All About Ailsa Craig

Have you heard of Ailsa Craig, the tiny island near the mouth of the Firth of Clyde? At just 240 acres, the name Ailsa Craig roughly translates as “fairy rock” in Gaelic, and this island is one of the most coveted destinations on our Clyde cruises here on the West Coast of Scotland.

Ailsa Craig has no electricity, no potable water, no farmable land and no current human inhabitants, but it has a lot going for it nonetheless. Known as a “bird mecca”, the island is home to tens of thousands of birds and is currently owned by a nature conservation trust as it contains some of Europe’s most important bird colonies.
Argyll Cruising Scottish cruises, gannets at Ailsa Craig  
As well as being a wildlife hotspot, the island has another thing setting it apart. Nearly all of the stones used in the winter Olympics and Paralympics for the past century have been carved from rocks sourced from this small, somewhat unassuming island. An ancient volcanic eruption produced rocks with a tight molecular structure that are water- and crack-resistant, and therefore perfect for sliding and bashing into other stones. Kays of Scotland have been making curling stones since 1851 and have the exclusive rights to the Ailsa Craig granite, granted by the Marquess of Ailsa. We take our guests ashore to explore the old curling stone workings and some ascent past the old ruined tower house to the summit at 1109 feet, with stunning views to Antrim and beyond.
We can only really get there if the weather and winds are favourable, but when they are visitors are in for a treat.
The island is fascinating for many reasons, as discussed, but we’re particularly keen on the wildlife. This seabird mecca is home to 40,000 pairs of nesting gannets, thousands of guillemots and razorbills and hundreds of fulmars, kittiwakes and puffins. Guests on our Scottish cruises often ask about puffins and we’re so pleased that, along with those in Kintrye and Sanda, the puffin populations on Ailsa Craig are growing. We have a blog all about puffins in Scotland where you can read more about them. Also seen on the island are eider and mallard ducks, herons and black-backed and common gulls. There are also rabbits and goats and a good chance of spotting basking sharks and minke whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals in the surrounding waters. 
Argyll Cruising Scottish cruises, puffin Ailsa Craig
We’ve been very lucky so far this season, making it out to Ailsa Craig on most of our six night cruises, and have been rewarded with sightings of many of the animals listed above. We’re due to head off to Oban in just over a week, leaving the Firth of Clyde behind for the mid-season cruises. But we’ll be back at the end of August and do have some space on cruises, so if you’d like to join us, and visit Ailsa Craig, have a look at our cruising calendar or get in touch