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Visit our website at www.arran-campsite.com
and our Blog of our
"World tour of Scotland" at www.nigelandkathyinscotland.blogspot.com

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.

Friday, 5 May 2017

The Birds of Lochranza Campsite

A hooded crow, a common bird with uncommon ability

Spring truly arrives here at the end of April in an explosion of yellow whin blossom (whin is also known as gorse). Did you ever play the children’s game in which someone holds a buttercup under your chin to see if you like butter? The bright yellow of the flower reflects on your skin and you are told you like butter. The whin blossom reminds me of this because the butter-coloured bushes illuminate the hills above them at this time of year. Birdsong is a soundtrack that doesn’t cease in the hours of daylight; the cuckoo calls hopefully to prospective mates, and the lambs have become confident enough to leave their mothers and join up as gangs that chase wildly round the bunkers.

In Lochranza we keep having a quick look upwards throughout the day to see the golden eagles soaring serenely above the glen. However, the birds we get to know best are the ones who make a choice to share life on the campsite. Every year we watch for the swallows’ return to their old nests in our sheds (they’ve just arrived as I write this) as well as the starling that nests in a hole in the big tree stump, sticking out its scruffy black head now and then like a wee chimney sweep. Our most familiar bird is the hooded crow who probably knows much more about us than we know about her or him. She/ he is a large and impressive-looking member of the crow family with a glossy black head and an intelligent expression, a black bib, elegant steel grey plumage and dark grey wings, tail and legs. She is in the habit of sitting on our balcony looking at us through the window. If I put meat scraps out for her she croaks three times (always three!) and then four other members of the family appear and all get a bit of food; this might not be language but it’s certainly a communication system. She strides jerkily and flies a bit like an aircraft carrier, low and slow, but mainly she spends her time keeping campsite life under surveillance. In fact, as tough, clever and adaptable birds, ‘hoodies’ are renowned for their problem-solving abilities. According to the 2016 Arran Bird Report the crow family is ‘considered to be the most intelligent of the birds’ with a ‘brain-to-body mass ratio equal to that of great apes’.

The Bird Report explains how hooded crows and carrion crows are closely related. In the last Ice Age they developed plumage differences during their occupation of two ice free areas: one in the Balkans and one in the Iberian Peninsula. Today, their European distribution reveals hoodies in the east and the all black carrion crow in the west EXCEPT in a narrow zone of overlap which includes Arran and where interbreeding takes place which can produce fertile hybrids – look out for these birds with their variable amounts of black and grey plumage.

There are a lot of jackdaws to be seen around the campsite too. They are sometimes confused with hoodies because of their dark heads. However, jackdaws are smaller than hoodies and usually operate in large groups, sometimes landing on sheep and deer to peck off parasites, a service the animals seem to appreciate. For recognising the differences between similar birds take a look at: www.bto.org/about-birds/bird-id

The Arran Bird Report is full of interesting records and information and this year’s copy (Arran Bird Report 2016) is now available in shops round the island.

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.