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RSPB stress importance of Ailsa Craig, but are not in negotiations to purchase iconic landmark

Last modified: 17 May 2011

Ailsa Craig

Ailsa Craig is home to the third largest gannet colony in Scotland

Image: Andy Hay

As one of the most iconic landmarks in the country comes up for sale, RSPB Scotland has confirmed that it is not in negotiations to buy Ailsa Craig.

The island, which is home to tens of thousands of seabirds and famed for its curling stones, is currently leased by the conservation charity and managed as a nature reserve.

Dr Dave Beaumont, RSPB Scotland regional reserves manager, said: “We are very proud to be the leaseholder of such an important landmark as Ailsa Craig. There have been rumours in the press that the RSPB is in discussions to purchase the island, but this is not the case. Because of its international importance as a seabird colony, we have a definite interest in its future, but we are not in a position to buy Ailsa Craig at its current asking price.

“We rely on the generosity of individuals and grants from public and commercial bodies for our income, and as a charity we need to make sure these funds go as far as they can. Our lease on the island runs until 2050, and this currently allows us to achieve our conservation goals. We will be watching the sale closely and will be very keen to work with the new owners to further the conservation of this magnificent island.”

Nine miles from the Ayrshire coast, Ailsa Craig is home to the third largest gannet colony in Scotland. Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the island also provides a perfect nesting site for guillemots and kittiwakes, and has a population of some of the UK’s largest slow worms.

Tens of thousands of puffins used to breed in burrows at the top of the island’s soaring vertical cliffs, but their population was devastated by the accidental introduction of rats in the 19th century, and is only now slowly recovering following the rats’ removal.

Ailsa Craig is also famous world-wide for its dense granite, used in the production of curling stones, and it is estimated that up to 70% of curling stones currently in use are made from Ailsa-sourced granite.

Landing on Ailsa Craig is not encouraged due to the poor state of the pier, and possible disturbance to the birds. However, boats trips run from the coastal town of Girvan, and from the Island of Arran, which allow visitors to enjoy the awe-inspiring seabird spectacle from the water.

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