Helen Rose Diary. February 2017.
A group of fourteen of us know each other through walking and have been going to Arran every July for a weekend for nearly seventeen years staying in recent years at Shore Lodge in the grounds of Brodick Castle. This year, Kathleen booked the lodge for Hogmanay and we had a great time staying four nights. Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year (Gregorian calendar) in the Scottish manner. Hogmanay is the biggest festival celebrated throughout Scotland and there are traditional customs associated with it.
Arran is situated in the Firth of Clyde and is the seventh largest island in Scotland. It is 19 miles long and 10 miles wide and it is often referred to as ‘Scotland in Miniature’ with glorious scenery of mountains and sea. It was actually under Norwegian rule in the Viking period until the 12th century. It is about an hour by road from Glasgow to Ardrossan and then about an hour on the ferry. We all love our summer trips there but this was our first trip in winter. Shore Lodge is a bunkhouse in the grounds of Brodick Castle and warm and comfortable. Brodick Castle is eight hundred years old and set in beautiful grounds just outside Brodick. It was once the ancient seat of the Dukes of Hamilton
Hogmanay at Corrie
We arrived on Friday at Shore Lodge in the grounds of the Castle and settled in. Saturday was Hogmanay and we walked along the shore and golf course into Brodick, the main village in Arran for afternoon tea and scones, a great Scottish tradition. We had a restful day to prepare for the Hogmanay activities. At dinnertime, all fourteen of us were together and enjoyed a hearty meal before going to the Village Hall at Corrie for the Ceilidh to bring in the New Year. Corrie is only five miles north of Shore Lodge and Ian, Noreen and Kathleen offered to drive. We were lucky to have tickets for the Ceilidh as they were sold out. We enjoyed an evening of Ceilidh dancing in the hall with Strip the Willow, the Dashing White Sergeant, Gay Gordons, etc. Before the Bells at Midnight we went outside where a piper was playing and stood at the bonfire. It was a cold, clear night and the sky was a carpet of stars as there is no light pollution on the island. At midnight, we welcomed in the New Year with the firework display and hugs and kisses all round. We went back to the lodge where the drivers could have a drink to bring in the New Year.
On New Year’s Day (Ne’er Day) some went off to climb Goat Fell but Kathleen, Ian Mac, Noreen and I went over to Machrie on the west of the island to visit the standing stones. Ian Mac was waiting for a new hip and had a fractured pelvis so was on crutches. He managed to walk over one and a half miles on the track from the car park on the crutches he was so determined to get there. This rich archaeological landscape includes stone circles, standing stones, burial cairns and cists, as well as hut circles and an extensive field system, all dating to between 3500 and 1500 BC. The stone circles were preceded by elaborate timber circles on exactly the same sites. They were associated with religious activities dating back around 4,500 years. Cremation and inhumation burials were placed in the circles, long after they were first built. It was a beautiful cold sunny day with views all around. Historic Scotland maintain the site.
Brodick Circular Walk
On our last day, most of us went on a walk from Brodick that Noreen wanted to recce to lead as a walk in the spring for the walking club. We set out from Brodick near the ferry and crossed a few fields to reach the rocky beach where we headed south towards Lamlash. The sea was a lovely shade of blue and we looked over to Goatfell as the highest point on Arran but not quite a Munro at just shy of 3,000 feet. The walk on the shore continued for some time and although a clear day, the sun was behind the higher ridge to the west of us. We had our usual banter on the walk. Eventually, we left the rocky shore with the views over to the Holy Island where there is a Buddhist Monastery and headed towards Lamlash over some very muddy terrain.
We bypassed the village and crossed the main road to follow the path to the Fairy Dell onwards to Brodick. At this time of the year, there is not a lot of wildlife to be seen but we did see a sign post at the road warning of squirrels! The native red squirrel of Scotland is a protected species whereas the grey cousins from the US in the last century are now outnumbering the red squirrels.
The following day, it was time to head home on the ferry after celebrating one of the best Hogmanay’s I have ever had. It is a huge thank you to Kathleen for organising the weekend and for everyone mucking in at mealtimes to make it all a great success. Hopefully, we will be back to Arran for our summer weekend.
Coming attraction; Around Lanark.
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Thanks to Jim McLarnon for the photos.