Today I travelled by a very small boat ten miles out into the Firth of Clyde for my inaugural visit to the Ailsa Craig. It was a beautiful day but the light played havoc with the camera but we do our best under the stress of the conditions.
The rock of course has many names and fables associated with it and for me the best one is Paddy’s Milestone, which I am told that legend would have it, that a Irish Giant through the rock and it landed halfway between Ireland and Scotland. Of course this is codswallop but for an eight year old kid, this was what Grandfather’s tales were made of – the magic of the white lie.
Upon landing, it was perceptible that the temperature was somewhat warmer than it was in Girvan on the mainland. There would be no requirement for a jacket on the Craig.
There is a ruined castle situated halfway up the hill, which was built in the 1500s by the Hamilton family. The island was once used a prison during the 18th and 19th centuries.
One of two caves around the island was once used by smugglers and the second was known as Swine Cave. Apparently pigs were once kept in this cave.
We met two other water travelling groups around the island. One was from the RSPB, who had a much faster means of getting over the water than we did. Still we sailed along at a snail’s pace, enjoying the lovely weather and a fine showing from the thousands of birds on the far side of the rock.
The lighthouse was completed in 1886 with the island having been uninhabited since the automation in 1990. There were two gasometers, which provided the means for the foghorns to let out their blast of noise and this was fueled by coal.
There were two railway lines on the island. One for carrying coal and oil to the lighthouse and gashouse. The other carried stone, which was quarried, crushed and delivered to the pier by train, which were mainly horse drawn.
Of course Ailsa Craig is most famous for its granite for curling stones. However only one company can remove granite from the island, Kays of Scotland. Their last harvest was in 2013, which they took enough of the stone to meet their orders up until 2020. I dare say they will be back.
But enough of the history lesson.
We met a family from England who had hired a boat for a week from Dunoon, which sleeps seven people, has a skipper and a chef. I dread to think of the cost of their trip but they appeared to be delighted with their holiday choice.
You can see their boat and dinghy being towed behind in the picture above.