AYRSHIRE ROOTS

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Ailsa Craig 

Nicknamed ‘Paddy’s Milestone’, being situated roughly half way on the sea voyage between Glasgow and Belfast.

 

 

 

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Ailsa Craig, which comes from the Gaelic for 'Fairy Rock'

Note:- There is an Ailsa Craig in Ontario, Canada

 
 

 

 Google Map of Ailsa Craig

Position  Latitude 55° 15.1’N Longitude 5° 06.4’W
Longitude 5° 06.4’W

 
 

 

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 Ayrshire coast.

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.

The lighthouse 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. The castle 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 summer months.

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 the south.

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 ago 

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 clergy.

Ailsa Craig 1846


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)

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

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