Tag Archive: arran

WP_20150902_16_19_41_ProSo, we are on Arran in the final ‘leg’ of our Hebridean ‘hop’. We decided to visit Brodick Castle, a Scottish National Trust property that overlooks the town and bay of the island’s main setlement.

Brodick is a commercial centre and its good ferry connections to the mainland result in it being a hive of retail and other activity; quite a contrast to the rest of the island and indeed the other parts of our trip- though I suppose it does have some similarities to Oban.

The Scottish N.T. website captures the essence of the Castle:

‘The quintessential Victorian ‘Highland’ estate… Dramatically set against the backdrop of Goatfell mountain, the grand red sandstone Scottish baronial-style castle has stunning views over Brodick Bay to the Firth of Clyde..the W A Nesfield-influenced landscaped gardens … provide an unrivalled experience, from the formal walled garden to the woodland walks. Brodick holds three national collections of rhododendron that flower in almost every month of the year…’

The house was interesting, and boasts many royal connections throughout it’s (and it’s predecessor castles’) history. Today’s Brodick Castle is largely the result of a large-scale expansion of the earlier castle undertaken in the years after 1844. Until this time, the resident family- the Hamiltons- had focused their attentions on their estates on mainland Scotland and especially on Hamilton Palace. But a number of factors came together which made the conversion of Brodick Castle into a grand stately home a viable and desirable option.

Very Baronial...

Very Baronial…

But it was the gardens I came to see, and they didn’t disappoint. The walled garden dates back to at least 1710 (according to a date in the enclosing wall). Further work was undertaken from 1814, but most of today’s gardens date back to the elevation of the castle to a stately home in 1844. The gardens were subsequently a passion of the Hamiltons and especially of the Duchess of Montrose in the years from 1895. Like the Castle, its gardens offer a glimpse into another world and another time. I especailly loved some of the subtle planting combinations in the walled garden…

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Undiscovered Scotland describes the wider park:

‘In the surrounding country park, visitors can follow waymarked routes that extend for a half mile or a mile, or simply find their own way around. For some it is the plants themselves that will form the highlight of the tour. Others will enjoy the ice house under its heavy turf roof….’  


The park  provides an interesting route, gently following the hillside towards the sea. There were some delightful ‘cloth art’ installations en route, and it was noticeable that felling and shrub lopping were underway- I guess many of the specimens planted over a hundred years ago are now getting a little too big and drastic action is needed; but replanting is also underway…

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Towards the bottom of the park, nearest the sea, lies the Bavarian summer house; an amazing concoction of natural materials. As Undiscovered Scotland says:

‘A real oddity is offered by the Bavarian Summer House. This has an outer surface imitating tree roots; and the interior is largely lined with pine cones. The end result is impressive, but in a way that is more spooky than simply pleasant, bringing to mind the story of the gingerbread house, or even the more recent fable of the Blair Witch Project.’

Old School Gardener

Sunset at Blackwaterfoot, Arran

Sunset at Blackwaterfoot, Arran

We had driven down the Mull of Kintyre to our next ferry crossing -from Claonaig to Lochranza on the Isle of Arran- famed for being ‘all of Scotland in miniature’.

Whilst waiting on the quayside a group of motorcyclists drew up; a rather unusual group too. Astride their ageing 50cc mopeds (the men were also veteran) this happy band come together every year from around Scotland and northern England to share their love of machines and wend their way, gently, around Britain’s roads. This year’s ‘Tiddlers’ Tootle’ was around much of Scotland and it was great talking to them about their trip and their interests.

Our journey was again smooth and having landed at Lochranza we made our way along (slightly wider than Mull’s) roads to our stop for the next three nights- a hotel in Blackwaterfoot in the south west of the island. I won’t bore you with the details of this; suffice to say it was a comfortable (after we managed to get an over heating towel rail switched off) and lovely setting overlooking the firth of Clyde towards Campbeltown on Kintyre.

We had three major outings whilst here and I’ll post about one of these- Brodick Castle – separately, as it had an interesting garden worthy of extended coverage.

The impressive cliffs on our 'Cave Walk'

The impresive cliffs on our ‘Cave Walk’

Our other two trips out commenced with a walk along the impressive coastline near to the hotel where we passed some fun mini cairns on the beach, I guess made by fellow walkers; we couldn’t resist piling up some stones of our own and trying to see how precarious a balancing act we could create…

Our main objective, however, was to get to the caves a bit further north and in particular the ‘King’s Cave’- where legend has it that Scotland’s King Robert the Bruce sat in contemplation before fighting (and defeating) the English at Bannockburn in 1314- yes the cave where he watched a spider repeatedly tumbling to the floor, only to keep getting up and trying to forma web. the story that supposedly inspired the King to ‘try again’ and eventually win out over his enemy. I think this is in fact a rather more modern myth created to boost tourism about a century ago, but never mind, it makes for a good walk and an amusing tale!

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The final trip out involved a walk from around Lamlash Bay through woods and along cliff tops to an area called Clauchlands where once an Iron Age fort stood overlooking the bay. This has impressive views of the ferry route from Brodick to Ardrossan and Holy Isle (yes another one). In fact we watched the ferries crossing that morning only to discover the following day that it was the ferry we had been booked on (in error)! Fortunately we arrived at Brodick ferry port early enough to grab a spare place on the ferry we thought we had booked! Apart from its beauty, Lamlash Bay is interesting as Scotland’s first ‘no take’ zone- where any fishing is banned in order to help replenish marine life. As the very interesting ‘COAST’ website says:

‘The Scottish NTZ is approximately a one square mile area at the north end of Lamlash Bay on the isle of Arran set up to protect Maerl beds and to promote natural regeneration of all marine life.  Following 13 years of campaigning by COAST, it was designated by the Scottish Government on 20 September 2008.  

In 2013, COAST and the community of Arran and the Clyde celebrated five years of the NTZ being in place.  Surveys taken show that after five years, the seabed is now 40 per cent more complex and healthier than the area outside the NTZ.  There are higher densities of scallops, crabs and lobsters, both older and larger, being recorded and increased numbers of juvenile cod and haddock…’

Arran is certainly beautiful. It is less remote than Mull, and we saw several day or weekend coach groups (probably from Glasgow) taking in the scenery. The roads tend to be wider too and it’s better accessibility may result in a greater level of second or holiday homes and perhaps less sense of settled community, but I may be wrong.

WP_20150902_20_03_18_ProOld School Gardener




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