|OS grid reference||NX019997|
|Gaelic name||Creag Ealasaid|
|Meaning of name||Elizabeth's rock or Fairy rock|
|Area and summit|
|Area||0.38 sq.mi. (0.99 km²)|
|Highest elevation||1,110 ft (338 m)
|Island group||Firth of Clyde|
|Local Authority||South Ayrshire|
Area and population ranks are for all Scottish islands and all inhabited Scottish islands respectively. Population data is from 2001 census.
Ailsa Craig (English pronunciation: /ˈeɪlsə/; Scottish Gaelic: Creag Ealasaid) is an island of 219.69 acres in the outer Firth of Clyde, Scotland where blue hone granite was quarried to make curling stones. The now uninhabited island is formed from the volcanic plug of an extinct volcano.
The island was a haven for Catholics during the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century, but is today a bird sanctuary, providing a home for huge numbers of gannets and an increasing number of puffins.
The island is located approximately 10 miles (16 km) west of Girvan. Two miles (3 km) in circumference and rising to 1,110 feet (340 m), the island consists entirely of the volcanic plug of an extinct volcano that might have been active about 500 million years ago.
The lighthouse on its east coast faces the Scottish mainland, and a ruined keep, built by the Hamilton Family to protect from the threat of invasion from King Felipe II of Spain, is perched on the hillside above.
In 1590 the shipping of the Clyde was disrupted by pirates who were said to be Highlanders, quha lyis about Ailsay.
Ailsa Craig was a haven for Roman Catholics during the Scottish Reformation. In 1597 the Catholic supporter Hugh Barclay of Ladyland took possession of Ailsa Craig, which he was intent on using as a provisioning and stopping off point for a Spanish invasion which would re-establish the Catholic faith in Scotland. He was discovered by The Rev. Andrew Knox, a Protestant minister (who later became both Lord Bishop of the Isles and Lord Bishop of Raphoe). Barclay thereafter either tried to escape or deliberately drowned himself in the sea off Ailsa Craig.
The island was used as a prison during the 18th-19th century.
From the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, the island was quarried for its rare type of micro-granite with riebeckite (known as "Ailsite") which is used to make curling stones. As of 2004, 60 to 70% of all curling stones in use were made from granite from the island. The floor of the Chapel of the Thistle in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh is also made of this rock.
The lighthouse was automated in 1990 and converted to solar electric power in 2001; the island has been uninhabited since automation in 1990. Ailsa Craig and its lighthouse feature extensively in Peter Hill's book Stargazing: Memoirs of a Young Lighthouse Keeper. Though quarry blasting is no longer allowed, loose granite rock from the island has been recently used for manufacture into curling stones by the Kays of Scotland company. The island is now a bird sanctuary, leased by the RSPB until 2050. Huge numbers of gannets nest here and following a pioneering technique to eradicate the island's imported population of rats a growing number of puffins are choosing to return to the Craig from nearby Glunimore and Sheep Islands.
The island has no water, electricity, gas, sewage or telephone connections. The island currently belongs to The 8th Marquess of Ailsa. In May 2011 it was announced that the island was for sale; as of March 2013, the current asking price is for offers over £1,500,000.
An early reference to the rock is made by Sir Donald Monro, Archdeacon of the Isles who referred to the rock as "Elsay" in the 16th century. The modern name of the island is an anglicisation of the Gaelic, Aillse Creag meaning "fairy rock". An alternative Gaelic name is Creag Ealasaid meaning "Elizabeth's rock". The first element, Aillse may represent Allt Shasann, "cliff of the English", mentioned in the Book of Leinster as Aldasain.
The island is sometimes known as "Paddy's Milestone", being approximately the halfway point of the sea journey from Belfast to Glasgow, a traditional route of emigration for many Irish labourers coming to Scotland to seek work.
- A' Chreag: "the rock"
- Creag Alasdair: "Alasdair's rock"
- Ealasaid a' Chuain: "Elizabeth of the ocean"
- Carraig Alasdair: "Alasdair's Rock" (used in the Madness of Sweeney, the tale of a legendary king of Ireland).
In the arts 
In April 2009, Northern Irish singer/songwriter, Foy Vance, released the EP 'Portraits Of The Artist', which contained a song titled 'Portraits of Ailsa Craig'.
- 2001 UK Census per List of islands of Scotland
- Haswell-Smith (2004) p.2
- "Ordnance Survey". Ordnance Survey. 2012-07-03. Retrieved 2012-08-04.
- Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 3
- "Ailsa Criag". Media.primelocation.com. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
- "UK property for sale". Primelocation.co.uk. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
- Ailsa Craig Retrieved on 2007-10-17
- Paterson, Page 14
- Robertson, George (1823), A Genealogical Account of the Principal Families in Ayrshire, more particularly in Cunninghame. Vol.1. Pub. Irvine: Cunninghmae press. pp. 72 -73.
- National Geographic Retrieved on 2009-07-19
- Northern Lighthouse Board - Automation of lighthouse Retrieved on 2008-01-28
- Kays of Scotland website Retrieved on 2009-07-19
- "RSPB stress importance of Ailsa Craig, but are not in negotiations to purchase iconic landmark". RSPB. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
- "Ailsa Craig island in Firth of Clyde put up for sale". BBC News. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- Monro (1549) no. 2
- Clancy (2008) pp. 33–34
- Watson (1926) p. 173
- PADDY'S MILESTONE 1947 Film. ssa.nls.uk.
- "The Bass Rock". History of Leith. Retrieved 20 October 2009.
- "Portraits of the Artist" foyvance.com. Retrieved 19 Feb 2011.
- Clancy, Thomas Owen (2008), "The Gall-Ghàidheil and Galloway", Journal of Scottish Name Studies 2: 19–50, ISSN 1747-7387
- Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7.
- Iain Mac an Tàilleir (2003). "Placenames" (PDF). Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. Archived from the original on 21 August 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2010.
- Monro, Sir Donald (1549) A Description Of The Western Isles of Scotland. Appin Regiment/Appin Historical Society. Retrieved 3 March 2007. First published in 1774.
- Paterson, James (1863–66). History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton. V. - I - Kyle. Edinburgh: J. Stillie.
- Watson, W.J., The Celtic Place-Names of Scotland, (Edinburgh, 1926) reprinted, with an Introduction, full Watson bibliography and corrigenda by Simon Taylor (Edinburgh, 2004)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ailsa Craig|
- Photo Tour of Trip to the Island
- Entry on the Maybole Home Page
- Ailsa Craig Index — computer-generated virtual panoramas
- Pictures of Ailsa Craig
- Ailsa Craig, 1868 at the Historical Society of Philadelphia