Ferry to make historic trip round Ailsa Craig

The MV Isle of Arran which will be making a charted circumnavigation of Ailsa Craig this weekend.

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The MV Isle of Arran will become the first CalMac ferry to circumnavigate Ailsa Craig next weekend when the 35 year old vessel makes the charted voyage for Clyde River Steamer Club.

Setting off at 11am from Ardrossan, the vessel will make its way to the 99 hectare island which lies 10 miles west of mainland Scotland, south of Arran, and return at 4pm.

Once a popular route by steamers and turbine steamers – when sea cruises were a traditional and regular summer activity – the excursion will be a first and one-off trip for the ferry company and will not interfere with its current service on the Ardrossan to Brodick route.

Taking place next Saturday the sailing will include a two-course meal and offer unparalleled views of the volcanic plug famous for its gannet colony and towering granite cliffs.

The MV Isle of Arran is a favourite of many enthusiasts, an impression underlined by the success of CRSC’s Round Arran charter in January 2018, when the ship’s master and crew gave the club a great welcome.

Wooden-hulled paddle steamers began sailing round Ailsa Craig nearly 200 years ago, and by the late 19th century the trip had become a regular feature of the Clyde summer excursion programme. Many still remember the Saturday afternoon Round Ailsa Craig cruises given in the 1960s by Duchess of Montrose and Queen Mary II, when the steamer would blow her whistle to arouse the vast number of gannets from their nests — a practice that was eventually stopped due to environmental concerns.

Since the mid 1970s, opportunities to repeat the experience have been limited to the handful of occasions each summer when Waverley undertakes the trip.

A summertime view of Ailsa Craig from the deck of Waverley, showing the steep granite face and gannet colony. Photo courtesy CRSC NO_B02ailsa01

Bridge scene on MV Isle of Arran during January 2018 charter with CRSC members mingling with crew. Photo courtesy CRSC NO_B02ailsa02

The MV Isle of Arran which will be making a charted circumnavigation of Ailsa Craig next weekend. 01_B36ferry01