Ailsa Craig

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Ailsa Craig is a popular island for boat trips from the town of Girvan. The main trips allow you to land on the island for an hour, or some longer trips allow three hours on the island, so you can hike to the top.

The shorter, and longer trips to Ailsa Craig, both end by going round the island to view the high cliffs with many birds, and seals.

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Right is a view of Ailsa Craig when approaching from Girvan. Ailsa Craig is a 1,114 feet high volcanic rock that protrudes from middle of the Firth of Clyde. With the Ayrshire town of Girvan being only ten miles east of the Craig, local boat owners offer trips to and around the rock.

Ailsa Craig image
Ailsa Craig image

Documents from the early 1400s, show Crossraguel Abbey as the earliest recorded owner of the island.

Ailsa Craig is now a bird sanctuary; home too more than 70,000 birds, such as: gannets, guillemots, puffins, razorbill's, kittiwakes and herring gulls. Left is a view from the northwest showing the cliffs that are home to so many species of birds. 


The castle sitting high on the left is said to have been built for the Hamilton’s in the late 1500s. The lighthouse in the foreground was completed in 1886.

The Craig has vast quantities of fine granite that was mined for manufacturing curling stones from the early 1800s - 1971. Many of the finest curling stones still used today are made of this granite.

Ailsa Craig Lighthouse image

Ailsa Craig Castle image

Between mining and before the lighthouse was automated, there would be up to 29 people living on the island throughout the summer.

Some mining of the granite for curling stones still takes place, although only now and again, in a much smaller scale.


The Girvan boat trips can be about one hour out to Ailsa Craig, one hour on the island, a half hour tour round the island to see the seals and thousands of birds nesting on the steep cliffs on the west side, then about a one hour trip back to Girvan.

Another trip allows three hours on the island for hikers wanting to hike to the top. There is only one way to the top, up past the castle following a steep narrow trail. The trail from the castle up to the summit is through deep ferns much of the way, so is not the easiest of hiking, but well worth the effort.

Photos of the island were donated by Ann Bowker.

View more excellent large photos of another Trip to the Island.

Below is the History of Ailsa Craig as far as I can make out:

Documents from the early 1400s show Crossraguel Abbey as the earliest recorded owner of the island. Duncan de Carrick, one of the first Kennedy's, largest land owners in southwest Scotland, with many castles, funded the building of Crossraguel Abbey in the 1200s. At that time, he signed over vast amounts of land to the monks so they could fund the running of the Abbey, probably Ailsa Craig at that time as well.

In August 1560, the Scottish Parliament passed a series of Acts to dismantle the Catholic Church in Scotland, the start of Protestantism. A Commendator was appointed to each Abbey at that time, to run the finances while the monks lived out their lives in the Abbey's. This was when the powerful landowners began taking the land back from the Abbeys, sometimes by ruthless means.

The Kennedy's of Cassillis, took the Commendator of Crossraguel Abbey to their castle at Dunure, and roasted him over a fire in an attempt to have him sign over Abbey land to them, setting off a murderous fued over the following years.

The Kennedy's of Cassillis owned the Island from around that time, until they sold Cassillis Estate in 2009, to Confused.com founder Kate Armstrong. It is un-clear if it is Kate Armstrong that now owns the island, and has put Ailsa Craig up for sale.

The castle is said to have been built by the Hamiltons, relations of the Kenneday's, in the late 1500s.

Large Image of the Lighthouse from about 500ft . Large Image of Ailsa Craig Castle.

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