Today was a gentle exploration of Arran. We started with the ferry from Ardrossan which we had taken 5 years before to Campbeltown, but this time we went for the shorter crossing to Brodrick on the Isle of Arran. It took 40 minutes and cost £8.40 for us to cross – with the bikes being free. The wonders of subsididsed transport services.
Brodrick, where we wheeled our bikes off, is a lovely village with a timeless feeling. The accent here is softer than on the mainland and the impression is that life runs at a slightly slower pace here.
We had the choice of 70km or 20km in getting to our campsite on the north west of the island – so opted for the 20km option. Before cycling we explored Brodick Castle and gardens. This was a hunting lodge until the middle of the C19th when a pushy German princess who married into the family that owned the place insisted on expanding it to a large house. Shen then lived there for 50 years, long after her husband died
and (according to legend) entertaining celebreties of the time (who wanted to do things unseen well away from London and largely having a continuing affair with her gardener. Her husband had died falling down stairs drunk in Paris after an argument about gambling debts – all a very strange world.
The house was solid Victorian but otherwise uremarkable. The gardens were lovely, a mixture of local plants and imported species from all over the world. We ambled for a pleasant hour and then found our bikes – chained up outside the Arran Brewery (how appropriate). There was lots of information on the family and the use of the house, but none on the fact that they made their money from the highland clearances, including evicting settlers from Arran who had been there for generations. So a slightly one-sided view of history.
The road from Brodrick north hugged the coast and was mainly flat through a series of villages, none of which showed the demons of modern development. Planning on Arran must be tighty controlled – preserving the existing feel of the place. Then we started the climb of the day across to Lochcranza.
It was written up as a devil of a climb but, after Devon and Wales, seemed not too bad. The hills were barren and beautiful and the road snaked up to a pass. Unfortunately our timing was crap as we ere cycling inot a strong wind and hit a rainstorm near the top, and came down in driving hail. We were cold and wet by the time we reached the Lochranza distillery and shop, so ambled around for 10 minutes in the warm to dry out.
Then to the campsite – free of midges at that point as the wind kept them at bay. We set up our tent and then went for a 3 hour walk along the coast. There was an important geological feature – Hutton’s unconformity – which showed that the rocks were many thousands of years old and had been formed by seizmic movements. That theory – later proved to be correct – showed the earth could not be 6000 years old as per the bible. It is hard to understand how contraversial this was at the time but it left Mr Hutton in very bad odour with the clerics. He was not the first scientist or rationalist to challenge religious orthodoxy, and will not be the last.
We walked back to the campsite along the bluff, enjoying the early evening views across the sound to the Mull of Kintyre, where we go tomorrow. Our plans to explore the whiskies of Arran were stymied by the Hotel being closed (not open until 1 July) so we were in bed by 8pm and read for hours as it hardly goes dark at all here at this time of year.