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

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Here is another contribution from my friend Lynne Emmerson. She was inspired to write it by a stormy night in a caravan at Lochranza Campsite one September. It seemed appropriate to post it given the windy days we’ve been having lately. The wind can create some beautiful sights round here whilst making terrifying sounds: at the time Lynne stayed the powerful gusts were flattening the sea in the Kilbrannan Sound and as the air skimmed the surface of the water the droplets caught the sunshine becoming a shower of rainbows moving northward.

Arran Dark Moon

Photo: Kev Fearon

A dark moon rises and the ancient gods awaken;

Zephyrs howl warning ...

Whilst the bubbling burn turns angry in its bed.

Black Crow sits watchful in the arms of Mother Rowan;

While owl feathers falter ...

And the golden eagle screams, and hides its head.

Bramble thickets writhe and reach to catch the reckless;

Travellers hurry homewards ...

When the Banshee’s screech announces summers death.    

Pale fire flickers along the curve of Earth’s horizon;

Thunder beats its drum ...

As wild white horses ride the Fury’s breath.

White gulls wheel over sea swells surging inland;

Sullen shadows swarm ...

‘Cross hollow hillsides brooding by the sea.


Timid creatures shiver in the bracken in the valleys;

Time shifts its focus ...

As the island’s slumbering giants stride free.

Crooked branches bow to the hoof beats of the Night Mare;

Lonely stars shimmer ...

When storm clouds race across the ink-dark sky.


Old folk lie silent whilst sleeping children whimper;

The Wild Hunt rides forth ...

And Black Crow laughs, and mocks us as they fly.

Cold rocks remember the blood of ancient battles;

Bones lie uneasy ...

As the shades of long dead warriors rise once more.


Night’s conflict rages as darkness claims the season;

Summer’s light retreats ...

And island life is shaken to the core.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Greening up

Greening up

There are moments at Lochranza when the freshness of the air, the beauty of the place and the absence of traffic noise can make you feel that you are in a new world at the dawn of time.Turn on the TV though and any news relating to human impacts on our planet tends to be bleak. However, one positive statistic I came across was that on one windy day last summer Scottish wind turbines generated more electricity than was used. Another change-for-the-better I’ve noticed is a result of the ban on free plastic carrier bags; trees in winter festooned in out-of-reach tattered plastic is a sad sight but one I’ve seen less of lately. Unfortunately, there seems no end in sight to the daily washing up of plastic tidelines on beaches everywhere- not just unsightly but deadly to marine life.

 With these issues in mind we joined the Green Tourism business scheme in 2016 which “means that a business works responsibly, ethically and sustainably, contributes to their community, is reducing their impact on the environment and aims to be accessible and inclusive to all visitors and staff. Green Tourism is the market leading sustainable certification programme for the international tourism sector”. When we arrived on Arran seven years ago one of the first island principles that we grasped was that you should not throw anything away because you never know when it would come in useful. In fact, last Autumn, Nigel was able to build an entire shed out of reclaimed materials that we had on site, so it all cost nothing. Meanwhile, a friend of ours at Lochranza Field Centre has been raiding the bins regularly for discarded two- litre plastic drinks bottles which he fills with sand and uses as ballast in his sailing boat.

North Ayrshire Council was the second highest recycling performer in 2016 in Scotland, and is working towards the target of Zero Waste but, on Arran, to reuse or reduce rather than to recycle is important because all waste is shipped daily off the island, which contributes significantly to the island’s carbon footprint. Good news on the waste front is that Arran Eco-Savvy and the Arran Community Land Initiative (both based at Whiting Bay) have been successful in applications to the Climate Challenge Fund and granted amounts up to £115,000. Eco-Savvy plans to create an island-wide network of reuse and up-cycling sites, ‘Arran Eco-Savvy Reuse Micro-hubs’, whilst the Arran Community Land’s ‘Arran Fabulous Community Food’ project aims to increase the amount of food grown locally. Both initiatives will support carbon reduction on the island.

We can all do our bit. If you have undamaged camping gear you can leave it with us and we can make it available to visitors who have lost or forgotten camping items. You can also donate items to the Arcas shop at the Pier at Brodick which raises a lot of money for cancer charities each year. If you have unused food which others might appreciate, you can leave it in Basecamp, clearly labelled that it’s available for use.

If you’re interested in knowing more about Arran and green issues, have a look at these links:-

https://www.facebook.com/TheBayKitchenStores/ (organic produce, local produce, eco-friendly products)

Oh! And last one out turn the lights off please!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

An Arran Food and Drink Trail

Arran isn't just a holiday island and one of its local industries that has grown steadily in recent decades has been the island's food and drink production. I have written the following trail, which starts and finishes at Lochranza, which will take you right round the island, seeing award-winning products in the making and enjoying sampling the delicious results.

A Taste of Arran Trail
Arran’s Food and Drink Producers

A Taste of Arran is a co-operative of island food producers. It includes Arran Dairies which produces handmade award-winning icecream from dairy herds which graze on the island’s lush pastures.
The Food & Drink Trail can be followed using island buses. The trail is based on a clockwise circuit of Arran, starting at Lochranza.

Stop 1. Home Farm, Cladach, Brodick
This small area of shops is to be found about a mile before you reach Brodick. Free car parking is available. To the left of the road find the following local food producers:
·       Creelers Smokehouse & Restaurant
Scottish smoked salmon is produced here in artisan smokehouses using Arran Scots Pine and old whisky barrels. Smoked seafood is available to buy.

·       The Island Cheese Company
Today’s cheese shop and factory used to be the dairy of Brodick Castle’s Home Farm. Cheese is made here using traditional methods. It does not contain artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.
 Across the road to the right you will find:
·       The Arran Brewery
A range of award-winning ales is available for purchase in the brewery shop.

Stop 2. The seafront in Brodick
·       Wooleys of Arran
Wooleys are renowned for their traditionally-baked oatcakes using antique Scotch ovens. Find their shop across the road from the small Co-op and putting green.

·       James of Arran
Heading along the promenade towards the pier look out for the shop of James of Arran where luxurious handmade chocolates are produced.

Stop 3. Arran Fine Foods
Look out for the car park of the Arran Fine Foods factory shop near a bridge as you leave Lamlash heading south. Most famous for its mustards, the company also produce chutneys, jams and other preserves using Arran ingredients.

Stop 4. Kilmory. Arran Creamery Cheese Shop
Whilst not a member of the Taste of Arran Co-operative this island dairy produces award-winning hand-crafted Arran Dunlop cheese. The factory is open to visitors.

Stop 5. Blackwaterfoot
Here you will find the shops of:
·       The award-winning Arran Butcher who produces a wide range of meats and pies, haggis and black pudding.
·       An artisan baker specialising in sourdough loaves made with organic flours. His bakery is beside the Best Western Kinloch Hotel.
Blackwaterfoot is also home to the Bellevue Creamery where the milk of Arran cows is used to create award-winning cheeses including Arran Blue, Arran Camembert and Arran Brie.
Stop 6. The Arran Distillery
Finish the Arran Food & Drink trail at the Arran Distillery, Lochranza, where you can take a whisky tour, eat local produce in the Casks cafe or purchase it from the distillery shop.
The Arran Distillery uses traditional methods of distilling using wooden washbacks and copper stills. Plans for a second Arran whisky distillery at Lagg are currently underway.

More Taste of Arran produce:
·       Arran butter tablet, a traditional sugary confection made by the Arran Tablet Company
·       Herbs grown by Robins Herbs at Whiting Bay
Find local produce in these general stores:
·       The Bay Stores, Whiting Bay
·       Pirnmill Village Stores
·       The Co-op, Brodick (there is a local food freezer cabinet near the fruit and vegetables)

Find mouthwatering recipes using Arran produce at:

Friday, 20 January 2017

I think you’ll enjoy this beautifully-written record of a visit to Arran by my friend Lynne Emmerson:

The Glorious Significance of Quiet

The moment I step onto the sodden deck of the rusty Cal-Mac ferry, some way out of Ardrossan harbour, I start to wonder – what am I doing, why am I travelling as far from my usual city-life as I can get?

And yet … I feel my cares starting to wash away in all that greyness - the damp mist and the stinging spray flung up as the wind sweeps across the tops of mercurial waves. I can hardly tell what is sea, and what is sky. There’s just a slightly darker line like an artist’s smudged pencil mark.

The lonesome cries of gulls, following the ferry in the hope of a fatty carbohydrate tit-bit or two, cut through my city armour and pierce deep inside me evoking a strange unidentifiable longing. I stand alone, hot tears of indeterminate source blending with rain and spray, and wonder about my own tit-bits to come, awaiting me across that empty seething sound.

The movement of the water is strangely hypnotic, conjuring up images of gigantic beasts, breathing in and out, in and out; beware leviathan sleeping. In profound empathy I match its rhythms, cleansing my lungs with fresh, if somewhat sea- and rain-saturated, Scottish air; gasping slightly with the cold.

Driving off the ferry (it’s still raining) I take the eastern coastal road towards the delightfully named bay of rowan (Lochranza) situated in the north of the Isle of Arran. At first, the road winds around tiny rocky bays populated by busy waterfowl, whinging gulls and even a fat seal or two lounging amongst the rocks. Already I’m singing as I pass tiny coastal villages before following the road up and onto the moors.

Up here, the scenery is majestic but looks worn, as if it has battled the elements for millennia. There are few buildings and not a single other vehicle before or behind me. I’ve never been anywhere so empty. As I drive, the clouds break at last revealing a lone golden eagle gliding on the air streams with sunlight glinting on his enormous wingspan. I’m surprised how privileged I feel.

On and up the road meanders with barely room for two cars to pass, hardly a problem today. Soon it will switch-back down towards Lochranza. For now the road twists and turns as I steer around potholes and the odd supercilious sheep wandering, for his or her own reasons, across from one stretch of vegetation to the other, and which looks neither more nor less greener.

The newly visible sun is highlighting the colours of this Scottish island landscape. Everything is subdued, blurred and smudged as if an imaginary artist has wiped her arm across a pastel drawing. My island-dwelling friend tells me that Scotland has its own official palette of colours – delicate heathers and subtle greens, soft silvers, peat browns and dilute blues – all just tinted grey, really.

I stop, get out, and look around at all this space, and I realise it’s true. Here is my friend’s colour chart spread out before me; and, like an ancient bard, I suddenly feel a deep-seated need to record Arran’s subtle beauty through art, through poetry, within my dreams.

Paradoxically, with the weight of gloom-laden clouds still draped heavily over the central peaks, I feel my spirits lifting as the sun warms the moorland causing occasional drifts of ephemeral mist. How soul-nourishing it is to feed on such bounty, to rest one’s city-bred cynicism and allow consciousness to expand, muscles (of the body and mind) to relax, and breathing to slow, in keeping with a pace that has barely changed since pagan times: slow time.

In my mind’s eye I imagine I can sense the hand of ancient deities in the blurred yet rugged lines of the moors, the call of sea and moorland birds, the dark, mysterious woodland down in the valley, the streams that bubble magically up from the ground to trickle over beds of strewn rocks, and in the rain-fed waterfalls cascading down from jagged impenetrable peaks at the islands centre. Other than the sounds of nature it is strangely quiet. This is a land that sleeps with one eye open, watching maybe for the next insecure, innocent city-dweller to seduce. Can anyone, ever, better the artistry of wild nature?

Shaking my head to release my poetic musings I recommence my journey down from the moors, turning at last through the gates of my friend’s campsite where I’ll be staying for the next few days. It nestles between two rolling bracken- and heather-clad hillsides, and cannily opposite, on the west side of the road, the island’s award-winning distillery.

The campsite sits a short walk from Lochranza village, directly in line with one of those typical box-like Scottish castles, ruined now but still standing sentinel on its rock in the midst of the bay, surrounded by little bobbing boats. Continuing beyond this, the road passes traditional cottages and modern bungalows before turning left and travelling back down the west coast.

Around the campsite grazes a herd of curious fawns and does, whilst I can hear the stags bellowing their superiority, ownership and challenges from somewhere upon the bracken-covered hillside. A red squirrel runs from behind a massive horse-chestnut, dodging death by Chevrolet Matiz. I’ve only been on the island a short while and I’ve already seen so much wildlife; I shake my city head in wonder.

After checking in and unloading my car I sit on the caravan step to enjoy a cup of hot and much-needed caffeine. Gazing around my heart expands almost to bursting-point as the sun sinks over the western hilltop, painting the loch and surrounding hillsides in a metallic palette of gold, bronze, silver and steely lavender-grey. Like some wild creature I lift my head and snuffle the air, relishing its heather-fragrant, quiet noisiness that tastes and sounds so different from city air. Surprising myself I let the mantle of responsibility drop away as a mystical realisation dawns. I feel like I’ve come home.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Meall Mor, 496m, Lochranza

A Walk up Meall Mor, 496m, Lochranza

I climbed Meall Mor last week, tempted by a day of dazzling, rainwashed clarity with slanting golden sunshine sharply defining every rock and bronzing each blade of deer grass. Meall Mor is the hill behind the Distillery that I look up at from my computer desk. Its name means the big hill but because Gaelic has specific names for different shaped hills and mountains (a useful aid to navigation) the name more precisely describes a rounded hill with peaty hues.
I love the routine of preparing my rucksack for a hill walk: food, flask, compass, map, whistle, hat, spare top....  I’ve always been more a prepared-for-all-eventualities packer than a minimalist. I also love walking by myself: you notice so much more than when you’re interacting with others. It’s not as if I’m going far; I will be looking down at the campsite all the way.
I set off up Gleann Easan Biorach, turning off the path as the glen broadens to scramble up steep grass, bog and heather in a bee-line for the summit. I measure my plodding progress against the cliffs of Torr Nead an Eoin behind me. The first part of any Arran climb is nearly always almost vertical and I find myself moving through the seasons: down in the glen, the heather is purple whilst higher up it has faded to papery pale brown.
Even when the slope eases the terrain remains rough: tussocky and boggy. I can see two or three small groups of red deer, each with a stag, two hinds and a youngster. We haven’t had the huge congregration of red deer on golf course this year that we have always had in the past so I’m pleased to see these little herds rutting as normal up here. There was a significant cull of red deer last winter in the interests of a healthy herd which seems to have made the survivors more timid. When they see me the stags bolt but the hinds stand their ground by their offspring.
My route can only be described as a slog. From the campsite the top of the hill looks pudding-shaped and proportionately a short climb compared to the rest of the hill but that is a trick of the eye known as the foreshortening effect; the top section is much farther than it looks. I pass the stones of sheilings where in centuries past villagers stayed whilst minding their cattle on the summer pastures. I am pleased that muscle memory of many mountains climbed keeps my legs pushing on up, but I’m also glad of my walking poles which give me an extra pair of legs.
Moving slowly I notice what’s underfoot: blood red sphagnum moss and jigsaws of lichens patterning granite rocks. Meadow pipits pause on boulders. Tough heather roots tenuously bind a narrow crumbling mat of soil lying on the bedrock. A stunted but bright blue flower looking like a tiny exotic jewel catches my attention in a hollow close to the summit: something to look up when I get home.
I’ve often thought that there is something other-worldly about summits but as I approach the top of Meall Mor I am awe-struck as an eagle flies past me at eye level, perhaps three metres away. Here then gone. I can hear a bee meandering round the cairn and notice a butterfly flitting through the heather. All the way up, the Sleeping Warrior- the mountain ridge of Caisteal Abhail and Ceum na Caillich- has been a slumbering presence on my left hand side. Now Arran’s mountain ridges are revealed to their full extent with the wet slabs of A’ Chir shining silver. I wander across to the second summit cairn from where a peregrine falcon takes off. I feel blessed.
My descent path will be across the spongey plateau that lies between the hill and Coillemore to the north. The rain that collects here through wet winters tips over the rims of the hills above the village so that the whole hillside becomes a sequence of cascades. I can see the hills’ shadows spreading over Lochranza now, early dusk in these shortening days. The stags are sending their roars rolling round the glen so that it’s hard to say where they begin. My OS map tells me place names that show some things haven’t changed: Creag na h-Iolaire (crag of the eagle) is nearby, but it also tells of things that have changed: there is no longer Doire Bhuidhe (yellow oak thicket) on this route.
I descend carefully looking forward to a shower, a meal and putting my feet up and leave the high places to the wind, the deer and the starlight.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

September 19th 2016

The MV Catriona - a low carbon hybrid vessel- takes over from the trusty MV Loch Tarbert on the Lochranza-Claonaig route

Friday, 9 September 2016

Carol, Alan and Oscar

Carol and Alan Haddington will be well-known to many of you reading this blog. Since September 2012 they have come to Lochranza two or three times a year to look after the campsite and give Nigel and myself opportunities to get a break. From April this year, they have been assistant wardens here, living in their elegant Elddis Affinity 550 caravan with Oscar their 10 year old chocolate Labrador. In their mainland lives Carol is a nurse and Alan was an architect until retiring last year.

We’re delighted that they will be returning to Lochranza next spring, but before they leave us for the winter months I asked them a few questions about their summer season working here:

Me: What do you enjoy most about being a campsite warden?
Carol & Alan: Meeting people most of all, but also the work in general because it’s varied. Alan: I also enjoy the logistics and planning.
(My comment: Careful planning about where to situate arrivals is important to ensure that everyone has a positive experience. The daily site plan needs regular updating as people change, extend and sometimes cancel bookings.)

Me: What do you like least about being a campsite warden?
Carol: Dealing with people who ignore advice because you can see that they have made a situation worse for themselves.
Alan: Yes, dealing with people who break the rules. (Doesn’t happen too often fortunately.)

Me: What are your favourite things to do on Arran when you’re not working?
Alan: Eating. I love getting out sampling the local food and drink.
Carol: Two special days out for me were firstly doing the King’s Caves walk and secondly going to Skipness- we went over as foot passengers on the Lochranza-Claonaig ferry and walked along the coast to the Seafood Cabin, enjoying the views of Arran.

Me: Has living in a caravan for more than four months been a problem?
Alan: Only tripping over Oscar.
Carol: I miss a bath but we get to go swimming at the Auchrannie regularly.

Me: What changes have you noticed since you first came to the campsite?
Carol & Alan:  Continuous improvement.
Alan: Being here for the summer I’ve noticed the changes in the people who come to the campsite at different times of year, for example there are lots of families in large tents in July. Now, in September, there are a lot of couples and some solo travellers in motorhomes and caravans.

Me: Would you recommend being a campsite warden?
Carol: You’ve got to love dealing with people.
Alan: You need to do your research and go in with your eyes open. Living an outdoor, active life changes you. You notice the influences of the weather and the time of day more.