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

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Holiday Planning: Food in Lochranza

The nearest food store to Lochranza is seven miles west in the village of Pirnmill, but that does not mean that you have to live on tins of beans for the duration of your camping holiday. Read on to find out all about the delicious, local, island food that awaits you.

You need a shop?

Pirnmill Store (01770 850235), the only shop in the North End of the island, is open during the day six days a week, and from 12- 4pm on Sundays. It is on the bus route and sells just about everything you might need on holiday including daily newspapers, magazines, ice-creams, fresh milk and cheese, a good range of fresh vegetables and fruit (do ask –they’re kept cool in a back room and not on display), a post office, greetings cards, second-hand books, alcoholic drinks and more.

If you are sailing from Ardrossan to Arran you will find an Asda near the ferry terminal.  On reaching Brodick, there is a newly-refurbished Co-operative Store on the sea front (01770 302515), open till late. If you are sailing to Arran from the north, via Claonaig on Kintyre, Tarbert will be your last stop for provisions. There is a Co-operative store in the town, as well as a greengrocer.  If you have time before your ferry, visit the Skipness Smokehouse at Skipness for delicious seafood (01880 760378). The Seafood Cabin at Skipness (01880 760207) is open from the end of May until the end of September.

Deliveries direct at Lochranza Campsite

The award-winning Arran Butcher  860354 does deliveries round the island from a base at Blackwaterfoot. The van now visits the campsite on Thursday mornings, usually between 10.30 am and 12 noon if there have not been hold-ups.

New business on the island, Woodside, (01770 820361) offering organic fruit and vegetables, free range eggs and island reared rare breed pork, is currently trialling deliveries round the North End. Look out for their Real Food van visiting the campsite on Friday mornings around 9.30 to 10.00 am. The business is a not-for-profit social enterprise.
Here’s a pic of Andy and Olly in the Real Food van:


The Arran Distillery, just across the road from the campsite, sells much more than whisky, including Arran cheese, Arran icecream, Arran chocolate and Wooley’s Arran Oatcakes.
The Sandwich Station (closed Mondays 07810 796248), by the pier, makes exquisite sandwiches using local produce and sourdough bread from the Blackwaterfoot Bakery. The sandwiches are large and all you need for a healthy, tasty and filling lunch. 

Eating Out

Lochranza Hotel – bar meals daily
Catacol Bay Hotel (two miles west) – bar meals daily and Sunday buffet lunches
Casks Cafe at the Arran Distillery- lunches and coffees daily
Stags Pavilion fabulous restaurant by the campsite. Booking essential (01770 830600)
The Lighthouse Restaurant, Pirnmill (seven miles west, 01770 850240). Seafood is a speciality. Lunches and dinners available, not Mondays.

Calmac. You can get an appetising range of meals and snacks on The Caledonian Isles ferry which sails between Ardrossan and Brodick. Nigel never misses a Calmac Full Scottish breakfast when we are travelling. My personal favourites are the Calmac Cullen Skink fish pie and the Calmac macaroni cheese.

We sell Arran icecream at the campsite.

We always keep in UHT milk and frozen bread loaves if you find yourself without these essentials.

The North of Arran from Claonaig on Kintyre

If you are travelling north from Arran to explore the near-neighbour that is the fascinating peninsula of Kintyre, you will enjoy this blog:
See March 24th 2018 Scotland: Mull of Kintyre

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The East Wind
The UK was united in snow and ice last week. Just when spring was tiptoeing our way, the unseasonal deep cold has seemed cruel. Every time I looked out of our window through whirling dry snow there seemed to be wild birds, red squirrels and red deer engaged in a desperate search for something to eat.
Arran was largely snow-free last week but many of the burns froze over and so did the edge of the sea in places. The North End’s mossy cliffs looked like curtains of icy daggers. Nothing seemed to stop the penetrating east wind making its way indoors through every crack and cranny and rattling the roof and walls. We wrapped our water pipes up in duvets and got up regularly throughout the night to turn taps on.
Walking up the Narachan track, normally sheltered, was not at all sheltered from the wind and I kept feeling I had company as every so often I would receive a powerful push in the back sending me stumbling forwards. Strangely, I passed a frosted adder on the track. I thought it might be dead but its bright eyes were watching me intently.
‘Of a’ the airts the wind can blaw/ I dearly like the west,’ said Rabbie Burns in his beautiful love-song ‘Of A’ The Airts’ (airt means direction in Scots by the way). I’m with him on this. Blow back soon, warm west winds!
The news
·         The old ferry terminal building at Lochranza Pier has been knocked down and a new one is currently being built.
·         The lower section of the Boguille Road near Lochranza is being widened. Until the end of March during the daytime you will need to drive round by the String Road and Machrie to get to the North End.
·         The Brodick Co-op supermarket is in the process of being modernised but is open for business.

The photos show the iced-up cliffs, our pods, a wintry view of the campsite from the Narachan track and the waves rolling in from the north-east at Brodick Bay.

Friday, 20 October 2017


Living where we do we cannot help but be keenly aware of nature: the direction of the wind, the shapes of the clouds, the state of the sea and the rises and falls in temperature, and every so often we experience something both beautiful and unusual. This happened on the evening of Thursday 5th October.

Nigel and I were driving home over the Boguillie at about half past eight at night, descending towards the sharp bend of the Witches Bridge in Glen Chalmadale. The full Harvest Moon was a massive silver sphere rising above the Ayrshire Coast behind us. The only artificial light came from the windows of Glen Farm and our car headlights.

Suddenly a ghostly white pillar reaching to the sky appeared ahead of us so we stopped the car and turned off the headlights. As we watched, it arched over the glen. ‘It’s a white rainbow’, I said. Gradually, we could discern faint gleams of the colour spectrum adorning the arch.

Back home I googled this beautiful and eerie phenomenon and learned that we’d seen a moonbow. We’d been in just the right place at the right time in the right conditions: a dark night sky and a full moon, two hours after sunset, rain falling opposite the moon and us facing away from the moon.



We recently learned that we are riparian custodians. Although the term sounds like a warming winter pudding or maybe an ancient Roman senator it actually means that we have a responsibility to keep our ditches clear so that rainfall in the valley can flow without obstruction into the sea. It is one of our major autumn jobs on the golf course. We clean them out carefully by hand so as not to unduly disturb the mini-ecosystems and the slippery toads, glossy beetles and wee silvery fish which inhabit them. It’s always a satisfying job and we were glad to complete it before ex-Hurricane Ophelia kickstarted the storm season.

The End of an Era

Goodbye to Lady Jean Fforde who died aged 96 years earlier this month and whose devotion to her beloved island of Arran was beyond question. Descended from the great Scottish families of Hamilton and Montrose, Lady Jean’s childhood was spent in Brodick Castle. Indeed, for centuries her ancestors owned the entire island. Later in life, she gave the castle to the National Trust for Scotland in lieu of death duties but she continued to stay on Arran. As she said herself ‘There can be few people who have had their home in one place all their lives as I have.’ She was personally involved in many island charities and organisations and always took a keen interest in island life. Her autobiographical book ‘Castles and Catastrophes’, available at the Book and Card shop in Brodick, describes in lively style the great changes she lived through, beginning with the era of the grand Scottish sporting estates. I enjoyed it enormously. The land around Lochranza is owned by her son, Charles.


Chalmadale Waters, Lochranza

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.