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Olympic Island For Sale off Scottish Coast - Explore

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Sierra Daily

01/29/2014

Olympic Island For Sale off Scottish Coast

Ailsa Craig in the distanceHave a spare $2.5 million lying around? In search of an ancient volcanic island with an Olympic pedigree? Ailsa Craig off the coast of Scotland might be right for you! The granite of this uninhabited island in the Irish Sea is the source for the majority of curling stones throughout the world, and it is also home to one of the largest gannet colonies in Europe.

Kays of Scotland has been manufacturing curling stones from Ailsa Craig since 1851, with the Blue Hone and Common Green granite of the island being considered the cream of the crop in the curling world. Its water resistant nature is described as being ideal for slick and controlled gliding across the ice. Quarrying of the island's granite ended in 1969, but there still remains vast reserves of its famed volcanic rocks in the crumbling infrastructure of the island.

Once described by the Irish poet John Keats as a "craggy ocean pyramid," the island is now owned by the Scottish peer Archibald Angus Charles Kennedy, the 8th Marquess of Ailsa. The marquess's family has owned the island since the 16th century, but due to bloated inheritance taxes and decades of dwindling revenue, he has been forced to put the ancient island on the market.

Ailsa Craig comes equipped with a ruined castle, a solar powered lighthouse, and a humble cottage. Its castle dates back to the 16th century and was used as a defense against Spanish invaders; the island was also a refuge for Catholics fearing persecution during the Scottish Reformation. It later served as a prison during the 18th and 19th centuries, resembling a sort of Scottish Alcatraz.

But while this volcanic isle is lacking in hospitality, it is rich in geologic and environmental substance. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds looks after the various seabirds that inhabit the island, including gannet, guillemot, and the burgeoning community of puffins that call Ailsa Craig home. The granite residue from the island's volcanic past is perhaps Ailsa Craig's most famous feature, as it is essentially the industry standard for all curling stones.

Though an article in The Guardian from early December 2013 suggested that Ailsa Craig had finally found a buyer in an unnamed environmental trust, the island still remains listed for sale through the website Vladi Private Islands. "The only island to win a gold medal in the Olympic games," boasts the website, alluding to its rich curling history.

Nevertheless, despite his island's legendary status in the world of curling, the marquess seems less than enamored with the sport, as the New York Times quotes him saying, "It's the boringest game you can watch."

So far, it appears that Ailsa Craig's lack of any real infrastructure or commercial value has proved unappealing to any perspective buyers, but perhaps the upcoming Winter Olympics will shed romantic light on the island at the heart of world curling, encouraging a charitable soul to purchase it. Then again, the flourishing seabird community of the island needs no economic bailout to continue thriving. 

Callum Beals is an editorial intern at Sierra. he recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz where he studied history and literature. He enjoys hiking, camping, and waking up at ungodly hours to watch soccer games.

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