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Saturday, 26 May 2018

When the fine weather began earlier this month, the sea was still very cold resulting in weird thick rolls of white mist on the Kilbrannan Sound.


The Return of the Sun

 After the beastly mini Ice Age that was last winter, this magnificent May! It’s as we’d been living in a black-and-white film and suddenly found ourselves shining in brilliant technicolour.

Bright green bracken stalks are shooting up from last year’s faded fronds. Deep yellow whins blossom (with their divine coconut fragrance), frothy white hawthorn blossom and the exotic purple flowers of the rhododendron ponticum adorn Lochranza’s hillsides. The lush leaves of sycamores hum with bees gathering nectar. Even the ash, always last, has come into leaf. In shady rocky clefts there are still velvety violets, bright-eyed primroses, and nodding bluebells.

This settled sunshine makes climbing high a temptation. From Lochranza’s hills our eyes are drawn to the rounded Paps of Jura, up Loch Fyne to splashes of white which are yachts coming out of Portavadie Marina, and across to the Clyde. There are a lot of daylight hours to play with this month and very little real darkness. It is the season and weather for wonderful sunsets behind the ancient silhouette of Lochranza Castle. Nothing is lovelier than being in a Canadian canoe on the loch on nights like these. Using the silent stroke to glide along, we don’t make a ripple. 

There is a soundtrack of birdsong from dawn as birds flirt with prospective mates. The cuckoo’s plaintive two notes calling from behind the Distillery punctuate the day. Adders slither in the undergrowth of Gleann Easan Biorach. They glare boldly at us and add a warning hiss to respect their space. The red deer are casting their shaggy worn-out winter coats and regaining strength on the juicy grass. Badgers meanwhile are focussing on the housework, tossing out the old straw and sheep’s wool that kept their setts warm all winter. Last week we passed seals basking on the rocks in the bay as usual but unusually one took off, leaping and arching in and out of the water like a dolphin. It looked like a seal but behaved like a small dolphin. Can seals leap clear of the water is the question we are left pondering.

Amid so much loveliness there is inevitably a downside: the midgies made their presence known on the 23rd and are currently drifting around in a half awake state. The breeding females have not started biting yet. Without these wee creatures we wouldn’t have the swallows that raise two or three broods a year in our sheds, or the bats. 

In contrast to all this change and activity Lochranza’s rocks seem unchanging but then again, of course they are changing- the whole relevance of Hutton’s Unconformity near Fairy Dell is that the location made James Hutton realise that landscapes are in a process of continuous change and that everything in the natural world is more varied, complex and inter-related than anyone had previously thought. 

Arran is an inspiring island!

Hutton’s Unconformity.  Lochranza Centre staff  have devised a geocaching walk in the area that helps you understand the geological processes that the rocks bear witness to.


Laggan Cottage, which you pass on Arran’s Coastal Way, faces the north but basks in the sunshine for a few brief weeks in summer. This was once a populated area – you can still see the marks of cultivation of the land on these summer evenings.