Helen Rose Outdoor Diary – Arran

dry stanes

September, 2022

The Isle of Arran is one of the most southerly Scottish islands and sits in the Firth of Clyde between Ayrshire and the Kintyre peninsula. Arran is 19 miles long by 10 miles wide but has a remarkable diversity of landscapes and seascapes. The west coast of Arran has spectacular bays and coastline and offers magnificent views across to the Kintyre peninsula. The island is often called ‘Scotland in Miniature’ as it seems to embody the nation’s wide variety of landscapes, from rugged peaks to gentle rolling hills.

Shore Lodge

picnic bench

I have written on Arran previously as a group of us have gone every year for nearly twenty years to walk and socialise. More recently we took over Shore Lodge– a bunkhouse situated in the grounds of Brodick Castle.owned by the National Trust of Scotland.

Arran Botanicals

We travelled over to Arran by the Calmac ferry from Ardrossan in a journey of about an hour and a half, enough time to have lunch. On the way to the Lodge from Brodick pier, we stopped off at Wooleys pie shop, a local institution selling excellent homemade pies. No trip to Arran would be complete without a Wooleys’ pie. We arrived at the lodge and settled in but with time to go for a ‘wee refreshment’ as we call it in Scotland. It was just across the road to Arran Botanicals, Cladach Beach Bar, to try out their gin.  It is located on the beach but does have an indoor part as the Scottish weather can be unpredictable.

Iorsa Glen

The next day our planned walk was to Iorsa Glen. We have done most of the walks  but Ian and Kathleen found some new walks for us to see a different part of the island. We drove over to the west of the island to Dougarie and walked inland into Iorsa Glen. It was an easy walk and we rambled along crossing two fords and following alongside the Iorsa Water until we came to the part where the river widened at the boathouse. It was a lovely sunny day so we relaxed here for a bit. The children enjoyed paddling in the river. When we walked back to Dougarie, we stopped for lunch on the beach looking out to sea and Ailsa Craig in the distance.

Kings Caves

After lunch, we dragged ourselves from the beach for an afternoon walk and drove to Blackwaterfoot. At the golf club in Blackwaterfoot, we followed the path from the golf course and over the grassy hill to the other side of the promontory to join the path to Kings Caves below the spectacular cliffs. It is possible to walk around the coast to Blackwaterfoot. The path to the caves runs alongside the beach. The current name of the cave is linked to the legend of Robert the Bruce seeking refuge in a cave where he is said to have been inspired by watching a spider’s numerous and ultimately successful attempts to build a web but this story is widely considered apocryphal. Robert I, popularly known as Robert the Bruce, was King of Scots from 1306 to his death in 1329. One of the most renowned warriors of his generation, Robert eventually led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England. I did walk as far as the caves but went back to join one of our group who had been having afternoon tea at the Kinloch Hotel in Blackwaterfoot and thoroughly recommended it! /


The following day we drove down to the south of the island to Kildonan where we walked up to Loch Garhad passing through fields of foxgloves. They are highly poisonous but look good growing in the wild.

On our way back to Kildonan we passed the Children’s Library with its grass roof and an opportunity to write about the outdoors and draw pictures to be displayed inside the building. The picnic benches were an excellent place for lunch with a view out to sea.

We spent the afternoon lazing on the beach in lovely sunny, warm weather while the children played with the seaweed in the water. Kildonan is a very sheltered shore which means it has a high diversity of seaweeds including Sea Spaghetti, a wonderful brown seaweed particularly rich in magnesium and other vitamins and minerals. I did paddle in the water but it was cold.

Brodick Castle Grounds

On our last morning of the weekend, we decided to walk around the grounds of Brodick Castle. Firstly, we went to the Bavarian Summerhouse built in 1845. It was a wedding present for Princess Marie of Baden and was said to be the grandest in design. It is likely that the building was constructed by specialist craftsman from Bavaria. Princess Marie of Baden is a key figure in the history of Brodick Castle. Her marriage to William, who later became the 11th Duke of Hamilton, was the catalyst for Brodick’s expansion into the luxurious castle of today. Princess Marie’s cousin was Napoleon III and the marriage elevated the Hamiltons to a new social standing. It is thought that Princess Marie was often marooned at Brodick Castle while her husband travelled widely across Europe, leaving her lonely and homesick, although it is known that she travelled to Paris to host parties for her cousin. The marriage ended tragically, when William fell down a staircase in Paris and died.

We looked at some of the unusual tropical plants including the plant known as the Bottlebrush from Australia in the walled garden which was built in 1710. The gardens were in full bloom as this was mid-summer. Arran is sheltered and can grow many more plants than the mainland as the frost is less severe.

Fisherman’s Walk


Our last walk of the long weekend was on Fishermans Walk to Brodick mostly on the boardwalk alongside the beach and the golf course. Arran is a golfers paradise with seven golf courses on a small island and all with beautiful views. We passed a heron patiently waiting to catch a fish. The herons are long-legged, long-necked, freshwater and coastal birds in the family Ardeidae, with 64 recognised species, some of which are referred to as egrets or bitterns rather than herons. Herons are patient fish-catchers, using the act of standing still as a foraging technique, maintaining position passively, hoping that a fish, or frog or small mammal will appear at their feet. They will then reach down and grab it.

Of course, it was a final visit to Wooleys in Brodick to take home some delicious pies before boarding the ferry.

As usual, it was a wonderful weekend in Arran and a big thanks to Kathleen for organising it.

Coming attractions; Norway and Raasay.

Helen Rose Outdoor Diary: Norway
West End Wander Walk – Festival of Europe

This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary, Walks

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