Walking round the Isle of Arran – the start

This was my first visit to Arran. We took trains from our home on the south coast of England to Ardrossan via London and Glasgow. The journey took about 10 hours and cost £50 return, using advance tickets and senior railcards; excellent value for money, I think.

The plan was to rent a self-catering apartment in Brodick for a week and use the local buses to get to and from walks that would circumvent the island. The plan was a sound one, logistically, but was thwarted,  primarily by adverse weather. We had 6 full days on Arran; two were virtual wash-outs with rain just about all day, two were really nice, dry days and two were half and half. Much of the Arran Coastal Way is along the coast road and, given the weather, we decided not to walk in the rain, along roads. It was also quite cold during our week there, with snow on the top of the hills and a very keen breeze. Despite this it was an excellent, enjoyable trip. We saw most of the island and walked about a third of the most interesting parts of the coast.

Our train to Ardrossan (Gaelic for headland of the deer/oxen) arrived just too late for the last ferry to Arran so we had one night in a B&B in Ardrossan. We stayed at St Rule House, a very comfortable house packed with Scottish memorabilia close to Ardrossan South station. St Rule was the person that took and buried the bones of St Andrew in Scotland at St Andrews, obviously (but it probably was not called that when he did it in 370AD!). Ardrossan must have the highest ratio of railway stations per head of population of any town in the UK. There are 3 stations and a population of just under 11,000. Although, at one stage Ardrossan had two more stations, since closed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ardrossan). When you see how close the remaining stations are, 5 stations is scarcely credible.

The landlord at St Rule kindly gave us a lift to the ferry terminal next morning and we duly caught the ferry to Brodick on Arran. The landlord told us he ran a kilt business but strangely had a large number of cardboard boxes in his car boot that contained “the best lemon meringue tarts in Scotland”. It did not seem polite to ask why.

It was a bright sunny day and the crossing gave us magnificent views all round.

Leaving Ardrossen harbour

Leaving Ardrossan harbour

Despite a cool breeze we could not drag ourselves away from the deck all the way to Arran; a ferry crossing of about 50 minutes.

Isle of Arran and Goatfell with snow

Isle of Arran and Goatfell with snow

We had booked into a self catering apartment in Brodick, the main town on Arran and where the Ardrossen ferry docks. We arrived mid-morning and luckily our apartment was ready for us so we dumped our bags and had a quick recce of the town before catching a bus to take us round the northerly part of the island. Buses on the island are not that frequent but careful study of the timetable and routes means it is usually possible to organise convenient trips. Certainly, I would argue there is no need to take a car there. We bought a one week bus pass for just under £20, which was another good value deal. The bus trip right round the island takes about 2 hours. I thought it well worth the price of the week-long ticket and an excellent way to see the island.

Unfortunately, we just missed our connecting bus at Blackwaterfoot which would have returned us to Brodick via the south part of the island. But this gave us time to explore a little of that village.

Blackwaterfoot looking North

Blackwaterfoot looking North

We returned to Brodick on a bus that took us over the String Road with enormous upland views.

That night we dined at the Douglas Hotel. It was reasonable but lively and noisy as Bank Holiday visitors arrived intent on drinking a great deal and quickly.

Incidentally, I mused over the difference between Isle and Island. I readily recognised that we use Isle when it is part of the name of an island, Isle of Arran, Isle of Man, Wight etc. And we use Island when the name of an island has no title like Malta, Cyprus etc. the Isle of Malta does not sound right. But I was surprised to discover that the two words have different origins. Isle originates from Ile the French word while island derives from the old English word ayland. (see http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/131805/isle-vs-island)


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