Saturday, April 30, 2011

An early supper with the Twelve Apostles

Upon leaving Loch Ranza, a pesky head wind got up and as we were by now getting hungry (it was past midday)...

...we were delighted to come across the Catacol Bay Hotel. It enjoys a magnificent situation under Meall nan Damh (570m) but it looked a bit run down. However we were cold and hungry... we landed on the awkward stony beach and made our way up to the hotel.

The welcome was warm, despite our dry suits, and the Guinness was excellent. We opted for breaded haddock and chips, which was served quickly, with a crisp, freshly prepared salad. All in all, we enjoyed our visit.

By the time we left, the wind had eased and we passed the Twelve Apostles of Catacol. They were built for crofter families cleared from the interior by a landlord who wanted to turn their crofting land over for a deer shooting estate. The plan was that they would turn into seafarers and fish the seas for a living. Each cottage has a differently shaped dormer window. If one of the wives needed to contact her husband if he was out fishing at night she would place a candle in the window. The appropriate fisherman would get the message, depending if he remembered what shape his window was. Anyway, David and I knew this scheme had been doomed. An exposed shore and only a rudimentary jetty meant no easy landing in a storm.

Crossing Catacol Bay, we looked back at the Twelve Apostles and thought of those who had been cleared from the land for others' sport.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The "castles" of Loch Ranza.

We paddled into Loch Ranza on the NW tip of Arran. The ferry from Claonaig Kintyre,  the MV Loch Tarbert was just arriving at the village of Lochranza.

We paddled into the loch, captivated by the sight...

...of the jagged rocky ridges of Caisteal Abhail (859m), "the castle of the fork".

Down at sea level, the grim walls of Lochranza Castle...

...were topped by the jagged outlines of long roofless gables, which contrasted with the lofty mountain ridges.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Away with the fairies and an unconformity on Arran!

Ahead of us, the Cock of Arran suddenly emerged into the sunshine from the thick mist of early morning.

All was grey looking back along the north shore of Arran.

High above us, the mountains were still wreathed in mist.

 We now paddling west past beaches dominated by giant boulders.

This part of Arran is known as Fairy Dell.

It was seen as the entrance to another World, a World inhabited by fairies.

Fairy Dell cottage is in private ownership and is not a bothy.

An Arran legend tells of a group of local fairies who decided to set sail for Ireland. Unfortunately they were not the best of navigators and their boat was washed up on a mysterious island, just off the shore of Arran. They never got to Ireland and have remained on the island ever since. Every so often the island reappears out of the mist. If you should find an uncharted island off the coast of Arran, it is probably best not to land as the fairies will steal your boat and leave you marooned for a very long time. This old boat would be no good to the fairies, it has seen better days. You might not believe in the fairies but consider this. What do you do when you have finished eating a boiled egg from the shell? You probably stick the teaspoon through the bottom of the empty shell... so that the fairies can't use it as a boat!

In 1787 the rocks on this coast gave James Hutton, the geologist, the idea that the Earth isa much older than it had been previously thought. The steeply dipping Cambrian Dalriadan schists in the foreground are overlaid by more recent Carboniferous Old Red Sandstone seen in the cliffs behind the shore. This was the first unconformity that Hutton discovered and based his theories upon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Eking out a living and doing their pan in, on the north shore.

The day dawned misty but still on the north shore of Arran.

We had camped on the hillside above the beach. The banks of this stream were bursting with primroses.

We soon broke camp and proceeded along the wild coast. On the north facing slopes above us, we could just make out runrigs, a sign of ancient cultivation.

We came to Laggan Cottage which is a locked bothy belonging to the North Arran estate.

It is well equipped and David looked wistfully at the comfortable bunk beds within. A night on a leaky air bed had not been so comfortable.

Paul Story, an author, has left multiple copies of his book Dreamwords by the path to the cottage. If enough people pay by internet, he will write the second volume!

We continued along the edge of this wild land. The first signs of spring were just emerging.

We passed ruins of the long abandoned settlement of Cock. Flat land on the raised beach was so precious for growing things...

...that the 18th century buildings had been built on the rocks above the high water mark. There were salt pans here and you might wonder how the water evaporated on such a sunless north shore. However, there was a small seam of coal here and the coal was burned to make the salt. There are remains of pits and shafts above the shore.

It must have been a hard life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The lack of a saw was like a millstone round our necks.

After leaving Sannox we set off along the wild north coast of Arran. There are no roads and only a rough footpath gives land access here.
We passed below the Fallen Rocks, which is a site of a relatively recent landslide of Upper Old Red Sandstone conglomerate blocks. 

We arrived at the appropriately named Millstone Point. There was a quarry for millstones above the beach.

The sun had set by the time we set up camp.

We got the evening meal of black Latvian beans and rice, slowly cooked in Guinness, ready.

Then David scoured the beaches for logs...

...and we got the fire going.

Having no saw to cut the wood, we had to slide it gradually into the fire. Needless to say we stayed up very late, until all the wood but not quite all the Guinness was consumed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A tale of three harbours and some ferrous sheep on Arran

In Mid April David and I caught the midday ferry to Arran. As we approached Brodick the mountains were cloaked in low mist.

We trollied the kayaks off the ferry and were prepared to launch almost as soon as the MV Caledonian Isles had cleared her jetty.

We planned an anticlockwise circumnavigation of Arran, a distance of about 90km. A southerly breeze began to clear the mist from the mountains and filled our sails.

We soon passed the first of Corrie's two harbours. Note the "sheep" bollards!The fact that it has two...

...tells you that neither is very good! The second has a houseboat and a replica longship in it and not a lot of water when we passed by. Geology students on their annual field trips and all equipped with yellow hard hats were everywhere!

The lovely sweep of Sannox Bay announced our arrival at the start Arran's remote north coast.

Sannox also has a harbour (with sheep bollard) but it is not much better than either of its neighbours at Corrie.

We stopped for a break at Sannox Bay.

The view from the sands into the mountains round Glen Sannox is one of the finest in Scotland.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Mull of Logan

 In the middle of a sunny spell in April, the day dawned grey and drizzly at Portpatrick in SW Scotland. Tony and I met Jim (fresh from Skye) and Mark and Heather Rainsley who were visiting the area. Mark was keen to get some photos of Scottish coastal fortifications and Dunskey Castle fitted the bill!

We were headed south with the flood tide for the Mull of Logan, some 16km to the south. There is some excellent rock hopping on this stretch of coast.

Rounding Money Head, I put my sail up and nipped off to Ardwell Bay in front of the others as there was a nice little wind.

On the horizon some blue sky appeared... the others came in to land.

Mark and Heather seemed to be enjoying their visit to Grey Galloway.

Despite the recent heatwave (it was 22C in Galloway the day before) the water temperature was only 6C. It was interesting to note that we all wore dry suits etc, unlike the recreational sit on top paddlers in Fleet Bay who were out in shorts and T shirts!

We didn't tell Mark about the Devil's Bridge arch at the Mull of Logan and let him go round the corner first. All we heard was "WOW!".

 At this point Tony and I took our farewells of the others. They were paddling on to Port Logan and lunch in the hotel before a taxi back to Portpatrick for the cars.

Tony and I now caught the ebb tide tide going north. There was still a force 3-4 northerly wind.

We knew there would be some excitement with wind against tide at Money Head, Knockienausk Head and Tandoo Point. We were right and got our faces wet, before facing the Easter Holiday crowds at Portpatrick!