The Isle of Arran; a family tradition
Peter Walker phoned to book a cottage with us earlier this year, and one of our sales girls found out that this was to be his 54th visit to the Isle of Arran. On hearing this I asked if he would come and share some stories of his trips to the island, and show you how one small place in Scotland can become someones tradition, and can help make memories that will last forever.
About me: Peter Walker. Age: 83. Born in the West Riding of Yorkshire 1932 Moved to Burnley in 1942. A levels at school in Pure Maths, Geography and Geology (hugely useful considering the island is a centre for geological studies!) I have a wife and four lovely daughters who over time have expanded the family with gorgeous grandchildren.
Why did we choose Arran? My wife’s friend had been to Arran for a holiday with her family in 1966 staying at Drumadoon Cottage in Blackwaterfoot. For the following year they talked of nothing else. We decided that we would do the same the following year. In those days if you managed to get into a cottage you were given the opportunity to book at Christmas for the following year, and so it went on from year to year. Such was the competition you had to wait for somebody to die to get in! Drumadoon was already booked up so we ended up booking into a caravan beside a garage on the sea front in Blackwaterfoot.
We set off from Burnley at 10 pm in a little red mini-traveller, two adults, and four little girls sleeping in the back. There were no moter-ways then and no services. We had prepared some cold bacon sandwiches and a flask of tea which we ate in the car outside the toilets at Strathaven. We had a proper breakfast in the large hotel at the crossroads in the centre of Ardrossen, I think it was called the Station Hotel but is no longer there. Anne ate everything and five minutes later was violently sick, she never was a good traveller!
We drove onto the ferry at the centre of the boat onto a circular lift which revolved after each car had driven on, and when full the lift descended and the cars then drove off into the hull, and the procedure was repeated until the ferry was full. I must confess I was not thrilled with our first sailing to the island for the journey was totally clouded in a thick fog and we didn’t see the island until we were almost upon it. It emerged out of the fog in a sinister sort of way – I have never had that sort of experience since.
1982 – Peter and Anne on the beach, Arran
As it happened, that year Arran had fourteen weeks without rain. The holiday was a totally different experience for all of us, very different from our Lancashire resorts. The beach, on our doorstep was fabulous, crystal clear water with a fantastic view of the Mull of Kintyre and behind us the golf course which although none of us played golf, its clubhouse provided us with super refreshments. The island has numerous excellent golf courses all with their different scenic qualities and excellent catering.
On our first visit to Arran in 1967 we visited Brodick one day and saw about six basking sharks swimming in a circle out in the bay. We have on several occasions seen one or two but never more than that. As I said before, that year was rather special weather wise and that was spectacular. What was amazing was that small children were paddling out into the bay in small plastic sporty yaks to look at those monsters. Years later my daughter Anne and I were out in a boat fishing in Brodick Bay when suddenly she cried out ‘Dad, there’s a shark!’ And there it was, all thirty-four feet of it, slowly coming straight towards us. Anne’s first thought was to jump into the water and swim to the shore. Strange! She then claimed there was another but actually what she saw was the sharks tail, not realizing how long the creature was. Basking sharks are harmless as they have no teeth but sometimes they will rub up against a boat to remove sea fleas which annoy them. Thankfully that one had no sea fleas!
1982 – Peter and Squid, Whitewater Bay
That first year was so beautiful we were determined to try and have a longer stay the following year as there was so much to see and do. The paddle steamer Waverley visited the island leaving from the old wooden pier at Lochranza sailing across to the Mull to Kintyre. Amazingly we spent the day in Woolworth’s in Campbelltown sheltering from a torrential downpour! The pier was demolished a few years later and the Waverley now sails from Brodick to other tourist destinations around the Clyde.
2000 – Waverley, Brodick Bay
That same year I noticed some local boys at the end of the pier down some steps near to the water, whipping the water with a length of string tied to what appeared to be an open nappy pin. Every so often they would hook up a small fish from a swarm of fish amassed below the pier. Intrigued by this activity I asked them why they were doing this and they said it was for live bait. I didn’t recognise these small fish so I asked what they were and was told that they were ‘babi seeth’ Thinking that they may be the young of a larger fish I then asked ‘what do they grow up to be? I can’t describe the looks on their faces before they replied, BIG SEETH. Actually the fish is called Saithe which is a type of cod. Nevertheless it was an embarrassing moment!
1974 – Brodick Bay, Arran, Peter went fishing!
Sometime before we went to Arran we heard a broadcast on radio one, Sunday morning, at home of a service from Arran. The minister was speaking from Lochranza and he told us of a white stag that had been down to his garden and eaten his lettuces. We had forgotten all about the white stag by the time we arrived on Arran. Actually in those early days you were lucky to see any deer at all for they were very timid and kept to the tops of the mountains. In fact the red deer chased the white stag away, possibly because it attracted attention to the herd. The white stag was driven down to the lower slopes and one day we were driving into Lochranza from Brodick and spotted the white stag close by in a field. I stopped the car and we all got out and looked over the hedge, but there was no sign of it. It had vanished into thin air. Over the years the deer have become very tame and their favourite haunt appears to be Lochranza golf course. I’m surprised they have not become members!
2014 – Lochranza Golf Course, New members!
The second year in Arran was spent in a farm cottage just a short way from Blackwaterfoot at Higher Fiorline when we spent four weeks that year, the longest stay we ever had. The following year we rented ‘Grannies’ cottage on Mr and Mrs Taylors Farm at Corriegills. It cost us £10 a week and that included coal for the fire. We stayed there each year for the next six years. One of the most memorable things I remember about the time we spent there was the beautiful sky at night. There was no street lighting and the stars appeared to be in 3D. Our walks at night were a joy! As Grannies Cottage then became unavailable to let, we had to find somewhere new. We didn’t move very far from the farm, just a hundred yards up the lane to Mr and Mrs MacPherson-Rait’s, where we stayed for some years. We always went to Arran at the same time as it was traditional that you would book the same week, and it would be reserved for you by the owner. Eventually our children moved on in life and Barbara and I changed our holidays from renting, to bed and breakfast. Once again we only moved a hundred yards to a home where the son was getting married, and moving out. We were their first guests and the food and hospitality was fabulous. For the next ten years or more we stayed at Crovie and only left when our daughters and their families wanted to join us again. We have turned full circle and are back to renting accommodation. In the last forty-seven years we have missed only one year! My mother-in-law told me some time later that one of my daughters had been in tears because we had missed our holiday to Arran.
2001 – Putting Brodick, Peter and Daughter Caroline
Over the years we have had an annual putting competition, bowls, tennis horse riding, fishing, hill walking. In the evenings we go to concerts, light operas and ceilidhs. On one unforgettable evening we went to a concert at the visage hall at Corrie when the electricity failed and the soprano had to sing holding a torch for the pianist. Unfortunately she was better at singing than holding a torch and the pianist had to keep pulling back the torch on target! When the lighting came on again we were entertained by a hush puppy padding round the hall and across the stage in front of the performers again and again and again. Nobody appeared to know whose dog it was and it was left to the comedian to ‘dispose of it’ on one of its laps round the hall. It appeared to be getting more laughs than himself!
2014 – Machrie Moor, Remains of Megalitic Ring about 20ft High
Although this will be our forty-seventh year coming to Arran we have been to the island several times more in September. We must have had well over fifty holidays in Arran. The trees are fantastic, particularly the Rowan trees with their brilliant red berries. The blackberries are prolific and apple and blackberry crumble with custard is yummy. Speaking as a Yorkshire man, holidaying in September will also allow you to take advantage of the end of season sales, buying all your Christmas presents!
1974 – Goat Fell, the highest point of the Island
Some people might say how boring it must be going to the same place year after year. In fact as a couple who have been retired for over thirty years we have been so lucky to have had holidays in many different places around the world. Nevertheless the island calls us back year after year. Sometimes twice a year!
May I leave you with a warning, If you do visit the island you may well be hooked for life.
We really enjoyed reading some of Peters fondest memories from his holidays in Arran. We get so many customers looking for great family holiday destinations and Arran certainly is one. Beach trips, boat trips, sightseeing cycling, horse riding and hill walking are all activities perfect for family adventures and these are just a few of what the Island has to offer. Come and visit Arran, and stay with Cottages and Castles. We have lots of lovely self catering holiday homes available to let, for full weeks and short breaks. Visit our site here to check them out!
A special thanks to Peter Walker for sharing his memories with us! We hope he enjoys his holiday with Cottages and Castles this year!
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