Up at 7 am to catch the 9.45 am ferry to the wonderful Island of Arran.If there is a more scenic and serene time of year in Scotland than late April/early may I`ve yet to see it.For a start its normally settled, warm and sunny countrywide a rare novelty highlighted by a positive explosion of colour everywhere.
Pink and white cherry blossom in full bloom,yellow gorse covering the hillsides,fresh leaves spurting open in every shade of green,sharp and clean.No midge or munching insects yet.As near to heaven as the UK gets.
One of the prettiest islands in spring is Arran so I was determined not to miss this very short season during the 3 brief weeks of cherry blossom time.We are so lucky in the central belt to live so close to the Firth of Clyde islands.A truly magical archipelago and a fairly cheap day out.Car to nearby Ardrossan £2 quid parking fee in ferry compound.Ferry return with bike£10.Sorted. Nirvana for £12 quid.
Set off round the island in tropical sunshine along with assorted fellow cyclists, most of whom soon left me behind.Some folks like to bomb round the entire island, head down with as few stops as possible.Usually a necessity if you want to get round the 60 miles approx in time for the last ferry.I prefer a more sedate approach,stopping off to explore points of interest or for a photo.Even then, doing only half the island you still don't get much time in each village if you want to catch the last boat home.There are buses round both sides of the island but I like the freedom a bike gives.Hard work though as even the coastal road can be hilly in places.
First village reached 9 kms in was Corrie.As you can see its an ugly wee place.Stunning views of the famous ridge,a nice little harbour,a river inlet area as well.....
Whitewashed village street with palm trees and "Tame" resident seal on a rock.....
Most of the villages of Arran are small,some only a shop and a scattering of mixed houses but all are beautiful,unique and special in their own way placed evenly around the coastal road like jewels on a necklace.
Just as well as a big climb was next between Sannox and Lochranza.The occasional steep hill doesn't bother me.If its too bad I don't mind walking.It gives the bum a rest.
Lochranza has a ruined castle sitting in its tidal bay.Its also where the ferry arrives and departs for Claonaig on the Kintyre peninsula .A lovely place with a local distillery,campsite, golf course ,quiet walks on the headland and small shops.Golf is a very popular sport on Arran with many of the villages home to full or half sized courses.
Might have to putt around the wildlife though on the greens. Catacol came next.A purpose built neat row of houses for folk cleared off estate grounds and placed here beside the sea to try fishing instead.As I soon found out though this western coastal strip is very exposed to storms and even on a nice day like this was hard going pedaling into a very strong headwind.Lovely location though as your kids bellies rumbled with a wave tossed sea view and boats tied up useless on the beach.Most of the people these cottages were meant for went elsewhere to other parts of the island.A lovely little village today though.
Although this is normally my favourite section,quiet with less traffic I didnt enjoy it as much today as it seemed to take fovever, head down legs pumping moving at a snails pace against the wind.Set back Pirnmill and Whitefarland passed in slow motion ,flapping sheets hung out in gardens with loads of extra pegs.A good drying day methinks!
Turning inland finally with a sigh of relief the infamous String road beckoned.The toughest climb on the island.
Oh goodie! After a token on the bike fight I gave up and walked to the top,legs like jelly.
After some jam tarts,limeade and a check of the brakes I was ready for the monster descent into Brodick.
Got the last ferry back at 7.30pm.Home for 9.00pm.Self made chips,peas and chops by 10.00pm.
A tough but good day.
I remember years ago at the pub in Catacol some American tourists came in driving expensive classic touring cars,dripping money and obviously used to the best hotels around the world.One asked if the bar did a range of seafood platters.
The busy barman quick as a flash took down two packets of scampi fries(flavoured chips) from the snacks box and put them on plates.
Although the woman was not particularily amused everyone else including her friends appreciated the style as it was done with a gentle humour.They all settled for a pretty decent cod and chips.Our crowd had bridie,beans and chips,a much loved filling staple that seems to have been dropped from most menus.Not enough profit I suppose.
Happy times though.