Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Arran is overseas - technically - and that's a huge part of the charm.
After a tough working week, the relief of stepping onto the ferry is instant. You can almost see the stress dissipate in the wake. Even the duration is ideal; 55 minutes is exactly how long it takes to wind down, hit neutral, then gear up for the weekend.
Every time I visit the island it's a different experience. The weather doesn't hamper any activity and whether I'm with just my husband or my whole extended family and friends, there's always some new walk to explore, new tearoom to try or adventure sport to attempt.
A particular favourite is the Eden Lodge Hotel in Whiting Bay.
It's always busy and yet there's always room. The food is simple, home-cooked and often locally sourced. I once had smoked mackerel pate whose main ingredient had been swimming happily only a few hours previously. The house wines have the double benefit of being reasonably priced and easy on the palate and there's always some unusual bottle on the gantry which the owner's brought back from her travels (I should know, she's my sister-in-law!) Family prejudice aside, Eden Lodge is a very popular bar-restaurant whose five bedrooms are booked out weeks in advance. It also has the advantage of staying open throughout the quiet season, unlike many of the island's businesses, and appears in the 2007 Good Beer Guide.
From Whiting Bay it's a short drive over 'the bumps' (if taken at speed your stomach frequently disappears) to Kildonan. The beach there is always inviting but at midsummer it rivals the Canaries in my opinion. White sand and turqouise water attract visitors of all discriptions; the rockpools fascinate the children, the volcanic deposits form prehistoric climbing frames and there is plenty of space for dogs to chase frisbees and men to tend barbecues. Across the shore road a trail has been created to walk up to a waterfall; it's easy going and doesn't take much more than an hour.
There's a reason the island markets itself as 'Scotland in miniature' - if you're not canoeing over to the Holy Isle from Lamlash or cycling the hills of Lochranza, you could be playing any one of the three golf courses, eating freshly caught fish in a restaurant or visiting Brodick castle.
But my personal favourite out of everything the island has to offer is a barbecue at Kings Cross Point, surrounded by half-cut friends and family watching the sun set over the 'sleeping giant' and the boats in Lamlash bay.
Only then am I ready to get back on the ferry and return to reality.