Monday, August 19, 2013

Isle of Arran

Not to be confused with the islands of the same name in Ireland. Arran is said to have something representing every geological feature in Scotland - a Scotland in miniature. The dividing line between the Highlands and the Lowlands cuts it in half. I stayed in the tippy top of the Highland half.

Ferry to Arran

I took two local buses to the ferry to Arran. Naturally, we were on one lane roads. We came upon the car you see above stuck in a ditch - driven off the road by a camper. A local farmer was on his way with his tractor to help pull the car out. Obviously they made it to the ferry in time.

 The Isle of Arran seen from the ferry landing

I left Kilmartin very reluctantly - I loved it so much. Thank heavens I was headed to Arran - because I loved it so much, too! I was headed to the tiny town of Lochranza - there were much more touristed places on the island, but I stayed clear.

Ferry landing - unseen to the right -
just a concrete slab running into the water

I took soooo many photographs here - even though I doubt I made it two miles from my B&B in either direction. So there will be more photos than commentary, I imagine.

My B&B - a converted church

I've posted about this place - it's where I finished up writing about Paris - so there may be some repetition of photos. I don't remember which ones I picked before.

The window in the smallest room of my trip

View from my room

I picked this part of the island because it was more remote - away from most of the tourists. I encountered a few in the only pub/restaurant in town - definitely no Americans (almost no Americans in Scotland or Wales) unlike Paris, London, or Dublin. The town didn't have a store. I'd have had to get on a bus to get to one.

Breakfast room looking at the castle

Across the loch with resident swan pair (sleeping)

I actually did quite a bit of walking here, even though I didn't wander very far. I just was going to the same places over and over again. This town, Lochranza, and Kilmartin were my favorite part of my entire trip. I wish I'd been able to predict that in advance!

Looking a bit like California in February

I headed down to the local whiskey distillery (aptly named Arran), where I learned how whiskey is made - which I hadn't known anything about.

Arran Distillery

This distillery is very new. A pair of golden eagles lives in the hills above and work on the construction was stopped for a few months while they were nesting. And the whiskey is made in American whiskey barrels - they made a point of telling us all their recycling efforts.

Ruins on the way to the distillery

The loch at low tide

I arrived in unseasonably warm weather. On the bus to the ferry, one woman asked another how the weather suited her. The response was "it's all we've got, isn't it?" I heard a number of complaints about the heat - I don't think it got out of the mid-70s. I heard a general acceptance of the existence of climate change - and a disbelief that there are so many Americans who don't believe in it.

14th-16th century castle across from my B&B

Rain moved in while I was there (allowing me to get in some blogging - I had wifi!). The sky was constantly changing and I was taking the same shots over and over with different skies.

Boat on the loch

Everything was placed as though for scenic effect. Thank heavens for digital cameras.

View from the pub

Scotland has midges - we do too, just not as many - and they fly in clouds and they can really drive you inside. There's also a slightly larger fly that bites. But the pub was hot, so I took my whiskey out onto the terrace where a man sat with me and smoked a pipe, trying to keep the midges away. It didn't work and I eventually had to give up and go inside.


At the bar, a man started up a conversation with me and I couldn't understand a word he said. I had to have him repeat himself a few times. So I asked him, "Since I have trouble understanding you, do you have trouble understanding me?" He said he could understand me and that the Scots generally know how to reduce the degree of their accent. I had no trouble understanding him after that.

Creek coming into the loch

He said that people from Glasgow tended to have the slangiest (his term) accents. But his grandfather had been from the far north of Scotland and his mother was always having to translate his grandfather for him.

Houses across the loch

He told me that he lived in the bungalow across the way and that he had moved from Edinburgh and it was the best move of his life. I asked him which one was the bungalow. He looked quite startled at my ignorance and said it was the one-story house. Now I know the Scottish definition of bungalow.

My snack while hiking - lavender lemonade and an
American cookie

Scotland is covered in invasive flowering plants. Everywhere I saw purple loosestrife (a problem in wetter parts of the U.S., too). Digitalis, yarrow, and butterfly bush were also all over the place. I never did read anything about invasive plants, though.

July full moon

I wasn't able to stay out late enough to see the full moon (it was overcast anyway), because coming in late to the B&B might have been disruptive (and almost everyone goes to bed before I do). So, at one point, I stuck my head out the window of my room (not an easy thing to do) and got a shot of the moon between the trees as the sky started to clear.

I think I have a zillion photos of this castle

Sheep - everywhere

Sheep are allowed to roam freely in Lochranza. Everyone has to fence and gate their gardens. There are also supposed to be red deer, but I didn't see any. As a matter of fact, except for domesticated animals, I saw very few mammals on the trip.

Hike along the coast

I did see lots of birds - most of which I couldn't identify because I didn't have a book or binoculars. My telephoto lens was my binoculars. I did fall in love with oyster catchers and they have their fair share of photos in my collection.

Oyster catchers

Hooded crow

And unrelated to birds, here are some of the whiskies I tried - these are all single malts. That's all I tried.
Bowmore - Macallan - Tobermory - Oban - Bunnahabhan

Winkles - maybe

Winkles were on many menus, but I never did try them. Which reminds me of a story from Paris about trying things to eat. I was near a table of an English couple and their two kids. The woman thought she knew French pretty well, but she didn't. She thought she was ordering veal, but she ended up with rognons de veau - veal kidneys. She tried not to show how upset she was by the surprise and kept repeating, "We need to try these things." And then she kept trying to get the rest of her family to eat some of it so they could "try" kidneys. It was funny watching her gamely eat them while asking 'Does anyone want to try these?" over and over until the meal was over. She didn't clean her plate, but she did a good job.

View of the B&B from the castle

More books read:

My Antonia by Willa Cather (read it before in high school)
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (this was in one of the Paris apartments and takes place across the street from the apartment I stayed in)
Eleven Rooms by Claire Dyer (poetry chapbook - grew up in Wales, lives outside London, and she read in Paris)
The Horseman's Word by Roger Garfitt (memoir of a poet who battles mental illness)
Knock Knock by Heather Hartley (poetry chapbook - I met her in Paris)
Field Work by Seamus Heaney (poetry chapbook)

Sunset in Lochranza

Oh, I wish I'd had at least a week to just relish this place. But it was time to head back to a small city, which turned out to be a difficult adjustment.

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