The Isle of Arran Debrief

When ever we get back from a trip I always regret not wild camping in more places.

I always find things and places we should have done and visited after we’ve returned. Making me think we’ll have to go back again. There were loads of wild camping stops On Arran.

The results on the diesel rhino additive were good with an increase in the mpg from 35mpg to 39mpg. There was a definite increase in power and the engine ran smoothly. I just need to do the sums to see if the extra cost was worth the benefits.

After all the panic to make sure the Propex heater was repaired in time for the trip, it was never needed as the weather was warm and sunny.

I couldn’t get any Wifi on the trip, although most sites and the ferries offered free wifi, I could never connect to it. My 3 mifi couldn’t find a signal and the mobile phone signal was very sporadic. I think that was actually a blessing in disguise.

As always we end up taking too much stuff with us. Rain wear, jumpers, shoes and random tinned foods for emergency meals. You would think we were going to camp in the back woods.

One of the nice things about Arran was the abundance of tasty quality food and drink and not a McDonalds in sight.

The Extreme knitter didn’t knit anything on this trip. She always carries a knitting project with her, but it stayed in the bag the whole time. She didn’t buy any wool. I might have to start calling her “The Extreme” if this wool less situation carries on.

She was surprised that there was nothing on Arran for the knitter.

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Homeward Bound

We woke early at the Glen Capel tea room car park and in the daylight found that we were parked in the nature reserve with a large sailing boat moored on the quayside.

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The community of Glen Capel allow campers to stay overnight on the quayside. There is an honesty box to put a donation towards the upkeep of the site.

Places like this are precious and the village generosity shouldn’t be abused.

When we woke up Ruby was missing. Then she popped head out from under the pillows where she had sneaked into while we slept.

ruby pillow

Unfortunately the tea room wasn’t open or I would have opted for a full Scottish Breakfast.

The journey home from Scotland is always strange as the further we go down the country, the busier it gets until we lose that calm, well being feeling and start to experience those stresses we left behind.

I’m thinking we might be living in the wrong place.

Return to Arran

It dawned on us that we were running short of time and needed to start our journey home. We had only visited the Mull of Kintyre for one day and a night, so a grand tour would have to wait for another day. It’s getting difficult to get going in the mornings; life seems to have taken a much slower pace. One of the pleasures of our trips is that we stop worrying about what we eat, so that means I get bacon sarnies for breakfast after we take Ruby for another walk on the beach.

Carradale Campsite

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We had a plan that involved reaching Dumfries later today. With two ferry crossings, one island in the way and a quite few hours driving, what could possibly go wrong on Friday the thirteenth?

The road back up to Claonaig was still steep and twisty, but a least it was mostly down hill on the return.

Something I have noticed as we drove through remote villages was that people waved to us. Walking along the road or standing in their gardens they waved with a genuine greeting. It’s quite contagious and we started waving to everybody. In England if you waved to a total stranger you would more than likely get a punch on the nose

There were only three cars in front of us on the ferry slipway and we could see the ferry making its way back across to us. The wind had picked up making the sea a little choppy and the small ferry rocked and rolled a little.

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Back on to Arran at the Lochranza slipway, we headed towards Brodick to catch a ferry to Ardrossan on the main land. The road to Brodick was so like driving in the Highlands and we eventually reach the ferry terminal.

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With a spring in my step I entered the ticket office. At this point I remember that I’m a marked man as far as Cal Mac ticket attendants are concerned and approached the desk and said “Have you got a ?” then nothing. I’m struggling to find the words to complete the sentence for what seems an age until the ticket lady helpfully prompts me and says “boat”.

“That’s it” I say “for the next sailing”.

“No” she says.

At this point the life blood starts to drain from my body.

“Ok, when can you fit us in” I ask.

“I might be able to squeeze you on the 19.20 this evening”. She answers. “Anything tomorrow” I plead.

“No, It’s fully booked” she said.

The outcome was that I booked the “might get on” 19.20 crossing and we parked up on the sea front at Brodick for 4 hours.

I was disappointed she didn’t ask how my fictitious brother was. I also recall being told that you need to book your tickets well in advance because it gets busy.

The bonus was that the extreme knitter did some more shopping and bought me a Scotch pie. Now, I’ve eaten some pies in my time and I consider myself a pie connoisseur. I have to say this was one of the best pies I have ever tasted. The E/Knitter promised that she would try to replicate it on our return home. I do hope so.

Later in the day we moved back to the ferry terminal and parked in the boarding lane. Up comes yet another Cal Mac ticket attendant who started chatting to the E/Knitter and tried to convince her that Ruby needed another dog as a companion. I sense a conspiracy because the E/Knitter is always trying to convince me the same thing.

The ferry was running late and some foot passengers were getting worried because they had connections to make.

We also realised that it was going to be too late to book a campsite for tonight and we would need to wild camp.

After leaving the ferry and a further two hour drive we reached Glen Capel tea room car park at 11pm. We parked up with three motor homes and collapsed on the bed.

Glen Capel Tea Room

Mull of Kintyre

We were leaving the Isle of Arran and Seal shore campsite behind. We travelled back up to Brodick and took the road called the String that cuts across to the West side of Arran to the Old Byre visitor centre. We were making our way up to Lochranza in the North.

Again we passed through stunning places

The Twelve Apostles in the village of Catacol. Each of these fishermens cottages has a different upper window so that when the men were at sea, their wives would light a candle in the window and each man would know which house was signalling.

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The Cal Mac ferry from Lochranza was our exit point to Claonaig over on to the Mull of Kintyre. The crossing is a short one on an open ferry taking only 30minutes to reach Claonaig costing £15 in all.

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We parked up at Claonaig and phoned the Carradale camp site to book an overnight stay. The B482 single track road that runs down the east coast was a challenge in places with some short, but very steep hill climbs with blind hairpin bends. The Carradale camp site is situated on the coast with a frontage overlooking Carradale Bay with a vast expanse of beach. Unfortunately all the pitches on the beach front were booked. So we ended up a little further back over looking the fields, but still with a sea view.

 

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We staked our claim on the pitch then set off again to have a look at the main town Campbeltown. The Mull of Kintyre has only recently been connected with the Scottish main land via a ferry sailing directly from Ardrossan. To get to Campbeltown used to involve a very long road trip making it very remote. Unfortunately Campbeltown hasn’t picked up on the fact that they are going to be receiving a lot more tourist than before. The town centre seemed a little tired and run down. Like most places I suspect it needs an injection of cash.

Paul McCartney used to have High Park farm on the Mull of Kintyre back in the late sixties and as soon as the Mull of Kintyre is mentioned it’s impossible to get that song out of your head. I don’t think he lives there now; well I didn’t see him in the shops.

We went back to the campsite, wandered on the beach with Ruby and did nothing. We seem to be doing a lot of nothing on this trip. It’s a struggle, but we are coping.

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Scotland the brave and the Aristocracy

Yet another hot sunny day as we left the campsite and drove up the west coast of Arran as far as the Old Byre visitor centre at Machrie. It was getting obvious that the E/Knitter was suffering from a lack of crafty type things and knitting. We thought the Old Byre would be the place to visit, but it was a little disappointing. It lacked atmosphere and consisted of a café and an expensive shop.

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On the way I had noticed that some places like Blackwater have chemical toilet emptying facilities attached to the pubic convenience which is really useful for campervan wild campers. We were now back tracking to just past Sliddery where we turned on to the single track road that cuts across the island to Lamlash called the Ross road.

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The Scottish single track roads are a joy to drive on and this one led us through some stunning landscapes.

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We stopped at a Forestry Commission picnic area for lunch.

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One of the reasons for our trip to Arran was so The Lady Elizabeth of Largybey (the Extreme knitter) could visit her country estate to check that the peasants weren’t revolting.

Here she is stalking with her favourite gundog whilst stood in her 1 foot by 1 foot piece of Arran.

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The Lady Elizabeth of Largybey

It’s amazing how power can go to someone’s head, as soon as she stepped onto the land she changed into a power crazed land owner shouting “get orf my land” and calling me an oik.

The other reason for our trip was to visit the place that my father had trained as a commando in 1940. Being part of the 11th Scottish commando they were billeted with the locals at a coastal village called Lamlash on the Isle of Arran.

The whole of the Island was taken over by the military at the time and was split into three sections with Lochranza in the north being occupied by the 7th commando. Lamlash in the middle was used by the 11th Scottish Commando and Whiting Bay in the southern area was allocated to the 9th Commando.

This must have been a tremendous upheaval for the islander being occupied by 1000 troops

The troops were left to their own devises as far as finding accommodation was concerned and the residents of Arran came forward offering a billet for many soldiers

Accounts of their stay mentioned that one solder shot the weather vane off the Lamlash church tower. Apparently it still bears the scars.

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After training, the Commandos were shipped out of Glasgow on the three Glen ships and transported to fight in the North Africa campaign. My father joined the Long Range Desert Group carrying out attacks on the German supply routes by travelling across the Sahara desert to attack them from behind their lines.

The 11th Scottish Commando

Remember when we boarded the ferry in Ardrossan and the strange comment about visiting my brother from the ticket attendant. Well after I told the extreme knitter the story of my fathers wartime training, she decided that as he was young and unmarried during his time on Arran that he may have produced my half brother without knowing it. During our walk around Lamlash she was studying 75 year old local men to see if there were any family resemblances. I swear she is watching too many wartime dramas on the television.

 

 

 

Up the Coast

We sank into the lazy Scottish days on the Seal shore campsite. We didn’t need to rush around.

We left the campsite about 11.30am on our first whole day on Arran heading up the east coast passing Whiting Bay, Lamlash and Brodick. We drove up into the northern areas that have been compared to the Scottish Highlands.

Driving back down we stopped at the Arran Brewery, but couldn’t find a parking space, so we drove the short distance to Arran Aromatics at the Home farm centre. This centre is also home to Island Cheese co, Janie’s restaurant and the Creelers Fish restaurant. Being a little peckish we opted to sit outside Creelers in the glorious sunshine and ordered fish and chips and the fish pie. It has to be said that the fish and chips wasn’t cheap, but they were superb, the fish was cooked to perfection. The E/knitter raved about her fish pie for hours after.

Ruby and I sat chilling whilst the e /knitter did the shopping thing. We were quite happy just watching the world go by.

Next stop was the Arran Active outdoor shop. This was the E/Knitters first encounter with wool on this trip. She managed to resist the temptation to increase her wool stocks, but nearly faltered when the lady running the wool department offered a free puppy from her recent litter of 9 poodles with every wool purchase. It was at this point I stepped in to drag her away.

Further along the road we stopped at the Co-operative store. I was able to get a couple of bottles of Arran Brewery beer and some of Wooleys bakery cheese flavoured oaties. The store actually encourage campervans to stay overnight in their car park with beautiful views over goatfell.

The view from their car park reminded me of our visits to Cornwall with all the palms.

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We set off back down the coast road to the campsite having had another day of brilliant sunshine. Back on site we walked Ruby on the beach, nibbled all the goodies we had bought during the day and did nothing, just nothing. Arran’s a place that makes you do nothing. Bliss.

 

On the island

After a peaceful night at Castle Corner camp site I took Ruby for a quick walk around the area whist the Extreme knitter made the bacon rolls for breakfast. We departed about 11.30 and drove northward through Dumfries on the A78 heading for Ardrossan ferry port.

As always there was a now compulsory stop at Morrisons to fill up with diesel and add more diesel rhino. The Kilmarnock store benefitted from our pennies this trip. On a random note I did mention to the Extreme knitter that maybe we should try to visit every Morrisons store in the country. She didn’t reply, but gave me one of those long despairing looks and gently shook her head. I thought it was a good idea. I did wonder if I should contact Morrisons with a new marketing idea.

Morrisons Spotters.

It worked for Eddie Stobart. They could supply spotter books that you had to have signed by the guy that collected the trolleys just to prove you had been to the store.

I had been advised to prebook the ferry as it gets busy. I had booked a single crossing to the Isle of Arran for a 15.20 departure and we reached the port in good time and drove straight to the boarding lanes. It was at this point that something very strange happened. We drove up to the ticket booth were the lady attendant said “hello, I expect your visiting your brother” “tell him I said hi”. As I don’t have a brother living on Arran we were just slightly perplexed, but in true British style we smiled and drove on. I don’t know why I didn’t ask her what she meant.

The excitement started to kick in as the extreme knitter didn’t known we were going to Arran and a ferry trip always adds to the adventure.

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Taking a dog on a ferry has some drawbacks. Some ferries make you sit in a seating area solely for dogs and owners. With a crossing taking an hour it would be nice to wander about, so we had to take it in turns to dog sit. I’ve noticed on this and previous ferry crossings that people without dogs sit in the dog seating areas. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps they prefer the company of dogs.

We are lucky that Ruby will do her toilet business on command, so she had an empty bladder before we boarded. 1 hour later, the ferry ramp slowly lowered on to the Isle of Arran and there was a mass exodus of vehicles from its bowels. It always makes me feel like we are on the starting grid on the ferry waiting for the green light to start the race.

The Calmac ferries run excellent services to and from the many islands dotted around Scotland. The one way crossing for two adults and a campervan only cost £22.50.

We don’t take to much food with us as we like to buy fresh from the shops on our travels. We hadn’t planned our evening meal and the fish and chip shop looked promising, but we have to pace ourselves, perhaps later in the week.

Exiting left out of the port we were making our way to the Seal shore campsite in the southern part of Arran. I had phoned whilst waiting to board the ferry to book three nights on this beach side campsite. I wasn’t to sure about the possibility of wild camping on Arran and as we would be here for a few days and the luxury of a camp site with electric hook-up, toilets and showers was too appealing. We will see how things work out during the next few days. Wild camping is always something we play by ear, if it feels right we’ll go for it.

Following the tight, sometimes single track roads lead us to Seal Shore. I had read how good this site was, but Wow!!. We were pitched up overlooking the sea with a light house in the distance and rock formations where the seals feed.

Seal Shore Campsite

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We just sat and chilled the evening away. It doesn’t get any better than this.

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Tallulha the Hula enjoyed the sunshine

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