Monday, 16 June 2014
An Arran Amble - the wild coast
We were woken early by the dawn chorus of birds on the wooded hillside above our camp near the Cock of Arran. After breakfast we got on the water for 7am on what looked to be a grey and misty morning. Almost as soon as we were underway we were treated to a close view of an Otter; one of several during the day. We saw Otters on each of the five days of this journey around Arran, they do seem to like the habitat here.
A little farther along the coast we passed Laggan, a private cottage belonging to the estate and which can be hired, though the only ways to reach it are by boat or by a rough footpath from Lochranza.
There was almost no wind during our journey along the wild north coast of Arran; a real bonus as the wind had been strong from the north for the previous few days. The absence of wind and swell gave us a leisurely paddle and the opportunity to absorb the atmosphere of this special part of Arran. Of all the sections of the Arran circumnavigation, this stretch from Newton Point near Lochranza around to Brodick (the northeastern section) was my favourite. There is no road here and the island drops steeply to the sea, while the views across to Bute and beyond to the Argyll hills are enchanting. It's everything a wild coast should be....and astonishingly it's just 60 kilometres from the very centre of Scotland's largest city.
A couple of kilometres beyond Laggan is Millstone Point, a boulder beach backed by crags. On the shore is an almost intact millstone which looks to have been damaged while being prepared for transport - it's easy to imagine what the reaction of the stonemason might have been when the stone he'd painstakingly shaped was broken at the last moment! Not easy to spot from the shore, it's worth landing here if you can to find this and possibly other relics.
The next point of interest on this superb stretch of coast is the prosaically named Fallen Rocks. My image does the tumble of boulders little justice, the blocks are about house sized and have come right down the 200 metre slope. The rockfall is on a contact zone between millstone grits and the conglomerates and sandstones of Arran's east coast. Alternate bands of pebble studded conglomerates and warm brown sandstone can be clearly made out in the blocks, evidence of an arid climate alternating with devastating floods in the distant past. Local tradition has it that this rockfall occured during an earthquake sometime around the 17th century and the noise could be heard on the Isle of Bute. Near to the rockfall is a set of beacons arranged vertically up the hillside; one of a pair marking the "measured mile" used by ships to establish their maximum and service speeds after building - I've several times been on ships which have completed runs of this mile.
The view beneath our boats into the clear water was absolutely stunning, but as we rounded the next point and started to head south........
.....a wider and more dramatic view opened up above the water.