Ailsa Craig Lighthouse is located on the island of Ailsa Craig, ten miles offshore from Girvan.
Paddy’s Mile Stone, as it is often known, is a prominent landmark. The island, a protected bird sanctuary, is 1,114 feet high and 2 miles in circumference. On the southwest corner is the island of Little Ailsa which is made up of basalt pillars.
The granite composition of Ailsa Craig was particularly suited for the use of curling stones, and for many years the rock was quarried here. They were cut on the island and polished on the mainland, and the quarrymen lived on the island, along with the lighthouse keepers.
From the 19th to mid 20th century there was a small population on the island, mainly quarrymen and their families, and the lighthouse keepers.
Quarrying has now ceased, and since the lighthouse keepers left it is inhabited by a large bird colony.
In 1881 the Northern Lighthouse Board received a petition to build a lighthouse and two fog signals on the island. Ailsa Craig Lighthouse was subsequently built on Foreland Point in 1886 and designed by Thomas and David Alan Stevenson. The light was first exhibited on 15th June 1886 using oil lamps. In 1911 it was converted to incandescent lamps.
Two large fog signals were built on the north and south sides of the island. These signals used sirens which were powered by gas engines. These were replaced by oil-powered engines in 1911. The two fog signals were discontinued in November 1966 when they were replaced by a Tyfon fog signal. Subsequently, a new signal was located close to the southeast end of the lighthouse. The fog signal was permanently discontinued in 1987.
Due to its remote location, in its early history, the lighthouse keepers communicated with the shore station at Girvan by carrier pigeon. A pigeon house was located in Girvan Green and the pigeons were provided by the lighthouse boatman. When it was not possible to send a pigeon, a fire signal was used instead when needed in an emergency. This practice continued until a wireless telephone system was installed in 1935.
In 1990 the lighthouse was automated and the keepers left the island. The lighthouse was converted to electric operation in 1989 and converted to solar operation in 2001.
The former optic is now on display at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh.
The keepers and their families were accommodated at the Shore Station in Girvan.
An old anchor is embedded in the beach by the jetty marking the path to the lighthouse buildings. The remains of a rusty narrow-gauge railway runs from the pier and past the quarrymen’s cottages.
Boat trips can be arranged to go out to Ailsa Craig from Girvan.