There’s something special about islands. They each have their own character but they all offer a similar adventure of escape. Just an hour or so on the ferry from Ardrossan on the Ayrshire coast, the Isle of Arran is a little gem with plenty packed into its 167 square miles.
The variety of scenery has earned it the tag of ‘Scotland in miniature’. It’s easy to get to, easy to get around and has a way of getting under your skin. There are no theme parks or razzmatazz and the pace of life and traffic is much slower than most of us are used to experiencing. It’s one of the reasons it’s so popular with cyclists.
Within minutes of rolling off the ferry in Brodick, there’s no chance of holding onto mainland attitudes. Everything slows down on the island’s circular road and two trans-island routes. With loads of singletrack, it’s a place to slow down, chill out and get out the walking boots. That’s when you’re not whiling away the hours beachcombing, birdwatching or daydreaming.
Our pre-planning involved a rather hectic programme which was abandoned by the second day. With glorious weather to entice us, we found ourselves at the end of each day wondering where the time had gone. That’s not to say we were slug-a-beds. Far from it – ‘Early to bed, early to rise, makes a camper ….’.
On a visit to Brodick Castle, the superb weather meant we never made it into the building. Instead, we wandered through the rhododendrons and picnicked on the way to Goatfell after exploring the Countryside Centre, chatting to the Rangers and enjoying a one-sided dialogue with the Highland cattle. What we thought might take a couple of hours turned out to take up most of the day.
It was a pattern repeated every day. The Heritage Museum had a rustic feel to it that belied its charm and a flying visit extended long enough to sample the cafe’s fare. A pretend ride on a stationary tractor finally fulfilled a childhood dream which set the seal on a fine day.
In the north, there’s not a lot in Lochranza but ferry watching, the castle, lunch, chats with backpackers and cycle-campers managed to eat up most of that day as well. Fond memories of the fabulous hot smoked salmon baguettes from The Sandwich Station linger on. The Arran Distillery Visitor Centre was perfect for a Gaelic coffee – just the one.
With walks thrown in to break up the ‘sightseeing’, the short break flew by and we never got round to a boat fishing trip – this time. You get the picture. It’s a place to relax and enjoy being rather than always doing.