I had another fantastic adventure last weekend! Regular readers might recall that two years ago our family had a marvellous holiday on the Isle of Arran. This past winter a friend of mine happened to mention that it’s possible to go from Glasgow to Arran just for the day. I was very surprised by this, and we began planning a trip. When the day came, the weather forecast included lots of blue and purple heavy rain passing over the West coast. I was prepared to be soaked, but very happy to be going no matter what the weather.
We drove to Ardrossan (about an hour), and took the 11:00 ferry across. There were so many foot passengers that we had to wait a while until they were able to ensure there were enough spaces for all who wanted to go on that sailing. We’d decided to head for the small island called Holy Isle, just off the coast of Arran. You can see it in the photo below:
The crossing takes an hour. We watched the other ferry coming back towards Ardrossan:
We arrived in Brodick about noon, and walked three miles to the village of Lamlash. Coming down the hill into the village, Holy Isle came squarely into view:
We walked down to the pier, where the ferry crew told us that the next ferry was at “2-ish”. “All the ferry times are ‘-ish'” they told us:
We were very amused when the ferry, the ‘Sallyforth,’ made an appearance at about 2:15. Just as well the heavy rains hadn’t appeared! Only the pilot gets to be under cover.
My friend took a photo of me on the 10-minute crossing:
Holy Isle is owned by a Buddhist organisation, but they welcome visitors. We were met by a guide, who told us that we weren’t allowed into the interfaith centre, as there was a retreat going on, but we were welcome to go into the organic garden. We had an hour and a half, so not time to take the path over the top of the hill, but time enough to walk down the shore to St. Molaise’s cave.
But first – lunch! We were very hungry. The garden was bounded by a lovely hedge of live willow:
We sat on a beautiful bench to eat, and were joined by a lovely young bird:
We reluctantly left in order to walk to the cave. I liked this sign: “Go with Fair Winds & a Following Tide”.
We had read about the Eriskay ponies and Soay sheep that roam wild on Holy Isle, but I was surprised to find them right there on the shore as we set out:
A bit further along, there were the sheep:
They are very small, and awfully cute! After about 20 minutes of walking along the foreshore, we had reached St. Molaise’s cave. It isn’t a deep cave, but well sheltered. You can see the wild honeysuckle clambering down from above, and the steps leading onto the floor of the cave:
According to the beautiful plaques, St. Molaise was an early Christian saint who lived between 566 and about 640. It seems that Holy Isle already, before he arrived to live in the cave for a time, was known as a holy place.
Had we had more time, we would have liked to have walked on to the holy well. But the last ferry of the day left at 4, and we had to turn back.
On the way back, we encountered a mama sheep with her lamb. They trotted off and went through the bracken to join the others:
The ponies were still where we had left them. We went into the cafe and gift shop, where the guide met us again. She had radioed our return to the ferryman, and said the “4-ish” ferry was just setting off from Lamlash, so we had plenty of time.
From the door, we could see that the sheep had wandered back along the shore with us:
We enjoyed our tea, and perusing the things in shop. They had beautiful Tibetan bowl chimes for sale, amongst other interesting items.
We walked down to the ferry, and were soon on our way back. The ferryman told us we’d been very lucky to see the ponies and the sheep. Apparently they aren’t always so readily available for tourists. He said they roam freely over the entire island, and often are on the other side, which is a wildlife reserve and off limits to visitors. So we were really fortunate! Starting with the little bird in the garden, the animals had all been so tame that I’d said to my friend that being there felt a bit like walking into a Disney movie.
We arrived back in Lamlash about 4:30. Earlier that day, we had passed a house with a sign in the window advertising charity teas that afternoon between 2 and 5. We appeared at about 4:45, and were welcomed warmly – there were plenty of cakes left! (And we immediately ran into friends from Glasgow as well.) We were waved down to the table at the end of the garden, and had our tea looking back at Holy Isle:
Full and happy, we set off to walk the three (at least) miles back to Brodick.
On the way back we followed a path that took us through the aptly named “Fairy Glen”. There was a fine rain on, which was quite refreshing to us at this point.
The path brought us out along the top of the village, overlooking the bay:
We arrived at the ferry terminal thinking we had plenty of time before the ferry. To our surprise and relief, we’d got the ferry time wrong but the last ferry to leave the island that day was due in five minutes. Twenty minutes later and we were headed back across to Ardrossan. We shared a plate of fish and chips. Below is half of a full portion, so you can see Cal Mac doesn’t stint on helpings!
My friend very kindly took me all the way home in the car, and I was back by 9:30. I reckoned we walked about 9 miles in all, but I wasn’t too sore. And I never did need the change of clothes I had carefully packed in my rucksack.
It was a great day!