Billy Sangster

Stuff out of my brain

Arran Part Five

We’re fairly getting into the swing of things here, developing a morning routine in our small wooden habitation: the bairns wake me by coming through to my annex and joining me in completing a level of DEVICE 6; we then get up and have breakfast; I pack the bags and we set off on our latest planned adventure.

This day it was to be stone circles and Brodick Castle.

Arran has quite a few neolithic constructions and luckily most of the best ones are concentrated into one area: Machrie Moor. From the wee car park provided, it’s a short walk of around quarter a mile to find the first one; then it’s another three quarters of a mile and you come to the other six.

There are some exceptional specimens here, depending on how you value your circles: quantity and symmetry versus the sheer height and majesty of single standing stones. I enjoy both.

When we started the walk the sun was blazing down and I was beginning to think I should have taken sun-cream. Pretty soon however, it was obvious by looking north that some rain was on its way and, much no matter how much my daughter insisted to the contrary, I urged my two charges to don their waterproof gear pronto. We were just in time and endured the only real downpour of the day without having to leave the stones to find shelter.

Photo opportunities and lunch were had sitting on the massive boulders and then we boarded Betsy the van once more to travel back to Brodick and the might castle that dominates the village facade.

This pile was owned by successive Dukes of Hamilton from the time of Mary Queen of Scots. In fact I was told by a guide that if Mary had been born five days later then the first Hamilton would have been heir to the throne. As happens with many of these vast estates over the years, the family stayed land-rich while becoming cash strapped, ending up with the rest of the country having a whip round to raise the millions needed for the National Trust to take over the concern.

It never ceases to amaze me the opulence and splendour that these families were used to living in. Coming from the sparseness of the standing stones, this was never more apparent. The fact was further brought home when, after finishing the castle tour, we visited a small bronze age roundhouse built on the grounds by a lottery funded National Trust project. A nice lady there answered my questions about the reconstructed abode while we were gently kippered by the fire smoking away in the centre of the house.

Another great day. There certainly are plenty things to do in Arran. This small island puts our mainland tourist areas to shame.