Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Isle of Arran

I liked Arran a lot. It reminded me of the Lake District and I suppose, geologically speaking, it might be part of the same mass.

Patsy123 and I had gone there to celebrate some friends' Ruby Wedding anniversary. For the first couple of nights we were in the house the friends had rented in Blackwaterfoot. Then, as more celebrants arrived, we moved into the Kinloch Hotel for a further few nights. Not a bad hotel, although every now and then we could hear a strange rumble like someone rolling a barrel down the corridor. Something to do with the heating system of the swimming pool, I believe.

They certainly served a fine full Scottish breakfast, with a choice of bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, lorne sausage, black pudding, fried tomato, hash browns, tattie scones, baked beans and mushrooms. Far too much unhealthy food, really, but when you're paying for it as a B&B guest ... what the hell, I indulged.

I liked the barman in the lounge, too. He offered what Patsy123 called three measures - single, double and whoops, my hand slipped. My glass of whoops, my hand slipped Laphroaig went down well.

Iron age forts and standing stones litter the island, and in the evening of our first day there, we walked to the standing stones on Machrie moor. Even in the company of other people, there's something a little unsettling about these stones, still standing after 3700 years, witnesses to who knows what on this desolate open ground.

The weather was, as is usual on my trips to SW Scotland, not all it might be, but we got off to a good start. Our first full day there saw me sitting for a while, looking out at a sky and sea of the kind of blues I've only ever seen in the Mediterranean. Wagtails played on the washing line and sparrows seesawed up and down on the pampas grass. A little idyll.

We'd spent that day driving round the island. At Whiting Bay we stopped and walked up to Glenashdale Falls. Pretty good waterfall. While the others went back the way they'd come (why do some people think that flip-flops are the ideal form of walking gear?), Patsy123 and I walked on a little higher, then dropped down on a much better track. The way was lined with the kind of hedgerow I'd thought had disappeared forever - wild fuchsia, roses, crocosmia, rowan, old man's beard, honeysuckle, vetch and yellow ragwort, were only some of the plants I could dredge up from the memory of my long-ago A-level Botany course.
By Sunday, the sun being enjoyed by the rest of Britain was lost to Arran. We sat under a long skein of raincloud and it just poured all day. My sunburn of a only a couple of days previously was becoming a fast-fading memory. There's really only one thing to do on Arran in the pouring rain - go to Brodick Castle.

The Castle is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, and as it's apparently much cheaper to take out membership of that august body and use it to enter National Trust properties in England, we joined.

It was Victorian Day at the Castle. Every room was staffed by someone dressed in Victorian garb, ready to fill you in on the merits and peculiarities of that room. Very interesting, if soon forgotten. There were a lot of rather indifferent paintings on the walls, and some decidedly peculiar ones of fighting cocks which looked like people standing upright in cock costumes. I did find a couple of pictures by Watteau - not great, but interesting - and was very disappointed to find the only Turner in the collection was being restored.

The display of children's paintings in the cafe , some of them reworking Picasso's Weeping Woman , others on a theme of portraits with one eye covered (who knows?) was, however, a good accompaniment to the delicious vegetable soup.

All in all, a good trip, and I still had the midge bites on my scalp to remind me of it several days after I got back.


marja-leena said...

Sounds like a great holiday! I'd love to see those standing stones I've heard so much about.

Mr Zip said...

They're very intriguing and the weathering has produced striations which look like they were done deliberately. I remember seeing some big sculptures like that at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.