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

Friday, 11 January 2019

Happy New Year! Bliadhna Mhath Ùr!
Today (11th January) is New Year’s Eve in the Old Scottish calendar. Bliadhna Mhath Ùr (Happy New Year in Gaelic). 

Already, the days are noticeably a little lighter and the patches of the campsite touched by sunshine are a little larger. The darkest days of the year have past, but is winter still to come?

Lochranza takes its name from the bay around which its white cottages and villas straggle. The bay, an inlet of the sea, has been a useful anchorage for boats throughout centuries.  The name Lochranza derives from the Gaelic and Norse meaning ‘loch of the rowan tree river’. The rowan tree or mountain ash can cope with high altitudes and harsh climates, and ancient folk wisdom regards it as giving protection to a place from enchantments. 

I realise that being protected from enchantment is not necessarily one of your essential holiday requirements. However, if you are looking for the beauty of Scottish mountains, lochs and sea and lots of wildlife you will enjoy Lochranza. Our online booking opens on February 1st. We strongly advise early booking especially for the last week in May, and the whole of July and August. If you have visited us before, you’ll find plenty of old faces to welcome you back and some new ones as well.

If you like to plan your holiday to coincide with Arran’s festivals 2019 here are dates for the mountain festival and the folk music festival:-
Arran Mountain Festival 17th-20th May www.arranmountainfestival.co.uk
Arran Folk Music Festival 7th-9th June www.arranevents.com

I’ll keep you posted about the other festivals as I hear about them. Do watch this space.

Wishing you good health and enchanting travelling in 2019.

Kathy and Nigel, and Lochranza Campsite Staff


‘If winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’ (Shelley)

Monday, 1 October 2018

Sunday, 16 September 2018

From 12 holes to 9 to 18 then 9 again: Lochranza Golf Course’s Layouts 1898-2018

History has come full circle at Lochranza Golf Course this year with the return of Pablo Moran to his green-keeping beginnings. Pablo first came to the village from Peru in 1963 aged 17 when he was unable to speak English. He remembers how he cried for a month with homesickness. Thankfully for golf on the island it did not get the better of him.

At that time the village had long had a golf course on land situated in the head of the glen, owned by the Arran Estate. The first recorded golf course at Lochranza was opened on the 6th June 1899 – an era that would come to be regarded as the heyday of Arran golf due to burgeoning tourism around the Clyde. Many of Arran’s golf courses originated at this time: between 1903 and 1914 there were 11 golf courses on the island. The SWRI’s book ‘History of the Villages of the Isle of Arran’ reports that ‘the people (of Lochranza) opened a golf course, a new club house and new bridges over the burn for the benefit of golfers’.

The original golf course at Lochranza had 12 holes. The father and grandfather of Mr. Iain Robertson, dedicated golfer and owner of the golf course from 1988 to 2009, played this original layout on annual summer holidays. The course layout at that time did not include the Butt Field or the Sea Field. Instead, it stretched up the steep hillside to the south-east towards Narachan. An old tee from that time remains in the bracken below Broombank road end and is visible in the winter months. That tee played downhill to a green to the west of the big sycamore tree stump which would later become part of the campsite. Mr Robertson thinks it possible that the golf course at that time also extended upstream towards Ballarie Farm.  

During the Second World War the golf course was used for commando training. Traces of hut circles on the 1st and 9th fairways can still be discerned as well as a raised bank which may have been a rifle range. The Stags Pavilion became a base for the commandos. After the war, a 9 hole layout, completely different to today’s, was created. The area of the course included the present-day campsite field and the field that now contains the pond. Mr. Robertson remembers that a farmer from Catacol, whose sheep sometimes strayed to Lochranza, used to mow the fairways with the gang mowers on his tractor. The tees from this post-war 9 hole layout, now disused, remain around the golf course. When Mrs Ruby McAllister took over the golf course and campsite in 1963 the club house became a tearoom and shop.

The eighties saw a resurgence of the popularity of golf due to televised major competitions. When Mr.Robertson bought the golf course and campsite in 1988 he planned an ambitious new 18 hole layout. He negotiated with Mr. Charles Fforde, the landowner, and Mr.Sandy Sloss, the farmer, to acquire the Butt Field and Sea Field areas with the provision that the sheep could have sheltered grazing through the lambing period in April. This system remains in place today. The 18 hole layout designed by Mr. Robertson and his father included double tees and greens and a number of other new features, including the pond on the 7th hole, other water hazards and long doglegs. The 18 hole layout at par 70 presented the longest course on the island. The layout was designed to maximise appreciation of the beautiful scenic views as golfers walked the course.

Nigel and myself took over the golf course and campsite lease in 2009. A meeting of members in 2010 in the Stags Pavilion, led to a vote in favour of returning the course to a 9 hole layout and with their help we set about the changes in 2011. Essentially, today’s 9 holes are based on Mr. Robertson’s 18 hole layout.

Now back in Pablo’s care, 55 years on from when he first set foot on Lochranza’s fairways, the course, framed by the majestic hills, continues to be enjoyed by stalwart local supporters and visitors alike.

My information for this blog came from:

Mr. Iain Robertson, Lochranza Golf owner 1988-2009

Golf on Arran by James Henderson, published by Voice for Arran 2016

 History of the Villages of the Isle of Arran by SWRI Arran Federation revised in 2002

Saturday, 25 August 2018

An Old Way


‘Everyone spoke about going over the Boguille.’ (The Place-Names of Arran by Ian A. Fraser)


The Boguille is a Gaelic name for the upper part of the road between Glen Chalmadale and North Sannox. It is derived from ‘boglach’ which means marshy ground. (The ‘bo’ part rhymes with Joe and the ‘guille’ part rhymes with Billy.) Chalmadale comes from Old Norse, the tongue of the Vikings, and means Hjalmund’s Dale. Hjalmund must have decided that this deep glen, sheltered from the north wind, was a desirable place to settle- and who wouldn’t?

One afternoon recently I got dropped off at the top of the Boguille (204m). This is the watershed where burns begin flowing in opposite directions. I turned my back on the always- arresting view of the Sleeping Warrior (the ridge between Suidhe Fheargas and Caisteal Abhail), in order to walk the old way into Lochranza which descends on the opposite side of the burn from the road. It is clearly marked on the Ordnance Survey Explorer map but not always easy to detect on the tussocky high ground. As I tripped and stumbled through the long, spiky deer grass, I was rewarded by the fluttering of many vivid vermilion and deep brown Scotch Argus butterflies ahead of me.

With trousers firmly tucked in my socks to avoid ticks in these haunts of the red deer herds, I descended gently. The path is crossed at intervals by rills and rivulets which splash down to the burn, Chalmadale Waters. Arran is a mountainous island and (normally) a wet island, so its tumbling burns and waterfalls are plentiful and are wee microcosms of biodiversity and charm.

Along the track I noticed evidence of old road construction in the form of rock slabs. Around the sheep-nibbled grass yellow tormentil flowers twinkled starrily and filmy pale blue harebells nodded. Meadow pipits flitted through the whins and stonechats chattered (as they do!) It is a bonny route, away from road traffic, with the view down to Glen Farm lying ahead. Once at the bottom of the track you come to farm buildings and a ford from where the path rises again past Glen Farm and traverses the hillside to Narachan before descending to the head of the loch by Lochranza Golf Course.

The walk took me little more than an hour and on an August afternoon I passed not a soul.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Desperately Seeking Hutton’s Unconformity


Where IS Hutton’s Unconformity? A question we are often asked and one that is not easy to answer because, to the untrained eye, the rocks which comprise the unconformity don’t appear to be much different to the rest of the gnarled, grey, sea-bitten rocks that edge Arran’s northern coastline.

The issue of whether Hutton’s should be marked by a sign has been the subject of much discussion. Many think a sign would look intrusive in such a natural landscape. Many others believe that some kind of interpretation is vital if visitors are to fully appreciate the significance of the site. In fact, James Hutton himself is the remarkable ingredient in the story. In 1787, a time when Christendom believed the world was created in 4004 BC, Hutton, a lively and inquisitive man, farmer and soil-improver, came to Arran, looked at the formation of the rocks and recognised that the Earth must be much older than prevailing wisdom asserted.

Hutton applied modern scientific methods and reasoning to comprehension of the Earth’s history. Walking along the coast towards the Cock of Arran, he observed that younger sedimentary layers of sandstone lay above older Dalradian schists: this is the unconformity. He deduced that titanic processes of erosion and sedimentation, of uplift and great heat, must have created the world over long periods of time. His discovery made him come to be regarded as the father of modern geology although initially he faced outrage and accusations of blasphemy from some members of the church.

How to Find the Unconformity


From Newton Point (GR 931515) follow the Coastal Way. At first the path crosses grass then rocky ground. It’s about 1km to Hutton’s Unconformity.

Look up to your right for a long tree-filled fissure that makes a vertical line down the hillside. Hutton’s Unconformity is in line with this, in the rocks by the sea.

Eventually you come to a stone slab bridging a ditch (GR 936521). Stop here, don’t take the right turn of the path inland. Hutton’s Unconformity is on the sea side of the stone slab bridge. Look out for the two types of rock lying adjacent to each other, despite belonging to different geological ages. Notice how they slope at different angles.

A fun, educational way to learn about the local geology is to visit Lochranza Centre and do their geocaching trail (www.lochranzacentre.co.uk). I also recommend purchasing ‘Arran: Landscapes in Stone’ by Alan McKirdy, £7.99 from the Book and Card Shop in Brodick.‘The Arran Naturalist’, commemorative edition, £3.00, is also of interest if geology captures your imagination. It contains an excellent article about Arthropleura, a 2m long millipede, whose footprints from 300 million years ago remain clearly visible on rocks near Laggan. We sell this booklet in reception. You can also find out more about Arran geology at Arran Heritage Museum, Brodick.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Round Arran On Cloud Nine 

Friday 8th June 2018

On almost any day of the year there is sure to be someone circumnavigating Arran.  They may be walking the Coastal Way, negotiating the road’s ups-and-downs by bike, car or bus, or perhaps paddling a kayak.  One bright morning recently we decided to see how long it would take to circumnavigate the island on Cloud Nine, a 6.3 metre RiB, anti-clockwise and sticking to a steady 18 knots.

We leave Lochranza pontoon on a high tide having enjoyed breakfast at the Sandwich Station. Pulling out into the choppy waves and invigorating breeze of the Kilbrannan Sound we turn south-west, passing Catacol’s white cottages tucked like toy houses under the bulky rounded hills of the north-west of the island. If we see any floating plastic, we lean over the side and pick it up.

From a sea level point-of-view you can truly appreciate what a mountainous island Arran is, with its settlements squeezed onto narrow shelves of flat land. You also realise how there is a great deal of impenetrable terrain on the island, with steep rocky wooded cliffs tumbling into the sea, so steep in fact that it makes you wonder however anyone ever imagined a road round the edge might be  possible. You also realise that this is an entirely lovely island and scenic from whichever degree you look at it from.

You would not choose a RiB ride for comfort- it can be jarring and you are exposed to the weather-  but RiBs are strong and stable on the water. It is best, even on a hot day, to wear warm protective gear because hypothermia sneaks up on you unawares. A hat or cap and sunglasses are essential. In colder weather we wear immersion suits.

On the RiB dashboard is a chart plotter with down-view depth sonar. The graphs on the screen enable the driver to see the shape and depth of the seabed. Round the coast the seabed is treacherously uneven with underwater volcanic dykes jutting out from the land a particular hazard. We look out for marker buoys and cardinal markers which are placed to guide shipping. When you go right up to them you find they have intriguing names such as Iron Rock Ledges. We also look out for lobster buoys so that their ropes do not get tangled in our propeller. We let Belfast Coastguard know about our voyages and can communicate with them by radio if necessary.

Reaching the point where the Kilbrannan Sound opens out into the North Channel the sun is rising higher and sunlight flashes off the waves. The new distillery stands high on the island’s south-west corner . Northern Ireland is a misty line on the horizon, the surprising pyramid of Ailsa Craig ahead. Whenever I see this giant rock, it is always rising eerily out of the mist. The gannets are diving.

When you want to make landfall, a RiB needs a sandy sloping beach to pull upon or a pontoon.  Arriving in sheltered Lamlash Bay we pull up beside the harbour wall but need to keep a close eye on the boat due to the falling tide. We couldn’t possibly pass the Old Pier Tearoom without calling in though.

After Lamlash, we are in the Firth of Clyde – one of the most famous maritime routes in the world. It’s flat calm on this side of the island, the sea more like a lagoon, and it’s much easier to see wildlife. Approaching the last lap of the Sannox- Lochranza coast, the mountains of Glen Sannox look like one of Tolkein’s mythical landscapes. And right at that moment we hear the puff and hiss of vigorous blowing through air holes and see five big broad black gleaming backs gliding purposefully north through the water, their fins thin and upright like sea-tattered masts. We turn off the engine and keep our distance. We don’t know what these creatures are but think they could be minke whales. Cloud nine indeed!

 Then it’s back to Lochranza Pontoon where we started. The boat will need a hose down.
 Our circumnavigation was 100km in length and the journey took us three and a half hours.