Scotland’s Arran Isle Trek Day 4: Imachar to Blackwaterfoot

My second night in the hostel wasn’t quite as bad, the latest I heard someone come in was about 12AM.  After a good night’s rest I was wishing it wasn’t Sunday as the bus didn’t come till 11:38AM to take me back to Imachar.    However this did allow for a leisurely breakfast, a stroll to the castle, sheep gazing, and time to finish up a blog.

DSC09843.JPGI enjoyed walking through the old castle, all ruins at this point, and not huge, but still  something that you wouldn’t find at home on a hiking adventure.

DSC09831.JPGThe bus finally came and I was off.  I had the driver drop me in the next town past Imachar since I had almost made it there the day before.  This next “town” consisted of one grand home that I think may have been a B&B, and a fishing equipment house of some sort.  No bus stop stand.  Apparently you must be local to know where the bus stops are located.  The first half of the trail that day was all on the road that hugged up next to the sea.  I passed many sheep, cows, and of course a golf course and the golf course’ tea house and restaurant.  About one mile further I reached the first main sight of the day… Machrie Moore, where the famous Standing stones of Arran stand, used for some sort of ceremony many moons ago.

DSC09908.JPG

This was a special place, with beautiful hills and mountains as the back drop.  The place also had several burial mounds and other stone circles.  I spent longer at this site than I thought I would, there was just something about it.

Eventually I headed back down to the road and the sea, on the way down the wind picked up and the rain started.  I quickly put on my rain gear and about 5 minutes after the rain gear went on the rain stopped.  Rather warm, but not wanting to change again, I hiked on reaching the road and continued along it until I reached the trail to the King’s cave, the second site I was looking forward to seeing that day.  The trail was a 3 mile circular route if you didn’t want to continue on the beach to Blackwaterfoot.  At this point I was too hot, so changed out of the rain gear, of course 5 minutes later the winds picked up again and the rain began again!  Lucky me.  This time I was under the trees and waited it out instead of making another clothing change.

DSC09926.JPGSoon the rain let up and on I trekked.  The trail and the view were beautiful.  Soon the sun came out making it that much more stunning.

 

DSC09939Eventually I reached the Kings caves.  The largest of the caves had a metal gate in front of it that is locked during the winter months, but open during the summer months.  The size of the main cave was rather impressive and there was old writing and drawings on the wall as well as some new.  I didn’t spend too much time in the big cave as the large metal door that could be closed on me freaked me out a bit.

After the caves the final stretch of the day was upon me.  Most of the rest of the walk was on the beach heading towards some impressive cliffsDSC09970.JPGAnd of course just beyond the cliffs the trail joined a golf course.  I felt a bit akward walking through a golf course with all my trekking gear.  Luckily I received mostly smiles from the golfers, a few odd looks as well, but better than being chased off the green. 🙂

DSC09982And the final stretch into Blackwater was on the sandy part of it’s beach.  Not too many pure sandy beaches on this Isle…  The B&B I stayed at was just up from the beach next to a small loch, called Loch Side B&B.  It was a lovely and peaceful place to stay, but about a ten minute walk from the town of Blackwaterfoot.  I had dinner at the main hotel in Blackwater, fantastic lasagne, and maybe a glass of wine or two!

DSC09986

Up next Blackwater to Lagg & Kilmory bunkhouse

Until next time,

Keep on trekking!

 

Scotland’s Arran Isle Trek Day 3: Lochranza to Imachar

Staying in hostels never ensures a great nights sleep, however I was not in a big city with bars or night clubs.  I was in Lochranza where reindeer and sheep roam the streets, where only one restaurant with a bar that closes by 10PM exists.  I thought I was okay to assume this was an early to bed type of town.  For the 30 or so people that actually live In Lochranza, this was probably an accurate assumption, however for the 30-40 hostel sleepers, not so much.  I have no idea what my bunk mates were doing till 2:30AM – Frolicking with the local sheep? – Dancing with the deer?  Finding magic mushrooms in the woods?  Who knows, but in walked roommates from 12AM on, the loud squeaky door and lights from phones waking everyone up.  The last pair waltzed in at 2:30AM, unbelievable!  Let’s just say I had no problem making noise when I woke up early to go trekking! :).  If you can get your own room at the hotel, I recommend it!

Despite the less than desirable hostel experience I was still looking forward to my day and visiting the local sandwich shop that came highly recommended by the owner of the Corrie Hotel.

I scored two half sandwiches, the humus red pepper and wild garlic sandwich and the smoked salmon sandwich, each looked like full sandwiches for a total of 4 pounds, not bad!  I was now set for the day, off I went to find the start of the days trek, which was a bit confusing.  If it weren’t for the directions I printed off from http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk, I would have been lost many times on this adventure.  There are signs, but not nearly enough.  The route didn’t follow the road, but went way up above it into the trees and tall ferns.  Looking back as I hiked higher presented rewarding views of Lochranza and it’s castle.

DSC09763.JPG

The climb continued, a nice path turning muddy and uneven, as well as more and more narrow through tall ferns and eventually through a sideways forest, at least it felt that way…

DSC09771.JPG

As I eventually made it out of the angled forest  and could once again see where I was going, the end of this thin muddy trail in sight, I breathed a sigh of relief.  I tend to prefer the wider trails with better footing, without mud and branches and bushes clinging to my clothes along the way.  Seeing houses below re-assured me that better footing wasn’t far away.  As I came to the end of the ferns and started the steep descent, I took in the incredible views that were all around me, not just the water views but the mountains that reminded me of the highlands.

Down I marched to the 12 apostle cottages.  Next door to these cottages is a restaurant where I head a rest and a coffee.DSC09793.JPG

After my relaxing coffee I was on my way again, this time the trail stayed on the main road for a long time, finally coming to the next town called Pirnhill.  Just before I arrived, I decided it was time for the first half of my large sandwich and decided the rocky beach would be the place.  As I sat down facing the water with bushes behind me, I heard some rustling and all of the sudden a large brown duck came flying out of the bushes, freaked me out!  I guess we both freaked each other out, I felt bad that I had interrupted it’s sleep and hiding place.

The sandwich didn’t disappoint, and neither did the show that was taking place in front of me.  The gannets were out and so was Mr. seal.  The gannets were showing off their mad skills flying up and then pummeling down into the sea to come up with fish, one after another diving into the sea.  Mr. seal stole the show though, no he’s not so much a fury friend, but a slick one.  That curious and clever seal spotted me at the same time I spotted it.  He was checking out the gannets, hoping to catch a dropped fish, when we made eye contact.  After our quick connection, he dove under the water and a few seconds later he was almost on the shore popping his head up and staring at me with his big brown, beyond puppy dog eyes.   He went back under and within 10 seconds he popped his head up again making eye contact with me, back under he went and again within 10 seconds he popped up and stared at me.  I was in love and ready to scoop him up and take him home or at least get a photo, but as quickly as he had appeared he was gone.  Our special moment forever locked in my memory banks and heart.   I wish I could share him with you with a photo, but apparently that moment was for my eyes only 🙂  Of course later I realized that the seal was just looking to see if I had fish for him, but still a special moment.

After lunch I had about one more hours walk to catch the bus to take me back to Lochranza.   The town I was walking to was only a two house town, one house lived in by humans, and the other by peacocks.  Yes, it’s an interesting Isle, an Isle that really must be experienced in person!  I was well ahead of time to catch the next bus, so after lunch I stopped in Pirnhill’s tiny grocery store, and then into the Lighthouse restaurant for some tea.

DSC09809.JPG

After a nice rest, I hiked on along the road to the the bus stop at Imachar.   At the time I had no clue that Imachar was only a two house town, nor that it didn’t have an actual bus stop sign or a town sign.  Needless to say, I marched right by those peacocks and two houses and half way to the next town.  Looking at my watch, I knew something was wrong, the bus was coming in 15 minutes and there was no town in site, a bit panicked I began to run, yep, full pack and all.  After about 5 minutes of running I started thinking more clearly and flagged down some bikers, as if they could help me.  They were nice, but of course had no clue where the town was, soon a bus was in view, but heading towards me in the opposite direction I wanted, I flagged him down anyways.  When you are on a small Isle, busses stop.  He let me know the next bus was coming, but late and that I indeed had passed the bus stop a while back.  Back I went towards Imachar, but the bus was coming before I could get there, so I flagged down my third vehicle of the day and hoppped on.  Luckily the people of Arran are happy and willing to help.  What a day, gannets, a precious seal and friendly busses, not sure it gets any better than that!

Next up, Imachar to Blackwaterfoot…

Until next time, keep on trekking!

 

 

 

 

Scotland’s Arran Isle Trek Day 2: Corrie to Lochranza

The unthinkable happened this morning, I over slept, untill 10:15AM!  Normally I am an early riser when trekking, so I was not pleased.  Of course I was a bit jet lagged, so had an excuse, but still.  I even missed my Scotish breakfast that comes with the room and the chance to chat with others who might be hiking or biking the island – part of the fun.  At least the dog hadn’t left and the wonderful owner offered to get me some toast and coffee as he knew I had a long walk and needed some fuel.  I loaded up on caffeine and bars I had brought from home, gave the dog a few pets and was off.   On the way to Sannox, the next town, I walked passed many cute Scotish cottages that overlooked the water.

DSC09589

I continued past Sannox, a place where I couldn’t find accomodations, which is why I stayed in Corrie.  The path left the road and headed towards a waterway, in which walking stones had been placed so hikers could pass.  When I arrived the stones were underwater, apparentally a rare occurrence.  My trail running shoes and socks came off as I prefer to hike in dry shoes.

DSC09600.JPG

Once across, the trail lead to a white sandy beach, and an amazing view when looking behind me, something I always try to remember to do.

 

 

I continued along the nice dirt path entering into some woods and soon reached the blue rock-cliff.  I thought they also had a pink tinge to them.DSC09614.JPG

Soon the trail led past a park and thought a gate to a wide try that eventually narrowed and became quite bushy and at times the ferns were almost as tall as me.  Wearing shorts through this section wouldn’t have been the best experience.  I was glad I had my long pants and long sleeved shirt on.

DSC09644.JPG

On I trekked past the white cabin and soon the trail became extremely rocky and in places a bit of scrambling over boulders was needed.   The coastline was beautiful, many different colors…

DSC09667.JPG

Rounding the next bend Lochranza came into sight, a beautiful town with a castle, whiskey distillery, the isle’s only hostel, the best sandwich shop across the street from the ferry on the Isle, and a town with deers and sheep roaming their streets and their golf course.

DSC09712

DSC09736

Up next Lochranza to Imachar.

Until then,

Keep on trekking!

 

 

 

Scotland’s Arran Isle Trek Day 1: Brodick to Corrie via Goatfell

My day started with a tasty Scotish breakfast served by the same gal that knew me by name upon arrival and helped me with my final preparations for my 7-day trek.  I’m not sure she ever went home.  I definitely recommend Hunter’s guest house, great bed, breakfast, 5 minute walk from the ferry, 2 minute walk to the start of the trek, and phenomenal service.

DSC09505.JPG

The trail began just above the sandy beach next to the Co-op store and continued on to the bridge in the photo above, which takes you over a water-way and right onto a golf course – when you are in the land of the home of golf, expect them to be everywhere!   The  symbol of the journey as seen in the photo is quite fitting… the Gannet, its a bird you will see often as you walk along the beach.   Flying high above the water and then turning on a dime to pummel straight down into the sea, attempting to catch a meal.  They are quite the sight, especially when you see one after another after another performing their acrobatic dives.  Yellow Arran Coastal Way markers represent the main route and red Arran Coastal Way markers represent the alternative route.

My first day involved climbing up to Goatfell, the highest peak on the island, which boasts amazing views.  The day started out only partly cloudy, so I had high hopes of tremendous views.

DSC09507.JPG

I walked past the golf course, heading towards the Brodick castle, seen on the far right hand side of the photo above and Goatfell partially hidden by the clouds on the left hand side of the photo.  As I approached the base I came to the mile marker sign, 3.5 miles to the top of the mountain, up I climbed.   I found out that this is one of the more popular climbs on the isle, many people were hiking to the top that day.   I had one of the fellow hikers take this photo of me and the view around the half way mark, evidence that I was there.  Behind me is the town of Brodick where I started the trek.DSC09528.JPG

I continued the climb up, passing a bunch of college students in t-shirts and shorts, no backpacks, water or food.  I do not advise the lack of clothes or supplies.  It is very windy and gets quite cold at the top and you will be thirsty climbing up for 3.5 miles, but to each there own 🙂

The last bit of the climb was quite steep with a bit of scrambling through large stones, a decent level of fitness is recommended for this climb.

DSC09548

At the top it was quite foggy.  On clear days they say you can see all the way to Ireland, would have been nice to see that, but I still enjoyed the view I had…

The way down was quite steep and a bit wearing on the quads.  I was excited to reach the street and beach again especially since it is lined with benches to have a quick rest and snack…DSC09571.JPG

The rest of the hike was flat along the road, a nice change from the steep rocky decent.  I arrived to my place of stay, the Corrie Hotel.  It is located directly across the street from the water, with a beer garden on the grass just above the beach, a very pleasant place with a great vibe.

Eighties music played in the bar and once again I was reminded that dogs are just as welcome as humans here in Scotland…  another hotel that I highly recommend.

DSC09573.JPG

Up next Corrie to Lochranza

Until then keep on trekking!

 

Scotland Adventure 2017! Trek #1: Isle of Arran, 7-day coastal trek.

In case you are wondering how and why I decided to go trekking on an island most have never heard of, I will quickly explain.  This isle is known as being “Scotland in miniature” to me that meant the beauties of Scotland intensified, only taking 7-days, 109 kilometers, to see the highlights of Scotland – fantastic!  I also loved the idea of walking around an island with hills and mountains on one side and the water on the other- not sure it gets any better than that!

DSC09485.JPGI finally arrived to Arran Isle after two flights, one 3+ hour lay-over, one 15 minute bus ride, one 30 minute train ride and a 1-hour ferry ride!  Tired?  Yes!  Worth it? Ending my long day with the view above and dolphin sightings, you bet!  My route in case you were interested. . .  Seattle – Iceland – Glasgow – bus to Paisley Gilmour Street – train to Ardrossan – Ferry to Arran Isle – Brodick.

Off the ferry it was about a 5 minute walk to my B&B (Hunter’s Guest House), situated directly across the street from the water.   As I walked to the door, I was greeted by name by the owner.   Apparently I was the last to arrive, the only explanation for her knowing my name.   The service at this B&B was fantastic.  The owner made sure I was fully ready for my 7-day trek, showing me her display of books and pamphlets on the walk as well as bus schedules just in case.  She even helped me to set up the last of my accomodations for the trek.  After a shower I was off to the grocery store to purchase my lunch for the next day.

DSC09495.JPG

On my way to the co-op I noticed a great dinner spot called The Fiddler, with live music.  If only I had been hungry, too many snacks throughout the day 😦

After my short outing, I was ready for bed.   I had managed to stay up till 9PM.  The days are long here on the island, not sure it ever got dark, at least I didn’t find out, as as soon as my head hit the pillow I was out, with dreams of adventure dancing around in my head. . .

Next up Day 1 of Arran Isle Trek:  Brodick to Corrie via Goatfell

Until then. . . Keep on Trekking!