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:
From the ferry: Holy Isle (middle of photo) with the Isle of Arran behind. On the left you can just see Ailsa Craig on the horizon. July 2016.
The crossing takes an hour. We watched the other ferry coming back towards Ardrossan:
To starboard, the ferry heading back to the mainland from Arran.
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:
Coming down the road into Lamlash, with Holy Isle off in the distance.
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:
The first ferry to Holy Isle that day had left at “11-ish”.
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.
The “Sallyforth” – the ferry that runs the 10-minute journey between Lamlash and Holy Isle.
My friend took a photo of me on the 10-minute crossing:
On the ferry to Holy Isle.
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:
Live willow fence with roses at the organic garden on Holy Isle, Isle of Arran. July 2016. The yellow flowers in the foreground (candlestick primroses?) had a beautiful scent.
We sat on a beautiful bench to eat, and were joined by a lovely young bird:
Young bird (a wren?) who kept us company while we ate our lunch.
We reluctantly left in order to walk to the cave. I liked this sign: “Go with Fair Winds & a Following Tide”.
Lovely sign as you leave the garden.
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:
Wild Eriskay ponies, just beyond the cafe on Holy Island. Visitors are warned not to approach them!
A bit further along, there were the sheep:
Soay sheep, natives of St. Kilda, roam wild on Holy Isle.
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:
St. Molaise’s cave, Holy Isle, Isle of Arran. July 2016.
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.
Pretty illustrated boards about St. Molaise and his life. Holy Isle, Isle of Arran.
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.
Looking back towards St. Molaise’s cave.
On the way back, we encountered a mama sheep with her lamb. They trotted off and went through the bracken to join the others:
Soay sheep: mama and youngster on our way back. Holy Isle, Isle of Arran.
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.
Heading back to the cafe, the ponies were still there. The grove of trees on the right were planted to commemorate the children killed in Dunblane in 1996. You can see the eight white Buddhist “stuppas” beyond, near where the boat comes in.
From the door, we could see that the sheep had wandered back along the shore with us:
The Soay sheep seem to have come back with us.
We enjoyed our tea, and perusing the things in shop. They had beautiful Tibetan bowl chimes for sale, amongst other interesting items.
View from the cafe / gift shop window towards Lamlash.
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.
Leaving Holy Isle. The long building is the interfaith retreat centre. The cafe and gift shop is along the shore on the right, near the clearing.
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:
We had tea and beautiful cakes in this garden in Lamlash. The owner was doing an afternoon fundraiser for a local charity – and we ran into friends from Glasgow!
Full and happy, we set off to walk the three (at least) miles back to Brodick.
Nasturtiums and different kinds of ferns growing out of a wall in Lamlash.
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.
Walking back to Brodick through the “fairy glen”.
The path brought us out along the top of the village, overlooking the bay:
Sauntering back down through Brodick, Isle of Arran.
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!
Fish and chips on the ferry! (Half a portion.)
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!