Ailsa Craig Engraving Circa 1840
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Ailsa Craig Artist: Bartlett; Engraver: Willmore. circa 1840

THE stupendous insulated rock of Ailsa, between the shores of Ayrshire and Cantyre in Argyllshire, is about eight miles from the nearest point of the Ayrshire coast, and is generally considered as belonging to the parish of Dailly, as it is included in the Barony of Knockgerran, which is the property of the Earl of Cassillis, now Marquis of Ailsa.   This huge mass, probably two miles in circumference at the base, and rising to a height variously stated at 1140, 1100, and 1008 feet above the level  of the  sea, is of a conical appearance when seen from the north or south, and the summit is covered with heath and grass.  Ailsa is precipitous on all sides, and is only accessible on the east or south-east, at a small beach formed by the accumulation of debris.  The  cliffs  in  many places  are  columnar, and  the western side rises perpendicularly from the ocean. Ailsa occupies the same position at the entrance to the Frith of Clyde from the Atlantic as does the Bass at the entrance to the Frith of Forth from the German Ocean, both appearing like vast solitary sentinels, or memorials of a former world, rising abruptly from the deep, and displaying their immense forms as if to show the wonderful operations of nature.

Ailsa, sometimes designated the  "Perch of Clyde," is a remarkable object at sea.   It is visible from an extraordinary distance, and appears as if defying the billows which have dashed against its dark sides thousands of years.   A close inspection and examination increase the awe felt by the sight of this summit of an extraordinary  submarine mountain.   The world contains many remarkable objects which cannot be adequately described, and Ailsa, like the Bass, Skye, and Staffa, is one of them.  Around, hovering over, and clinging to its  sides,  are myriads  of wild  sea-fowl,  which  almost  darken the  atmosphere  when  on  the  wing,  uttering  the most discordant sounds and screechings.   From the landing-place a comparatively easy ascent of two hundred feet leads to the ruins of a square building, said to have been erected by Philip II. of Spain—a circumstance very improbable as it respects that monarch.   As Ailsa could not be excelled as a prison for silencing feudal enemies, as its sea-fowl could tell no tales, and the roaring Atlantic beneath would soon close over those who were precipitated into the abyss from the cliffs, it -is more probable that this is the memorial of an erection by the powerful family of Kennedy as a prison for those who fell into their hands.   It is also conjectured that this ruin may indicate an eremite residence depending on Lamlash in Arran, and it is stated that in this island are the "ruines of ane old castle and chapel possessed by the Earls of Cassillis, who hold the same off the Abbey of Corsregall."  Above this ruin the ascent is extremely laborious over pieces of broken rocks and large nettles.  Near the summit are two copious springs of excellent water.