If the weather’s half decent, it’s impossible to miss Ailsa Craig, ten miles off the south Ayrshire coast in the middle of the Firth of Clyde. The island’s name means “Fairy Rock” in Gaelic, though it actually looks more like an enormous muffin. It would certainly have been less than enchanting for the persecuted Catholics who escaped here during the Reformation. The island’s granite has long been used for making curling stones, and in the late nineteenth century 29 people lived here, either working in the quarry or at the Stevenson lighthouse. With its volcanic, columnar cliffs and 1114ft summit, Ailsa Craig is now a bird sanctuary – home to some 40,000 gannets. The best time to make the trip is at the end of May and in June when the fledglings are learning to fly. Several companies in the town of GIRVAN offer cruises round the island, but only Mark McCrindle, who also organizes sea-angling trips, is licensed to land. It takes about an hour to reach the island. Timings and prices depend on the length of trip, tides and weather; booking ahead is essential.

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