Looking out to sea from my home in Prestwick on the West Coast of Scotland, the small island of Arran takes up the horizon. It’s about an hour on a ferry across just 13 miles of sea to reach her but her raw beauty, hidden bays and high mountains make it well worth the journey.
After a couple of bacon rolls and a coffee among the workers heading over to start their shift, I climbed onto the deck to remove my facemask and get some air. Looking over the bow of the ferry I could see Arran veiled in clouds of morning mist. Before I’d taken my first step, I knew today’s walk was going to be beautiful.
The plan was straight forward enough. Exit the boat head to the main road and turn right and then hug the shoreline for about five miles round the headland until the route picked up a road again which would lead into Lamlash Bay. After some lunch, head inland from Lamlash Bay up into the woods and over some high ground this end of the island before dropping back down into Brodick in the afternoon.
The route climbed above Brodick for about the first mile and a half along minor roads and farm tracks. It was peaceful and pretty for sure but the true beauty and main challenge of the day were yet to reveal themselves. I was plodding this part of the route somewhat wearily as I’d marched off the boat as though I was invading the place and strode up the main road straight past the first junction I was meant to turn left at. Panting at a bus stop and junction I should never have been at, I checked my map, realized my mistake and headed back down to make the first turn of the day.
At last I followed a farm track down onto the shore and sat down for a rest beside an old cottage. Taking in the fresh sea air and looking right along the shore to the headland, I was soon lost in the moment and at peace with the world.
I’d been hoping for a clear path, maybe even a small road along the shoreline at this part of the walk. I was sorely disappointed and the challenge of the day began. There was a barely discernible rabbit track meandering through the swampy grass at the top of the beach. The pace slowed to a crawl as I trudged through this horrible terrain for just over a mile. Picking my way over stepping stones and losing trekking poles and boots in muddy pools. It was only a mile but it drained the strength from my legs and wasn’t doing much for my morale. On the plus, each time I stopped for a quick breather, the beauty all around me was amazing.
There was a large rock on the limit of my vision and I decided that this was surely the headland, a place known as Clauchlands Point where I would pick up the road into Lamlash. When I finally arrived at that rock my heart sank. It was just a rock on the beach. I could now see Clauchlands point about another half a mile along the shore traversing the foot of some cliffs. As I followed, the path rose up from the shore adding a drop to my right to my worries. At last I rounded the headland and dropped onto the road to Lamlash. In addition to the town, I had a fantastic view of the Holy Island, a tiny island just off the shore of Lamlash Bay which rises steeply out of the sea for several hundred feet.
There is a regular ferry service which normally runs between Lamlash and the Holy Island however it looked to be closed due to the Covid Pandemic. Certainly it looks well worth the boat trip for a climb around the island when things return to normal. They had even organized a swim across the 2 miles of sea from the Holy Island to Arran in 2019. If you like open water swimming, that would have to be on your list.
After a long and blissful seat at Clauchlands Point, I headed into the tiny and beautiful town of Lamlash. So many of the locals seemed to be out walking along the seafront and, with such a beautiful place on your doorstep, who could blame them? I had been worried about how the locals would take to a stranger walking into town during a pandemic. It was legal to travel at that time but I could have well understood if people had still been wary. In fact, there was a smile and a greeting from every one of them and I was made to feel welcome.
I ate lunch at the small pier across the sea from the Holy Island and then made my way back into town and the road which would take me inland back to Brodick. This is the main, signposted route between the two bays and is a series of hill tracks spanning about 4 miles. Crossing the end of the island inland, there’s a bit of a climb, about 500ft to reach the highest point. The terrain is all very easy underfoot as it’s all well constructed path and the going is slightly more monotonies than hugging the shoreline. That said, with ancient standing stones where long past tribesmen used to meet and an amazing view of the mountains of Arran, there’s still more than enough to see on the way back to Brodick. Soon, the full beauty of Brodick Bay spreads out below you as you make the final descent towards the shore.
There’s a promenade running the length of Brodick along the seafront and I sat on one of the many benches to have a drink and reflect on the day. To my right I could see the Ferry Terminal and, in the distance, the ferry making it’s way across from the mainland. It was as though the ferry knew where I was and seemed to take time enough for me to finish my drink and walk slowly along the promenade to catch it. On a beautiful island like this on a sunny day, the world just seems to take it’s time.