Incorporated in 1874, the Village of Ailsa Craig is known as the origin of a couple of decorated racers. Despite their famous, fast-paced residents, this quiet village is the picture of peace of mind. If you are looking for a community in Middlesex County with access to both a big city in London, Ontario and the beaches of Grand Bend, then consider sticking around to learn more about the great village of Ailsa Craig.
Where is Ailsa Craig, Ontario?
The village of Ailsa Craig is one of the communities in the municipality of North Middlesex (Middlesex County). North Middlesex is North-West of London, Ontario and South of Grand Bend and the coastline of Lake Huron. The municipality has a total population of 6,352 people over nearly 600 square kilometers. It is largely rural, with pockets of small urban settlement like Ailsa Craig.
The Village of Ailsa Craig itself is located 34km South of Grand Bend. It was founded on the Ausable River which runs through the village and empties into Lake Huron. The nearest bigger cities are Strathroy 24 km South-West, London, Ontario 38 km South-East, and Stratford 55 km to the East.
Living and Working in Ailsa Craig, Ontario
North Middlesex is quiet as far as real estate markets go. Without much in the way of new developments, a lot of what is for sale in Ailsa Craig and the surrounding area is either farmland or older homes on substantial acreage. In Ailsa Craig and the nearby Parkhill, it is possible to see homes built within the last 10 years on the market, but they are quite a rare sight. The Real Estate climate in Middlesex County overall has improved somewhat since 2018, boasting more homes sold after fewer days on the market. The average price for a home for sale in Middlesex County is just under the $500,000 mark.
The village of Ailsa Craig is in a central location to conveniently access a number of commuting destinations where the job market is larger. It is 22 minutes away from Strathroy, 35 minutes from London, and 45 minutes from Stratford. A little further East, Ailsa Craig is an hour away from Woodstock.
For children in Ailsa Craig, there are two elementary public schools located in the village boundaries and other options in the surrounding communities in North Middlesex. The municipality is considered part of the Thames Valley District School Board and the London District Catholic School Board. Additional services and program options can be found in the nearby towns of Strathroy or London.
Thames Valley District School Board
McGillivray Central Public School (JK to Grade 8), Ailsa Craig
East Williams Memorial Public School (JK to Grade 8), Ailsa Craig
J.S. Buchanan French Immersion Public School (SK to Grade 8), Strathroy
North Middlesex District High School (Grades 9 to 12), Parkhill
Strathroy District Collegiate Institute (Grades 9 to 12), Strathroy
London District Catholic School Board
Sacred Heart (JK to Grade 8), Parkhill
St. John French Immersion (K to Grade 8), London
Holy Cross Secondary (Grades 9 to 12), Strathroy
Mother Teresa Secondary (French Immersion) (Grades 9 to 12), London
History of Ailsa Craig
The community of Ailsa Craig was founded in 1861 by David Craig and W.G. Shipley. It shares a name with an uninhabited, volcanic island off the coast of Scotland which is a bird sanctuary today.
The newly completed line of the Grand Trunk Railway running through the area brought interest and settlers with it and Ailsa Craig began its early growth. Eventually, the community grew enough to be formally incorporated as a village in 1874. In 2001, Ailsa Craig joined together with McGillivray, East Williams, West Williams, and Parkhill to form the Municipality of North Middlesex during a period of restructuring in the County.
Ailsa Craig is also the once-home of two successful racers, John Duncan Campbell and Earl Ross. Campbell, a harness racer, was born in Ailsa Craig in 1955 and is featured in the United States Harness Racing Hall of Fame, the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, and the London, Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. He holds the honour of over 10,000 races won and being the youngest entrant in the American Hall of Fame. While born in Prince Edward Island, Earl Ross was a celebrated resident of Ailsa Craig until his death in 2014. He was a NASCAR driver who achieved fame for being the first Canadian to win the Winston Cup and won Winston Cup Rookie of the Year in 1974. His achievements are celebrated in the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, FOAR SCORE Hall of Fame, and the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame.
In more recent racing history, 2010 marked a year of controversy for the village. Since 1974, Ailsa Craig had held an annual “Turtle Race” where wild turtles were removed from the Ausable River in order to compete in contests of speed. The controversy began when the event was featured in a Toronto newspaper piece, which garnered more attention than it had ever received before. In the midst of outcry and backlash, the Ministry of Natural Resources stepped in and ended the practice. Since then, the village’s annual celebration: the Gala Days has had to march on without the Turtle Races, but they still use the mascot to commemorate the history of the event. In the spirit of the original Turtle Races, community organizers now host “Rubber Turtle River Races” instead.
Things to Do In and Around Ailsa Craig
Enjoy Local Scenery:
The Ailsa Craig Main Street is where all of the errands get to run in the village. A nice collection of stores and services line the main street that runs through the village. The local pub: The Crown & Turtle, a gas station, a hardware store, the grocery store and LCBO, as well as a few other offices and stops along the way. The village has just enough that you don’t have to leave Ailsa Craig to do your shopping, so you can avoid those weekend parking lot battles in the larger cities.
Also on the main street is the Ye Olde Towne Hall, the community centre which doubles as a theatre. They host local parties, events, and meetings like any community centre, but they also offer concerts, theatre performances, and interactive dinner theatre. The beautiful old building is also an Ailsa Craig heritage treasure, so it’s worth seeing for the exterior too.
Ailsa Craig Gala Days:
Since Ailsa Craig’s centennial celebration in 1974, the Gala Days event has been a tradition in the village. The weekend of July 19th, 2019 marked the event’s 45th anniversary of running. What started out as Turtle Racing has evolved into a huge, multi-day celebration of community and heritage. Community groups and volunteers work together to provide activities for children, a parade, a race, a pet show, a beer tent, and much more over the course of the weekend.
The beaches of Grand Bend are only 25 minutes away from the Ailsa Craig main street! If sand, sun, and swimming don’t appeal to you, then there are plenty of other attractions to inspire a day-trip to Grand Bend. The summer season is this area’s peak with restaurants, wineries, markets, galleries, and antique stores to enjoy.
Despite this little village’s racing claims to the hall of fame, residents of Ailsa Craig take the time to soak in the beautiful rural scenery of their village. A quaint, local scene and access to prime day-trip destinations should put Ailsa Craig on your roadmap. So, if you are looking to make Ailsa Craig more than a pit stop, take a look at properties for sale in the village and the nearby North Middlesex municipality.