It starts with: “Hey Amanda, do you want to come cycling on Arran next weekend”, and Amanda replying with, “Yes!” At this point Amanda, (my Chilean flatmate, who’s only been in the UK for 6 months), has no idea where Arran is, but has agreed to come along anyway. Cue much excitement when she discovers that it is the Isle of Arran and we have to get a ferry. I’m excited too, I love ferry adventures.
Arran is a small island not far from the Sottish mainland. It sits neatly tucked between the Ayrshire coast and Campbletown. On clear days you can see Northern Ireland. I had pictured Arran as being flat to cycle round on the coast road, but I hadn’t account for the dips and troughs. Arran is Scotland in miniature, from Glasgow it is a day trip, but you could also spend a week there. It seemed like the perfect introduction to Scotland for Amanda.
We considered camping, but I am very glad we canned that idea, as there was torrential rain and 40mph winds overnight. Weather played a major part in our three day excursion. Originally we were going to cycle the String road hill climb and use a long route on the first day, but rain was forecast – and what rain it was! We arrived into Glasgow at 8am and it was raining, so we needed to don full waterproofs to cycle the 7 minutes between train stations. We got off the ferry at Brodick on Arran in a torrential downpour. It then dried up to merely steady rain until we cycled down the last hill to Lochranza with rain bouncing off the road and stinging our faces.
Lochranza is a traditional youth hostel (although modernised), in a white-washed building. I can thoroughly recommend the drying room. We arrived around lunch time, peeled off our wet things, wrung the water out and hung them up to dry. Later the weather dried up a little so we ventured out on a walk along the shore and explored Lochranza Castle, until the heavens opened again and it was back to the drying room.
The weather forecast for the next day suggested the morning would be drier, so we opted for the 7am bus to Brodick, getting off at the start of the tourist trail (i.e. the easy way) up Goatfell. The track passed clumps of purple heather before we became shrouded by mist. By 10am we were at the top of Goatfell and feeling rather accomplished (we also ate lunch at this point). There was thick cloud and we thought we wouldn’t get a view, but we were in luck and we got a brief window in the cloud for a view out over the sea. We were the first people to the top so we had it to ourselves for 15 minutes until the next people arrived. On the way back down we kept being asked if we had actually been all the way to the top! It is rather eerie to scramble through stone boulders hoping not to lose sight of the path. If you believe in fairies and giants this would set your imagination running.
Rather than getting the bus straight back to Lochranza the way we had come, we chose to get the bus in the other direction and circumnavigate the island. It was raining, so my top tip for trips to the Isle of Arran is take your waterproofs. Although having said that, when we tell our story, plenty of people have told us about the glorious sunny weather they had on Arran.
On our final day, we decided to attempt the String road to cycle back to the ferry terminal. If you ever need motivation for a long hill climb on a bike, make sure your muscles are sore from hill walking the previous day, it is a great incentive to not get off and push! We had a few breaks, but up that hill we did cycle. We also visited the standing stones at Machrie Moor, which were pretty impressive. There was much more to the site than I had been expecting. Ancient stones jutting out of the landscape. More irregular than the Callanish stones, less impressive than the ring of Brodgar. All wild and ancient. We also saw a cool post box, so it was worth the long uphill cycle. Once at the top, we were very sweaty (of course), but treated to some great views over the island and, as for a change, it wasn’t raining. From the high point of the String road you can more or less free wheel all the way back to Brodick.
Then it was back on the ferry, a train ride home and some very sore muscles for the next few days.
Written by Fiona Love: “I am Fiona, I like to do ordinary adventures, often with my ordinary bike and whichever of my friends is too slow to think of an excuse to say no. My bike gets tired after 40 miles, and requires regular snack breaks. I am based in Edinburgh and I don’t drive, so public transport is my friend. I’m scared of heights, ostriches and the dark. I blog about my adventures here and I post on my Instagram here. Say hi if you want to come along on a trip.”