated in 1990 and is
now remotely monitored from Edinburgh. In 2001 Alisa Craig Lighthouse was
converted to solar-electric power.
A ruined castle stands
about 61 meters up the eastern side.
had three storeys and was built by the powerful Hamilton family in the late
1500's, after Philip of Spain tried to capture the island for himself.
Most of the islands buildings
are situated on the spit of flat land on the eastern side. Here the tenants,
who earned a living working the rock for curling stones, catching rabbits
and seabirds, and keeping goats and sheep, occupied a cottage during the
The island even possesses
a gasworks which once supplied the light and worked the machinery which
compressed air for the two foghorns, one at the north end and the other at
Ailsa Craig has been
inhabited at various times mostly on a semi-permanent basis (By the late
19th Century the island had a population of 29 people, working in the
quarries or the lighthouse).
The exporting of birds' feathers was also an important
industry, and it is said that Robert Burns ordered a quantity for a new bed
when he married Jean Armour.
But in recent years the islands population
has dwindled and is now completely uninhabited.
Ailsa Craig is now
inhabited only by a sizeable and important colony of seabirds. The island is
home to one of the largest gannet colonies in the world, with more than
70,000 birds, and is designated as a European Special Protection Area.
Notes on the way
through Ayrshire - 100 years
Ailsa Craig belongs
to the parish of Dailly. It is a great conical rock, two miles in circumference
and 1114 feet high, standing alone in the sea, 10 miles west of the
shore at Girvan. It is the native home of innumerable sea-fowl, many
rabbits, and some wild goats. A lighthouse and two fog signal houses were
erected on it in 1884-85, at a cost of £25,000, and are attended by four
keepers. Previous to 1884 it contained only the dwelling of a solitary
tenant and his family on the beach, and the ruins of a square castle
of three stories at a considerable height up the rock, built, we suppose,
about the end of the sixteenth century, by Hugh
Barclay of Ladyland, Kilbirnie, as a
place of refuge and defence for some of the then persecuted Roman Catholic
AILSA CRAIG, an island belonging to the parish of Dailly, in the district of
Carrick, county of Ayr. This island lies in the Frith of Clyde, between the
shores of Ayrshire and Cantyre, from the former of which it is distant eight
miles; it is a rugged rock, about two miles in circumference at its base,
rising precipitously from the sea, to an elevation of 1100 feet, and
accessible only on the north-east side, where a small beach has been
constructed. The rock is basaltic, and in several parts assumes the columnar
formation: at a considerable elevation, are the remains of ancient
buildings, supposed to have been originally a castle, with a chapel. A small
portion of its surface affords a scanty pasturage; but it is frequented only
by various aquatic birds, of which the most numerous are the solan geese;
and the sole income arising from the island, is derived from the sale of
feathers, for the collection of which, during the season, a person resides
on the spot. It was in contemplation, some time since, to make this island a
fishing station, for the supply of Glasgow and Liverpool by the numerous
steamers which pass this way, and the erection of some buildings for that
purpose was commenced, but the idea was subsequently abandoned. The island
gives the British titles of Marquess and Baron to the family of Kennedy, who
are the owners of the property.
From: A Topographical
Dictionary of Scotland (1846)