Missing Arran!

One of our favourite views from the terrace of the Pier Head tavern in Lamlash

Now that we are back home in Leeds, after spending almost 6 months on the marvellous island of Arran living in our Classic Hymer motor-home, we are having serious withdrawal problems.

Our Hymer in situ on Lochranza campsite

Friends were amazed that living in such tight, close proximity to each other for 6 months that we didn’t fall out and that neither of us sustained or inflicted upon the other a serious injury. Especially as even at the best of times we are a rather argumentative if not combatative couple and are well known for squabbling about the slightest thing.

Blissful moment for us both
on Blackwater beach

‘Tis true that I did complain about Gary’s insistence upon having the electric cool box in the van and about having to shift the bloody thing up and down, off the dinette, to under the table and then drag it down to under the drop down bed. Just so he could keep copious quantities of beer and wine cool for our many visitors. But, as Jamie pointed out, if having that kept him happy why be so mean as to quibble about it…..After all he was using it for the greater good. Also , to be fair, Gary did not moan much about the huge quantity of wool I had stashed about the van so that I could undertake almost any crochet project that took my fancy whilst we were away from the mother lode stash of yarn I have squatted in our cellar.

Peacock and rooster free grazing in the grounds of a deserted cottage on the road to Machrie.

We miss Arran; its fabulous , ever changing landscapes, wildlife, beaches and fresh , clear air and we miss living in our cosy , snug van. It seems we have our best nights sleep in the van. Whether that is down to the bed or to the fact that we can seal the windows and skylights up so that hardly a speck of daylight can disturb our slumbers we do not know.

Lochranza Castle in the Spring

Now we are back in Leeds again my asthma is slowly worsening and breathlessness is returning. The air, here in Headingley is very polluted and we live close to one of the busiest roads into the city. The traffic along Headingley Lane was at a complete standstill this evening and the congestion stretched right from Hyde Park out to West Park….about 3 miles. Oh for the open roads of Arran. Travelling back from a night out in Brodick to Lochranza we only saw one car for the whole of the 15 miles! Although we did end up chasing a lone deer that got trapped in the glare of our headlights.

Goatfell from Brodick

Once again Gary is struggling to sleep at night and is lucky if he gets 6 hours. In times gone past we could have blamed noisy students….or the “Stupids”…..as Gary prefers to call them. We are surrounded by hordes of them living both directly opposite in halls of residence and next door to us in a family house which has been converted into 3 flats which now accommodates 10 students! However, since our return in October they have largely been quiescent and apart from the occasional unreasonableness have been fairly quiet after the midnight hour.

Late July evening at Lochranza….after 11pm.

We are missing North West Scotland and ache to return. In the meantime we have had to make “do” with trips away in the van to Bruges, Sheffield, Eastleigh, Skipton, Borrowdale, York, Howden and Penrith. Later this week we are off to a campsite at Hipperholme, Halifax. All wonderful places…..but not Arran!

October evening sun at Seal Shore, Kildonan

Arran bound no more….. Simply Granny bound…..

In September we had just agreed with the Lochranza Campsite owners, Nigel and Kathy, that we would return the following Spring to resume our wardening duties when our daughter and partner announced they wanted to visit us on the Arran campsite once more.

We were a little surprised, after all it was only about a month before we would be back in Leeds for the winter. Also, we had thought that they were planning on going on holiday somewhere much warmer that month. Nonetheless a visit from them would be lovely, not only are they great company but Arya is a fabulous cook who always insists upon taking on the role of chef, food sourcer, fire stoker and chief bottle washer whenever he visits us.

Arya….yet again serving food for the hungry masses!

I am sure you have guessed the rest. As soon as they arrived at the campsite they shared their wonderful news. Laura was 8 weeks pregnant, the baby was due in early May and they couldn’t wait for our return to Leeds in late October to tell us the good news.

Arya and myself beach coming for driftwood along the shore at Lochranza.

This was something of a bombshell. There was definitely an emotional tear of joy in Gary’s manly eye at the thought of becoming a grandparent! We were thrilled for the young couple. We knew how much Laura wanted a baby and also that she would be a fantastic mother. As for Arya, he was obviously as pleased as punch at the prospect of imminent fatherhood and this was clearly a very special moment for him too. They swore us to secrecy as they didn’t want to broadcast their good news to everyone else before the pregnancy had been confirmed by the 12 week scan

The much prized 12 week scan photo of our future grandchild.

However, this also meant an end to our Arran adventures. The baby is due in Spring and we would be immediately required for grandparent duties! Arya has no immediate family in the UK …..and every young family need as much help as they can get. I remember how difficult those early years had been for me and Gary and how we had struggled as we had no family close by.

So, sadly we were no longer Arran bound……but definitely Granny bound……

Respecting the Ancestors… a memorial to a bronze age princess.

The many different peoples who have inhabited the lands of Arran and mainland Kintyre have left artefacts, monuments and memorials that show the deep respect they had for their ancestors and forebears.

Stone covering the burial cist on the island of Inchmarnock

We have had many enjoyable times discovering the remnants of those memorials and burial cairns. Some of which stand out stark against the landscape whilst others are more hidden and remote.

One particularly memorable day involved a trip in Kathy and Nigels rib to the isolated and uninhabited island of Inchmarnock. What a special treat that was!

The islands name comes from the Gaelic, Innis Mhearnaig, meaning island of Marnock (saint). It could be that this refers to a holy man who lived on the island in the 7th century and who established a monastery there. Or it could just be a general reference to the patron saint of the island’s monks,

A burial cist was found on the island by a farmer in the 1950s while he was out ploughing. And, apparently the grave was left open simply covered by a pane of glass for many years before it was covered with the huge stone which now marks its position.

It contained a 4,000 year old skeleton of a female along with a jet necklace and a dagger.

Surprisingly, the archaeologists were able to identify the necklace as being made from Whitby Jet. What a distance those materials had travelled to be worn in both life and death on a tiny, seemingly remote island.

Clearly , these bronze age peoples were more widely travelled and connected than we might have imagined. Travel and trade will most probably have happened by sea and water including rivers and lochs rather than overland.

The plaque on the burial cist

Even more surprisingly they were able to reconstruct her appearance from her skull and even identify elements in her diet.

Reconstruction of her head and the Whitby Jet necklace.

Apparently, she was born in the Cyde Estuary but did not eat seafood even though she lived on a small island.

Clearly, she was regarded as someone of great importance by her peers. Archaeological evidence shows that she had plenty of contemporaries living on the island, however, very few other cist burials have been found . Additionally, she was allowed to keep her precious necklace with her on her journey to the next life despite it being of great value.

Looking back from the burial cist towards the rib

The island itself is serenely beautiful with outstanding views and due to its undisturbed habitat a wide variety of plants.

Since the last inhabitants of the island finally departed the owner of the island, Lord Smith of Kelvin, has farmed the land organically with a herd of highland cattle and so encouraged the native flora and fauna to flourish.

We did spot this rather lovely specimen close to the burial cist.

Is it a Scarlet Pimpernel?

What a fitting floral tribute for an archaeological gem hidden in full sight.

Flood Alert!!!

Friday 9th August dawned dark and grim with persistent, heavy rain pelting down.

It was our morning to be on duty as wardens at Lochranza campsite. We were expecting to be shadowed by Barbara and Colin who had arrived the day before as potential campsite wardens for next season. The previous evening I had arranged to call for Barbara in the morning to join me for my deer pooh collecting round of the campsite.

Nigel and Kathy, the campsite owners joined us in the office at about 8:30 am. Nigel had been watching the water level of the river Gleann Easan Biorach, which bounds the full length of the campsite on one side, all night. He was concerned that the river was going to flood at the bottom of the campsite.

Campsite office.

But there was to be no pooh collection that day!!

The normal level of Gleann Easan Biorach….when in flood it came right up and over the top of both river banks.

Quite rightly, Nigel said that the campers in tents were most vulnerable to a flood. So accordingly, off we all went to warn those in tents in the bottom field to begin to pack up their gear to be ready to move their tents and belongings to higher ground.

Bottom tent field…..empty of tents….unlike 9th August when it was full!

All the while the rain continued to chuck itself at us. Very soon it was clear that the river level was continuing to rise rapidly. We helped move many tents and personal possessions to higher ground, repegging tents and wheelbarrowing valuables and camping equipment to an already packed Base Camp aka campers lounge. Several other campers came and helped . As for the sky it continued to throw buckets of water at us.

Base Camp….provides a great refuge from bad weather for those camping in tents.

By now the river had breached its lower banks on the golf course and in the bottom of the campsite. As the levels continued to rise we now alerted campers on the top field. And, moved yet again the tents we had only just moved and repegged down!

Alerting campers on the top field and getting them to move their tents wasn’t easy as some folks had already gone out for the day and others were elsewhere on the campsite …..having showers in the toilet block for instance….or watching the fun and games of our struggles to rescue tents and campers personal possessions etc from the safety of the campers lounge !

But the river continued to rise and rise.

Then it became clear that not only tents but also campervans, motorhomes and caravans were also at risk from the encroaching dark waters. Nigel announced that we needed to evacuate the site.

Site almost fully evacuated.

At this point the river broke the banks at the Ballarie Bridge near the distillery,tearing down fences and ripping out gorse bushes, trees and hedges. It bypassed it’s normal course and headed straight for the top of the campsite where it came gushing over a high hedge behind the pods flooding all but the very highest ground. This meant that the road to the campsite was blocked and the fire brigade, whom Kathy had alerted early in the morning, couldn’t reach the campsite to help with the evacuation.

Water gushing over the 4 foot high hedge at the top of the site.

But with great difficulty and much help from some fantastic, public spirited campers we succeeded in safely evacuating the site. Many tents and personal possessions were lost…….but no-one was injured.

As we evacuated the site, we encountered a few problems…such as a broken down vehicle which needed towing out and some caravans that also needed towing.

Tractor linked up to tow the broken down car.
Campers, caravans and motorhomes evacuated to the Stag Pavillion’s car park. As we needed to keep the entrance to the campsite clear we asked, wherever possible, for vehicles to temporarily park in the distillery car park.

The force of the water was so great that it moved not only heavy picnic tables dumping some of them miles away downstream but even wrenched the pods from their concrete moorings. One of the picnic tables made it to the middle of the river outside the Youth Hostel, it soon disappeared from there and was next reported having been spotted by the crew of the Cal Mac Lochranza/Clanaig ferry with its legs in the air floating towards Kintyre! All but one of the golf course bridges were damaged or moved from their positions. Tons of gravel from the hard standings and car park areas were carried away and dumped on the golf course fairways and greens.

The nearest pod was pulled forwards by at least 15 feet. It should be in line with the others.
Another view of the devastation on site!

It is unsurprising that this August 2019 has been one of the wettest recorded on Arran or that on that single morning 25% of the months rain fell…..over 45mm.

And what about Barbara and Colin, the rookie would-be wardens? What a baptism of floodwater they had had. They worked as hard as anyone that morning, moving tents, awnings, camping equipment etc. And, despite my advice after the evacuation to “head for the hills” they stayed for the rest of the week and worked hard helping with the big clean up that was so desperately needed!

What no posts???…..but lots of extreme excuses…..

I have no real excuse for my lack of posts the last month or so! There have, however, been some impediments of varying magnitude which have hindered my posting capacity.

  • Firstly we have been very fortunate to be distracted by a large influx of personal visitors, both good friends and close family. In total, so far, we have had over 22 different visitors with more planning to arrive soon! Altogether they have stayed here for over 40 days and nights. More than Jesus spent wandering
    in the wilderness!

Thalia and Adam came from the furthest away, New Zealand. Here they are enjoying an evening around the campfire.

What with providing food, accommodation, acting as island tour guides as well as working on the campsite little time has been left for blogging. But what fun we all have had and some very memorable days.

Elsa and Steve enjoyed Arran so much that they came twice! Here they are with their lovely doggies as well at the Blackwaterfoot Beer festival.

Said doggies, travel in style when they are out cycling….

  • Secondly, the internet / wifi connection at the campsite is variable and at times it is so saturated with people trying to use it that I cannot upload posts or pictures.
  • Thirdly and by no means least, we have experienced 2 floods on the campsite during August. With the first being of such a cataclysmic/ apocalyptic nature that it caused a great deal of damage and upheaval which in turn meant a huge clean up and reparation of the site was needed. Leaving very little time to even consider posting blogs about it !!!

But more about the floods later…..

In the meantime here is the headline about it from the local paper, the Arran Banner.

Waterfall walk in Glen Sannox

Yesterday it stopped raining and there was definitely sunshine! However, by the time we had got our shoes and coats on for a walk on the ridge it had started raining again. Undeterred we set off for a little potter in the rain.

As long as I can get dry at the end I don’t mind walking in the rain and even enjoy it. This was certainly the case a few weeks ago when we walked up Glen Sannox following several days of rain to see the waterfalls there.

This short, easy walk starts at the car park off the A841 by North Sannox Bridge. It is a very straightforward walk on well made paths and even in the rain and mist had dramatic views of the waterfall series and of North Glen Sannox itself.

Just setting off from the car park…..in heavy rain and mist…complete with boots and several layers of clothing!

At the very start of the walk, by a footbridge, the path split into two. We took the left hand track which headed off into the forest. The other track, which intuitively and wrongly so, seemed a more obvious choice for a river walk, simply leads to a bench with a great view of the burn.

The walk through the forest was truly lovely, all the lush vegetation was displayed in various shades of vivid green and the smell of pine was heavenly. In addition the trees gave good cover against the incessant rain.

As we climbed higher up the glen….again a fairly easy ascent…we had wonderful views of the narrowing gorge and a series of dashing , foam filled waterfalls.

As you come out of the forest there should be a fabulous view of the jagged ridge of Glen Sannox. Sadly, all we could see was mist and low cloud.

We will have to return on another day for a better view and at least a glimpse of the Witches Step (Ceum na Caillich) and the rocky outline provided by Caisteal Abhail.

View back down the glen complete with lowering clouds

Hardier souls would probably have continued on once the path ended at a fence and might even have attempted to reach the summit of Caisteal Abhail via Carn Mor ridge but we opted to return to the car . After all we had to seek out the ending to a good walk in the rain….a cosy pub.

We knew exactly where we were headed…..Crofters at Brodick for some live music!

Antidote for days of dreary rain…..photos of a memorable Spring day on Arran

Yes, I know the gardens and farms needed rain after a near drought earlier in the year….but after days and days of the stuff and flood warnings in abundance it is good to remember drier days!

One of those days involved a beautiful circular walk on Arran from Lamlash, around Clauchlands Point and up to the prehistoric fort of Dun Fionn and then a return to Lamlash.

Throughout this walk there were great views of Holy Isle and of Lamlash Bay which was Scotlands first No Take Zone.

The walk hugs the coast before rising steeply uphill to a narrow path along the cliffs to the ancient hilltop fort of Dun Fionn. Not one to be attempted in high winds but on a warm Spring day it made for a lovely little toddle for two aging, occasional walkers.

The views from Dun Fionn were stunning all ways and provided a good view of Goatfell in the distance beyond Brodick as well as the distant Ayrshire coastline.

With its fantastic rocky ramparts Dunn Fionn was a brilliant and inevitable, choice position for a hill fort as can be seen in the pictures below.

Looking back, up the steep mound of the hill fort

This was a lovely, fresh Spring day and the bluebells that clothe the areas around the base of the hill were in full bloom.

Then it was back to Lamlash to the Pier Head Tavern, for as we all know, it isn’t a proper walk without a pub at the end.

A bit empty downstairs as everyone was enjoying the sun upstairs on the patio

As well as great beer the Pier Head Tavern has a fabulous balcony patio that overlooks Lamlash bay.

It also has a tiny but beautifully presented terraced garden……..

Complete with surprising driftwood sculpture…….

Who does this remind you of?

Artistic advice needed!

Remember the Arran Temperature blanket?

During our stay on Arran I planned to make a Temperature Blanket based upon the C2C Temperature Blanket MAL pattern by Esther Dijkstra from itsallinanutshell.com .

To that end I carefully selected 30 shades of mostly acrylic DK yarn that would provide a graduated selection of colours to correspond to temperatures that ranged from -3 to 26 degrees.

I also decided to use both the minimum and maximum temperatures reached each day to create the blanket so that each day would have 2 rows.

However, in practice I soon discovered this meant that there would not be a gradual colour change across the blanket, as there is usually about between 4 and 6 degrees difference between the minimum and maximum temperatures. Meaning that in reality there is a wide colour change between each row.

Here is my Arran blanket for our first month on Arran, of May.

After the first few days of making I began to feel uneasy about the constantly stripey pattern I was creating but ploughed on as I thought I just needed to get used to it. I did enjoy the fact that the blanket was recording the variable weather we were experiencing and the randomness of the colours it threw up.

Then a couple of days ago I thought I would try a test sample for the month of May just using the minimum temperatures. I did consider making it into a cushion using the maximum temperatures for the other half of the rectangle.

This is how it has worked out so far.

The camera has bleached out the pale lilac on both photos so that it looks like a pale grey. So the colours are not as vivid as in reality. But you can see that the colours have a slightly more gradual change and in some cases where the minimum remained the same for several days there is accordingly a block of the same shade.

Which version do you prefer, please ?

And do you have any other thoughts about how I could develop this project using both sets of temperature records.

Your thoughts will be greatly appreciated!

Round and About…..

I am struggling to write posts as regularly as usual as the strength of the campsite Wi-Fi signal is variable.

When the site is busy, which it has been for most of May it is impossible to connect.

In fact I am writing this on my phone in the lovely Ormidale hotel at Brodick .

Here are a few pictures of wildlife and views round and about the Lochranza campsite and golf course.

A pair of Golden Eagles nest on the hill at the back of the campsite. We have seen them fly over but we haven’t been able to get a photo of them yet. So you will have to make do with pictures of sheep,deer and rabbits which pose quite happily for everyone.

Although Gary did spot this rare beast in the campsite office the other day…..

…this is especially for Mick and Angie who wanted to see me in my warden’s uniform.