The creel-fisherman was waiting in the harbour at Girvan. We had 10 miles to go. He disappeared down a hatch and told me to take the wheel. I steered while he made the tea.

Ailsa Craig loomed out of the Firth of Clyde, a granite rock 1,114ft high, more than a mile around. It is thought to be the risen core of an ancient volcano. It is steep and sheer. People used to live here. There were quarries where granite was once cut to make curling stones. The quarrymen had a row of cottages on the shore. They blew them up before they left the island, said the fisherman. There used to be a stone-mill, too. 'They blew that up as well.' No one lives here now; the lighthouse is automatic. Slowly we circled the rock, surveying the old quarry workings, the high basalt pillars, the cliffs which are home to thousands of gannets. 'Ah, there's no mistaking them boys,' said the fisherman. 'They look like they've been hand-painted.'

He fed me pie and beans before he put me ashore. He was going to mend some creels.

The beach was strewn with granite blocks and abandoned iron rails. There was a single path leading past a ruined castle and up to the summit. It kept well away from the bird colonies. The fisherman was keeping an eye on the tide. 'If you look down and the boat has gone, don't panic, I'll be back.'

Ailsa Craig is at Ordnance Survey grid reference NX 0199

(Photograph omitted)

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