Day 9 – Glasgow to the Isle of Arran and In-between

Breakfast at The Victorian was predictably bad, including the fact that you had to pay if you wanted coffee or a cappuccino (from a machine, no less). We got out of that nasty hotel as quickly as possible. I can thoroughly recommend that you shouldn’t even consider booking a room there!

We were headed to the Isle of Arran, off the south-west coast of Scotland, and needed to catch an early ferry. Our taxi driver from the hotel to the train station was the first amusement of the day; it is really a unique experience to listen to a combined South Asian/Scottish accent.

We bought our tickets for the train, and discovered that Scotland (well, the UK in general) is definitely not like Switzerland’s tighly-run trains. A bit before we were about to board, an announcement stated that the train had broken down, and that they were providing a bus instead to get passengers to the small town outside of Glasgow where the ferry is (it was a direct train ride). We went outside immediately, afraid to miss the bus, and it was a good thing we did. The bus stood there long enough to board those folks standing outside, and zoomed out of the city.

The train authorities must have called ahead to the ferry line, because they actually had to hold it for all of us on the bus. We already had our ferry tickets, but we wanted to stow our big suitcase, and just take the tiny duffle with us. Normally the ferry only stows things for one day, but told them they would do it for us for a few pounds. I was a mite worried that we might never see our bag again, but we were told to RUN for the ferry, as they had just finished selling the last of the tickets, and were about to lift the gangplank.

This ferry doesn’t have any assigned seats, and it takes a bit under an hour to get to the Isle of Arran. There are seats all over the decks, and inside there’s a restaurant, bar, and lounges. It was very cold and windy on deck, so we found cozy seats inside on the top deck, packed with families and couples (Arran is a prime vacation spot for locals). Heath and I both get seasick, and we were a bit concerned about the trip, but the ferry is a very large ship, and the ride was so smooth that Heath (who was sitting on an interior bench with his head down) didn’t even realize we were moving for about 10 minutes.

As we got closer to the island, I braved going outside, and took a few pictures. It wasn’t what I expected – I don’t know why I thought the island would be flat instead of mountainous. And it was far beautiful that I could have imagined. From the moment we arrived, I wished we’d just booked our whole week of Scotland here on the island, just to relax. We’re already discussing when we can come back and do just that.

We had an easy hike down the road from the ferry and up a hill. We’d taken an early ferry, so our room at the hotel wasn’t ready yet. Our hostess (who reminded me a lot of one of the chefs at the company I work for) let us store our bags, and we headed out for lunch. We went to a place called Stalkers on the waterfront and we were highly amused when they asked if I wanted chips (fries) or a baked potato with my macaroni and cheese that I’d ordered – starch with a side of starch? My mac and cheese was delicious, and made from cheese from the island’s dairy. We walked a bit further and stopped to get Heath a much-needed rain slicker, and then we walked to the ferry (which is also the main bus depo) to wait for the next bus.

It was at this point that my stomach decided to rebel, and I spent the rest of the day either in a bathroom, or wishing I was in one. I was horrified, embarrassed, and felt like utter crap. Stupidly, we didn’t head to a pharmacy when we had the opportunity to get something to rectify the situation, so I ended up dealing with it until nearly lunch the next day. I tried not to let that issue ruin our day, or interfere with the appreciation of the beauty that was all around us. It was a supreme challenge.

Brodick, the main town of the island, and where the ferry from Glasgow lands, is a clean, fun town. Everything is easily walked to, and the background behind the town is of huge beautiful hills (and one small mountain).

Arran is a very small island, about 12 kilometres across, and I think (I could be wrong) about 20 kilometres long, and roughly the shape of a kidney bean. There’s a walking trail that goes around the whole island, and can be done on foot in about a week, and numerous trails through the moors, hills, and to the top of Goat Fell, the mountain. A bus ride around the whole island takes about two hours, and there’s only a few main roads in some of the towns. We decided to take a ride on one of the busses that went around the north half of the island to see the standing stones at Machrie on the other side of the island.

On the way there, we sat next to a nice couple on holiday. We talked about how coming across on the ferry, your worries seem to melt away, because you know you’re about to get to the island and relax. It reminded me of the ferry from Galveston to Port Bolivar when we used to go to a friend’s house on the beach. The couple was very nice, and helpful, and said that the Isle of Arran had just about everything that the mainland of Scotland could offer: highlands, lowlands, coastlines, a castle, a few whiskey distilleries, a winery, several cheese factories. We got to sample some of these delights here and there during our brief stay.

The drive was gorgeous, with mountains on one side of us, and the sea on the other. We tried to spot some seals, as they are quite common, but the only one we saw was a stone sculpture. We said good-bye to the nice couple, who got out at a set of cottages on the sea called the 12 Apostles (we might have to stay there next time). A little while later, we got dropped off at the path leading to the standing stones. We walked for about a mile through utterly beautiful scenery, through fields and foothills of the tall hills. The stones were actually not all that interesting (and I found out later that we simply didn’t walk far enough to see the really interesting stuff, but I know my stomach wouldn’t have let me). The walk was the best part, and our pictures do not do it justice.

Unfortunately, my tummy ruined the moment, and we had to walk back and up the road to a café that I wish I remembered the name of. The food was incredibly good (fresh, local, organic), and I was able to enjoy some of it despite my stomach.

The only down side to Arran is its bus schedule – it makes absolutely NO sense whatsoever, and we had to ask our waiter when the next bus going to where we needed to go would be coming. We waited in relative dry comfort in the café until our bus came. I squished myself along one bench, laid down and tried to rest – I was exhausted because of the stomach issues. Heath got car sick with the lurches of the bus, as our driver was taking some of the curves at far higher speeds than the previous one.

We got back to Brodick, and since I was feeling better, skipped picking up some medicine for my stomach (bad stupid idea). We hiked back up to the B&B (which was really more of a hotel). Our lovely hostess had put our bags in our room, which was small, but really pretty, and we had a tiny bit of a view of the bay and Goat Fell Mountain. The Glenartney is a very earth-friendly place, with all kinds of notes such as offering to recycle your paper for you.

My stomach ended up acting up again, and with directions from the hostess, Heath headed into to the main town to try to get me some medicine. What a way to spend a honeymoon. Unfortunately, we’d waited too late to get some medicine, and all the shops were closed, and the hostess didn’t have anything, either.

I finally used mind-over-matter to force myself to relax, and watched clouds wrapping around the mountains as I fell asleep.

Here are pictures of our two days on the Isle of Arran.

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