It was a magical mix with hours spent driving through great scenery punctuated with mini voyages over sea lochs. Sometimes there was sunshine; with white clouds hovering over the mountains, other times there were lowering dark clouds, with rain and midges rising from the ferns.
We saw the mountains of Arran long before reaching the ferry at Ardrossan on the Clyde Estuary and the peak of Goatfell was in well in view before we sniffed the tang of the sea air. .
When you come to buy your ticket you realise just how extensive the network of ferries is. There are many routes to choose from. The MacBraynes ferry for the
55 minute crossing of the Clyde is a large one. It is like being on a cross-channel ships to France and you could have a meal on board before going out on deck to watch the approach into Brodick Bay.
On Arran you can go round the island on the A841 road. Travelling to the south you find peaceful sandy bays and palm trees growing close to the warm current of the Gulf Stream.
At Seal Shore next to the Kildonan Hotel, we stayed at a campsite with a view of the islands of Pladda and Ailsa Craig . It is worth noting that he sea breeze keeps the midges at bay, so for that, and the view of the it is well worth using.
There are ancient 'standing stones on Machrie Moor. To reach these you follow the road round the west side of the island. This becomes single track in and you drive through wilder country. On one side you have purple heather and on the other, across the Kilbrannan Sound, the “Mull of Kintyre,” made famous in Paul McCartneys 1977 hit single.
(From there, you can see on a clear day, the northern tip of Ireland.)
If you decide to visit the Standing Stones at Machrie Moor be sure to wear a pair of boots. The trek across moor can be a bit squelchy under foot. The stone circles date from and the Bronze Age and the whole moorland is rich in the remains of early man, from hut circles to chambered cairns to solitary standing stones.
The narrow road continues with passing places that give you the chance to pause and appreciate the scenery before the exchange of friendly waves with oncoming drivers.
Back at the town of Brodick you can stock up at the supermarket and perhaps have a picnic at one of the tables in the park by the sandy beach.
When we were there a tall four mast sailing ship anchored in bay. It was all rather "Picture Perfect" and as we took the campervan to north through the village of Corrie we found a bridal group posing with the River Clyde sparkling in the background. Moments later we went inland and rode up into dramatic, rain lashed, mountain scenery.
Through Glen Chalmadale we went with peak of Goatfell above us obscured in the clouds. Then it was down towards Lochranza and the ferry for the 30 minute crossing to Cloanig in Kintyre. This smaller car ferry shuttles back and forth across the Kilbranan Sound and from up on deck we spotted Skipness Castle on the shoreline. It lies on a side road 2 miles from Claonaig and it proved to be well worth the short detour.
There were just a few little houses. One of them had a little shop, that also served as a post office it sold not only stamps but coffee. We we took ours with scones
out to enjoy a table on the beach. There was a touch of style to this, no polystyrene cups, but real china!
A couple who joined us who were tackling the last stage of the long-distance walk along called the “Kintyre Way.” This is a trail that covers a hundred miles from Machrithanich to Tarbet. Full of admiration for them we drove back along the coast in the comfort of the campervan and stopped for the night just off the road with a five star view of the west of Arran.
Wild flowers flourished, purple ones like fox gloves and yellow ones like orchids. Amid these I tried to fly a kite but scarcely did I have it airborne when I was called for a dinner and a glass of cava. It would have all made for a very pleasant end to the day but alas although we eat well, later the midges eat even better. A mist of the little beasties descended on us and bit us everywhere. We had stupidly forgot to cover ourselves with Deet or use other precautions.
In the morning the sun shone strongly and we were itching to be off. We took the road to Tarbert, on the shores of Loch Fyne and travelled with much ooh and ahhs as the stunning scenery unfolded. Each summit and turn of the road seemed to reveal a photo opportunity.
Tarbert harbour was packed with is colourful boats and a visit to their impressive Tourist Information Centre provided us with leaflets about local attractions and the fact that the Waverly paddle streamer calls in on Wednesday. Alas it was a Thursday so we content ourselves with trip on the small car ferry to Portavadie on our way to the Cowal peninsula. Above the town of Tighnabruaich we stopped The Blue Lady for lunch at what must be one of the country’s best road side view points. A metal plate on a trig point cairn indicated the distances to the mountains and the cluster of islands below us in the “Kyles of Bute”
As we travelled on massive trees stretched up the hills and as we turned off in the direction of Glen Lean signs warned of forestry operations. There were some fairly big trucks but the single track road was good and with the well marked and frequent passing places so there were no problems.
Our trip was coming to an end as we reached Dunoon but before getting our last ferry from there we drove round the Cowal Peninsula and up the shores of Loch Striven. There the water is very deep, the road very narrow and the scenery (when you manage to find a place to stop, ) very beautiful.
We enjoyed it but an afternoon of relaxing in glorious sunshine could have been paid for with an evening of mosquito bites. We shut ourselves into the van and used the sprays and citronella candles to keep the little blighters at bay.
Don't be discouraged, just be prepared for the midges
Feature and pictures by Allan Rogers
The diverse scenery on the Island of Arran echos most of Scotland.
We explored it our campervan, The Blue Lady, and using the
Caledonian MacBrayne ferries went on to travel around
the Kintyre and the Cowal Peninsulas
Scotland in Miniature
The route took us through the Borders to the Clyde Coast.
At Ardrossan I used the ferry to Arran.
On the far side of the island there was another ferry over to the Kintyre Peninsula, then a drive up to Tarbert and then the ferry to Portavadie.
From there I followed the road that overlooks the beautiful 'Kyles of Bute' before tackling the single track road that leads through the forests of Cowal towards Dunoon where I boarded a final ferry to sail back across the Clyde Estuary.
Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.
CHECK OUT THE MIDGE PROBLEM
Cruising with the Blue Lady