CALMAC’S Arran ferry is to give a special public excursion round Ailsa Craig on Saturday, January 12.

The cruise by MV Isle of Arran, organised by shipping enthusiasts, will be the first time a CalMac ferry has circumnavigated the Craig, famous for its granite cliffs and gannet colony.

It offers a unique opportunity to view ‘Paddy’s Milestone’ in midwinter.

The vessel will leave Ardrossan at 11am and return at 4pm. The £46 price includes a two-course meal with tea/ coffee in the ship’s restaurant.

A special £32 ticket is available for under 16s. Clyde River Steamer Club (CRSC) decided to organise the cruise after the success of a chartering Isle of Arran last January for a Round Arran excursion.

The vessel is a favourite of ship enthusiasts. Due to a two-vessel Arran service in mid January, the ship has no other duties in the middle of the day, leaving her free to undertake the trip.

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 the turbine st eamer s Duchess of Montrose and Queen Mary II, when the steamer would blow her whistle to arouse the vast number of gannets from their nests.

That practice 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.

The sight of Ailsa Craig close-up, its conical mass rising steeply from the depths of open water, is unforgettable.

Tickets for the excursion can be booked on the CRSC website here.