Sunday, 9 May 2010

Ailsa Craig

With just a few days before the festival itself gets underway there are just a few opportunities left to let you know what a wonderful place Arran is and what you might be missing out on if you haven't come to see us for this years festival! On wednesday there will be a special visit to Ailsa Craig with Arran Power and Sail and RSPB Scotland. My crystal ball will not be able to bring you images from this RIB trip yet- but last week I was able to get out to the island (this time with Ocean Breeze Ribtours)and what an amazing day it was!

Ailsa Craig, is also known as "Paddy's Milestone" is situated in the southern part of the Firth of Clyde. On a clear day it is visible from the Scottish Mainland and from Northern Ireland. The island itself is a spectacular volcanic plug, formed of basalt columns and a special micro-granite, prized for years as a material for winning curling stones.
Today, Ailsa Craig is an RSPB reserve. It is not one that you can visit easily, due to it's isolated position several miles offshore. You won't find all of the usual creature comforts of other RSPB reserves, in fact landing is not guaranteed by any commercial boat trips heading out there- but if you visit during the breeding season, from your vantage point at sea you will be able to view almost 70,000 gannets as well as black guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, and even puffins. Ailsa is the 3rd largest gannet colony in the uk, and when we visited, the cliffs and sky were white with these graceful birds.

Puffins were wiped out on Ailsa many years ago due to an invasion of rats that came with he miners who settled the island in the 19th and early 20th century. When the RSPB took over, they began the tricky task of eradicating the rats. It wasn't easy, but the benefit to puffins was clear- they returned to the island as soon as the rats were gone. Now up to 100 pairs breed there- and the number is rising.

For more information about Ailsa Craig why not visit the RSPB's webpage on the island. If you can't make it next week, don't worry, Arran Power and Sail and Ocean Breeze Ribtours also run trips throughout the season, many in collaboration with RSPB Scotland.
You will find details of all the fantastic RIB trips and other journeys by sea taking place during the Arran Wildlife Festival on this page: