Continuing with the soggy tale of our day on Arran, after our clamber down to the King’s Caves, we were decidedly soaked. Yes, I had the correct waterproof coat, but I’d forgotten that my walking boots live up at the house in the Highlands, which we would be going to after this odyssey, but not before. As a consequence, I only had my (very expensive) short riding boots to walk in. Now these are a fabulous design, with the most technical supportive gel foot bed, so highly comfortable. Unfortunately, leather is only waterproof to a certain degree, and we were now well past that point!
So, when we parked the car at the start of the next 3 mile walk, out to the Machrie Moor stone circles, I did question if we really wanted to do this.
But, hell yes! Once you’re wet, getting wetter doesn’t really matter, does it? And as Brian said, we’d come all this way, were we really not going to do it just for a bit of rain?
With the remains of six stone circles, Machrie Moor is the best known archaeological site on Arran.
The going this time was on grass, through fields full of sheep, so kinder on the legs, although wetter on the feet! The first site is that of a 4000 year old cairn, now just visible as a raised mound, edged with boulders.
As you can see, beyond this grassy knoll, we moved onto moorland, which was, naturally, pretty boggy. Thank goodness my feet were so wet by now I’d ceased bothering about it!
The next site had only 3 stones, but included this fascinating one, that appears to have been scored by dragon claws
In the distance, the big circle beckons…
As you get nearer, you start to realise just HOW big they are, until you get right up to them…
This primary circle is situated below a prominent notch on the skyline to the northeast where Machrie Glen divides into two steep-sided valleys. At the summer solstice the notch is intersected by the sun at sunrise, which may explain the choice of location.
A completely different type of circle sits no more than 50m away
And the same distance, in the other direction, sits this weird amalgam of the two
Forgive me, I couldn’t resist giving it a hug…
On the walk back, we took a quick detour into the ruins of Moss Farm, which overlooks the main sites. Such a pity, it must have been a lovely place to live, and clearly not all of it has been abandoned that long, with evidence of fairly recent roof struts in the bigger building.
The oldest ruin fascinated me, though, with this pretty little fern growing all over the south-facing walls
On our way back to the car, we met several small, and one large, (guided) group walking out (not all of them dressed appropriately for the weather, it must be said), and we were very glad we’d gone when we did, and had the stones to ourselves.
With daylight fading, we made it to the top of Arran with just enough time to grab a cup of coffee in the café at Lochranza distillery (more in a moment) – the first on MANY distilleries on our tour – and then drive back to our B&B. The last section of road runs tight along the coastline, and along with the first on many, many herons, we saw this guy (a harbour seal) waving at us
And here are his family
Delightfully, the next morning dawned clear and bright.
My boots took 3 days to dry completely, and I feared at one point they never would fully recover, it was over a week before they felt back to normal!
This morning it was possible to finally see Goatfell, at 874 metres (2,866 ft),the tallest of four mountains on Arran.
With most of a morning free before catching our next ferry, we stopped in at Brodick Castle, which is sadly closed for renovation work (a common issue with castles!)
The gardens would bear exploring another time, but perhaps at a better time of year. This little gem caught my eye on the road out
A bit further along the road towards Lochranza, we stopped at a car park for walkers, one trail leading over these stepping stones, set into the crystal clear stream
The local dog population appears quite comfortable with the crossing
The view back into the interior was stunning, and, starting to get my eye in, I spotted a large bird of prey sitting way up, on one of the pylons. Too far away for a photograph, I broke out the binoculars.
Eventually, the bird flew towards us before circling back and disappearing over the hill. Brian and I debated what it was – not something we’d ever seen before. It’s face was owl-like, but I was certain it wasn’t an owl. It took some research later, online, before I tracked down our elusive beastie – made even more complicated by the fact the male and female are utterly different colours.
This is not my photograph (courtesy of Wikipedia), but this was, without question, what we saw
A female Hen Harrier – see what I mean about the face?
Very exciting! This was one of the rare and endangered species on my bucket list, and we’d found one, just like that!
Taking a deep breath and moving on, we drove the remaining distance to Lochranza. The landscape is typical of the Scottish Highlands, a breath-taking glen, at the base of two long ridges of mountain, with too many waterfalls to count. Ideal red deer country, sadly today we didn’t see any, and the road isn’t overly suitable for stopping to take photographs, so we didn’t take the risk.
We did hear a stag bellowing (rutting season was just beginning) when we stopped next, in the car park of the Lochranza distillery, where we’d had coffee the day before.
After another coffee, and an unrewarded search of the surroundings by binocular, we drove the few hundred metres further to the ruins of Lochranza castle
Lochranza is a beautiful, peaceful bay – if you listen very carefully, about three quarters of the way through the clip below, you’ll hear a stag in the distance…
And so, to the first ferry of the day.
This was a short hop across to a spit of mainland, which we would drive across to reach the next ferry, onward to the Isle of Islay.
We weren’t, however, done with wildlife spotting for the day – although again, too far away to film, as we sailed, a school of harbour porpoise followed in our wake, dancing in the waves.
Such a beautiful view.
The drive across to the next port, Kennacraig, took us through a grouse moor, calling for frequent stops while pheasant and grouse strolled along the road in front of us.
And so, to the much bigger ferry for the longer sail across to Islay.