Wednesday, 18 June 2014
An Arran Amble - Journey's end
Our progress from Sannox Bay seemed effortless on a calm and sunny morning, a contrast to some of the conditions we'd enjoyed during the journey.
Arran's sheltered east coast has a very different feel from the more remote northern coast. Small villages dot the shore, perhaps the most attractive is Corrie with its neat whitewashed cottages, gardens bright with early summer flowers.
You are pretty much guaranteed a sighting of a seal on this part of the journey! This one is carved very skillfully from a single piece of timber and fixed to a rock opposite the attractive "Rock Pool" gift shop.
Despite its tiny size, Corrie has no fewer than three harbours. One of these has the unique feature of three concrete sheep which could act as bollards. the two white sheep face south and a black sheep faces north - three sheeps to the wind perhaps?! The seal sculpture and sheep bollards are great additions to the scenery, it's good to know that folk have had the drive to introduce things which make the world just a little bit more fun to live in.
Once past Corrie the view across Sannox Bay to Holy Island opens up, signalling the final couple of kilometres of the Arran circumnavigation. It seemed a long time since we'd camped on Holy Island at the start of our trip. There was plenty of time to reflect on what had been a really great journey as we paddled to Brodick; an approaching ferry meaning that we would have a couple of hours in hand to land and prepare for boarding the following sailing.
Even this close to Brodick there's great interest along the shoreline - we've seen Otters previously here and at low tide this rock is some of the strangest you'll see anywhere. A hard red rock, it looks like something from a science fiction movie; we could only speculate as to how it was formed.
The brightness of the morning was turning to a more overcast afternoon as we landed on the shingle beach adjacent to the link-span in Brodick from where we'd set out. As MV "Caledonian Isles" approached, we knew our journey was nearly over; already we were forming plans for the next one!
Arran is the perfect size for a circumnavigation to be a "proper" journey without feeling like a major undertaking. We took five days (four nights) of which we camped wild three nights and at the "Seal Shore" campsite at Kildonan on one night. It's perfectly feasible to do this journey over four days (three nights) by omitting the Holy Island camp and going straight to Kildonan on the first day. Wild camp sites are surprisingly tricky to find, the road comes close to the shore for long stretches and some landings/sites which look good at high water are anything but at lower states of tide. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code for wild camping gives guidance on how and where to camp - there are generally few problems if this guidance is followed but note that there continue to be some issues at Holy Island. Should you be pressured into moving on from Holy Island you should contact the North Ayrshire Access Officer with details.
Our "Arran Amble" had been anything but an amble during a couple of sections, notably the rounding of Bennan Head in windy conditions and the long grind against the wind from Drumnadoon to Lochranza. As ever, flexible planning is the key. We'd planned to cross to the Kintyre shore and head up the west of Arran on the far side of the Kilbrannan Sound but the northeasterly wind would have made this a difficult option. We delayed the decision over which direction to circumnavigate until the very last minute - finalising the plan on the ferry. It's sometimes claimed that there no tidal races in the Firth of Clyde; we find that there are often races at the southern tips of the islands on the ebb - and the stretch of water inshore of Pladda also has overfalls.
Ordnance Survey Landranger sheet 69 (Isle of Arran) covers the whole island plus parts of the Kintyre shore. Pilotage and general information can be found in the "Admiralty Sailing Directions - West Coast of Scotland", in yachtsman's pilots such as Imray's "Clyde to Colonsay" and in Hamish Haswell-Smith's indispensible guide "The Scottish Islands". Detailed tidal stream information can be found in NP 222 (Admiralty Tidal Stream Atlas - Firth of Clyde and Approaches), tide tables are widely available on the internet and in booklets available locally.
The mainland ferry port serving Arran is Ardrossan - allow at least an hour to travel from Glasgow. Ferries leave here for Brodick daily, and in summer there's a limited service to Campbeltown - timetables can be found on Calmac's website. there is a large, secure car park adjacent to the ferry terminal at a very reasonable £3 per day. Kayaks travel free on Calmac services, but note that a trolley is pretty much essential to move loaded boats on and off the ferry.
I hope that this series of posts and those on Douglas' blog starting here will encourage others to do this trip - it really is a fine journey!