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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.