This is the isle of Arran seen from the town of Troon. Out of order, as D and I went first to the island and then the town. But I wanted to start with this image of hazy beauty, and from there draw nearer.
The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry left from the mainland at Ardrossan Harbour. A rough crossing; earlier ferries had been cancelled, and the one that took us arrived with some drama. As it took the narrow pass between the harbour walls, it started to lurch to one side in the swells. A gasp went up from the Cal Mac waiting room as it looked for a moment as if the boat would tip too far and slap into the water.
Thankfully, the captain manage to right things, and our crossing was a lot calmer than we had expected. D bought a nip of whisky as a palliative, though I am of the opinion that it would have made matters worse. The crossing lasted 55 minutes and landed at one of the largest villages on Arran, Brodick.
Again, this photo is out of sequence, but the weather was the same: sun and gusts and flecks of rain.
D and I took a walk before picking up the later bus to our youth hostel in the North of the island. On our wanderings, we were mobbed by hungry ducks and geese, which we fed from a 50p bag of oats and other duck-appropriate snacks at the side of a woody path.
Along the roadside grew a profusion of this plant – raspberries, we thought. But like none we had seen before:
They did not taste as pungent as their red cousins, nor as sweet. Still, they were good with the Arran cheddar, Creeler’s hot smoked salmon and smoked salmon pate we bought at from shops at Queens Court.
But now to our youth hostel in Lochranza – the picture I shared yesterday was taken at the loch shore.
The staff at the youth hostel were so friendly (though D tells me, hard to get hold of when he was secretly arranging things). The rooms basic but scrupulously clean, and the views, of the rhododendron-blanketed back garden, or the loch-facing kitchens, were as gorgeous as any hostel I’ve stayed in. I hesitate to recommend this place as I’d rather it remain quiet for the next time we make it there, but really – it was lovely. A half minute stroll away was this:
The river meeting Loch Ranza, loch of the seals. An estuarine environment where the peereep call of Oyster Catchers stitches the air above the gentle hish of the waters over pebbles. The smell of salt and rotting seaweed fills your head. I associate the smell of the sea with healthiness, though it’s based on nothing at all. It never fails to make me feel better.
Further along from the hostel, the preserved ruined castle of the Macsweens sits on a spit of land.
Here’s a very short video I took on my camera of the panorama, taken from the very edge of the castle lands:
We walked on to explore Lochranza, and found this swing set:
If these are not the swings with the best view in the world, then I would like to know which are.
The next morning we went back, because a thirtieth birthday should definitely include swinging on the best swings in the world.
What else is there to say of my birthday? Well, there was cake in the morning, and this present from my parents:
I’ve only just started playing with it, but I’m amazed with how well it works. This same camera was the one my father used to take (I think) the first picture of me, at a few hours old, in the hospital. Here’s one taken 30 years on from that day at the harbour in Lochranza:
We left the island for Troon, which as you saw in the first image in this post sits on the West coast looking out at the island. Our hotel was a step up from the hostel (though sadly not as good as it should have been for a 4 star place). The beach stretched on for miles under the mild high sun. But if I had my way, I’d be on Arran still, exploring the lanes and shoreside. We had such a fleeting visit we missed out on the standing stones and had no time climb Goat Fell, whose shard-like edges and stories of murder add a menacing edge to the island’s profile. For another week, for another adventure, Arran will be waiting.