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"World tour of Scotland" at www.nigelandkathyinscotland.blogspot.com

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The Longest Season


One of Billy Connolly’s ‘weel-kent’ comments is that Scotland has two seasons: June and winter.

My version is that, here in Lochranza at any rate, autumn, like winter, takes up more than its allotted portion of the year. It is also the loveliest of the seasons in my opinion. When our late spring arrives the speed of the greening up of the trees - alder, rowan, hawthorn, willow, hazel, birch and ash (always the last for its leaves to open)- is remarkable. Autumn, on the other hand, is like a slow sunset in which the glowing colours of the land gradually brighten and deepen. Whilst summery weather can be elusive and winter slow to leave, autumn is the grand finale of the year. 

By the end of July, the bracken on the lower hillsides, which shoots up higher than our heads during June, begins to turn golden and chestnut at the edges. It slowly collapses, curls and crumples into itself, making walking off the path easier again. Shining scarlet clusters of berries dangle from the rowan trees after which Lochranza is named. As the sunset retreats southwards towards Catacol, dusk closes in surprisingly fast and the click and clash of antlers echoes round the glen. The necks of the red deer stags have thickened with bearing the weight of their coronets of deadly sharp points. They strut around regally, gathering admiring audiences. Meanwhile the golden eagles fly high, unobserved but no doubt observing everything. 

In November, the sun leaves Lochranza until February, its low daily journey taking it behind Lochranza’s high hills. Most people in the village know the exact dates when the sun will leave and return to their homes. Throughout the winter it can appear briefly in the bealachs (cols) between hills, and on bright days you can watch the shifting boundary of light and shade on the higher hillsides. It’s essential to dress up warm if you’re working outside in midwinter in the chilly damp and shade of the deep valley.

In March light evenings lengthen rapidly. Freak weather can take us by surprise: we have known blizzards, floods and heatwaves in early spring. By April delicate pale yellow primroses are scattered on the cliffs of the old raised beaches, turning their faces to the sky, but it is usually well into May before spring proper arrives accompanied by a symphony of birdsong. This year I tried to record the spring wildflowers that I noticed on my daily walk in Glen Chalmadale and was surprised how they changed week by week, with wood anemones and violets quickly superseded by bluebells and yellow flag iris, in turn bowing out to pinky-purple foxgloves, the exotic rhododendron ponticum and frothy creamy may blossom. It can seem that the change from winter to summer takes little more than a month. 

In midsummer the sun in the late evening suffuses the head of the glen with rosy gold light and defines the cracks on the craggy face of Torr Nead an Eoin. Turn right round and you can watch the sun descend slowly and finally disappear behind the silhouette of the Kintyre hills. For weeks the nights never get darker than a soft grey twilight.

Now, in late September, the red squirrels are busy as bees darting between trees and rustling amongst leaves as they amass their winter hoards. Starry nights have returned and when it’s a clear sky I make sure I go outside before bed to watch the slow silent circling of Cassiopiea, the Plough and the Northern Cross. One night white billowing clouds illuminated by a nearly full moon galloped across the sky on the back of a south-west wind. Yet it appeared that the stars were rushing like a twinkling river in the opposite direction and it was clouds that were stationary. On such nights, the mountains cradle the quiet of night like a church, the only sound the hushed music of water splashing its way to the sea.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Rivers, Seashores, Lochs and Rain

Rivers, Seashores, Lochs and Rain


Rain has never been far away from Arran this summer. We have had clear, warm sunshine too – it just hasn’t stayed around for long.

Here at the head of the glen in Lochranza, if you pause in your daily activity you will nearly always hear the sound of water, sometimes a gentle splash and murmur when the burn is running low and sometimes, after rain, a resonating roar as it crashes down the waterfalls in Gleann Easan Biorach and hurtles headlong past the campsite before rushing into the saltwater of the Duarchan (the head of Loch Ranza). If I were asked to define the experience of living in Lochranza it would be the sound of water.

Arran rain, fresh from the Atlantic, fills the peat bogs on top of Lochranza’s hills and sometimes they become laden to the brim and water spills over the edge of the hillsides forming new waterfalls. Water changes the landscape here before our eyes.

My favourite thing about summer on Arran is having weather warm enough to make the most of this plentiful water supply. I measure the amount of sunshine we get each summer by the number of swims I have, whether in the sea, a burn or a lochan. I confess I am a fair weather swimmer. Technically, I wouldn’t call what I do swimming: I dip, I wallow, I splash, I float- nothing purposeful. I slither into the water very, very slowly, then once I’m in I never want to get out, enjoying the tingling of cold water on my skin. North Arran’s glacial scenery of U-shaped glens has long necklaces of sun-warmed pools, where you can splash in solitude, listening to the breeze rustling the grass and the tweet of meadow pipits, and relishing the fresh tangy smell of peat. Tiny yellow tormentil flowers are like little splashes of sunshine dotting the grass.

Arran does not have lazy deep rivers –water tumbles down its steep mountain slopes from summit to sea in no time. This type of burn is called uisge in Arran Gaelic. The island does have a handful of small lochs all reached by walks up into the hills. Loch Garbad is silent, surrounded by coniferous forest, Urie Loch and Loch Tanna are high up on the moors, lonely and lovely. Coire Fhionn Lochan, cupped in the western mountain range, is icy cold with little golden gravel beaches. The water of each loch tipples out into waterfalls: Loch Tanna flows into wild Glen Catacol and Loch Garbad into the woods of mossy, magical Eas Mor.

Arran’s rocky coastlines are distinctive- a tumult of varied rocks bear witness to long ago volcanoes and a journey across the planet from the Southern hemisphere. Each individual rock has its own geological story to tell. Sandy stretches of beach reveal themselves at low tide, smooth and shining. I follow the sun for my sea swimming:  An east-facing beach for morning and a west coast beach for basking in the golden glow of evening. Now at the end of August, the sea temperature is about as warm as it’s going to get this year and I’m crossing my fingers for some warm late summer sunshine and a last chance for outdoor dips before Autumn chills the water.


Saturday, 5 August 2017

Lochranza Loos

Lochranza toilets re-open! 

Nestling under wooded cliffs as you head west out of the village, Lochranza public toilets overlook the beautiful Kilbrannan Sound. If you’re a reader of the Arran Banner weekly newspaper you will be aware that the closure of the island’s public toilets earlier this year was highly controversial and local people and visitors alike protested vociferously and persistently. North Ayrshire Council, like many other councils, had had to make tough decisions about where its financial priorities lay.

All this summer the small village communities on the island have attempted to resolve the issue and make provision for the basic needs of the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to the island. No one wanted anyone to stay away for fear that there would not be a toilet should they need one.

In Lochranza, Tony Baboolal, a retired doctor got together a small band of volunteers to get the village toilets open again. As usual, the practicalities were straightforward, but sorting out the legalities has slowed things down. Recognising that the toilets are needed now, Tony and the Lochranza Loos group have decided to get the toilets open and not delay matters further by waiting to refurbish them. This will come later. For now, they are small and basic but serviceable.

Donations will be much appreciated to help with the running costs.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

It's not all Par and Handicaps

It’s not all Par and Handicaps

What can you do together on your family holiday that everyone can enjoy from the youngest to oldest and whether it’s sunny or raining? The answer is a short distance from your camping pitch: golf! Only preconceptions that golf is difficult, expensive and you need a lot of specialist gear will stand in your way because golf has reinvented itself from what it was twenty years ago. Courses have become havens for wildlife and clubs have made learning to play affordable. Everyone who has played golf knows: it’s a great experience and it’s addictive!

Some of today’s best Arran golfers honed their drives on Lochranza’s wide green fairways. Lochranza Golf has golfing options: two putting greens, a nine hole pitch and putt course and a nine hole golf course. We have plenty of clubs for hire and we do not require bookings.

Playing golf is a journey: at Lochranza the course flows down the flat floor of the glen where the burn, Chalmadale Waters, meanders across it. It lies in the heart of the glen and as you play there is every likelihood that you will see red deer stags and soaring golden eagles. Eventually you reach the head of the loch and see the sea and the castle. As you play, decisions have to be made –safe or ambitious- and challenges attempted.

There are lots of variations you can add to the game to encourage children to play such as working in pairs with one ball and taking alternative shots. Some children are spurred on by competition whilst some are stressed by it and prefer working as a team.

Our multi-day holiday passes are great value! For example a three-day pass gives you unlimited play for three whole days and costs £30 per adult and £15 per junior.

There are six other golf courses on the island (one a day for a week’s holiday) and all welcome visitors. Each one has its own character, challenges and beautiful location. You can find out more about them at www.golfonarran.com

Norway in Miniature

Arran is well-known as Scotland in Miniature (because the North has Highlands scenery and the South has Lowlands scenery) but perhaps it is Norway in Miniature too. I opened my June copy of The Great Outdoors magazine from Arran Active in Brodick and saw Cioch na Hoighe as it appears from Sannox. Except it wasn't. It was a peak in Norway.

The top two pictures are in Norway.
The bottom one is Cioch na h-Oighe in Glen Sannox.

No wonder Vikings ruled here till the 13th century,
and Sannox is a Viking name, though Cioch na h-Oighe- the maiden's breast - is from the Gaelic.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Powering to Portavadie

Click this link for a lovely account of a holiday getting out and about on Arran at the end of May, including a trip up Loch Fyne. It's written by Emily Mawson who is a travel journalist based in Zurich-

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

We’ve got a Gold Award from Green Tourism

We’re thrilled to bits to have received a Gold Award from Green Tourism.

This is what the Assessor said: “Lochranza Campsite does well securing the GOLD award at first grading attempt. Kathryn and Nigel have clearly put in a lot of effort to reduce some of the bigger potential impacts of the site, engage with other island organisations/ charities, and also give a really green experience to guests. Local information is outstanding. Much time has obviously been spent creating information on walks, local food and drink and wildlife- encouraging guests to hopefully spend more time on the island (and use low carbon transport). A more efficient boiler and building is in place, combined with low energy lighting and also low flow showers, taps and toilets, helping to reduce significant potential wastage”.

Businesses are assessed for the award using criteria relating to nine sections: management, marketing and communication, social responsibility and equality, energy saving, water issues, purchasing, waste minimisation, travel and transport and nature and culture.

We don’t see the award as an end but the beginning of a green journey- we want to ensure that the impacts we have on the lovely place we live in are purely positive ones. We know there’s a lot more we can achieve and our Gold Award has encouraged us to try even harder.