I’ve just spent the past week on the Isle of Arran in Scotland. It’s often described as Scotland in miniature and they’re not kidding. It’s an hour’s ferry ride from the mainland and as we arrived we were greeted with the scene from King Kong when they’re sailing through the mist seeing the cliffs looming out of the gloom. Fortunately the weather immediately improved and within 15 minutes it was actually rather sunny and so it continued for the rest of the week.
The next day we took a drive around the island (which is about 35 miles in total) and this was where the ‘mini Scotland’ comparison proved to be right. You’ve got sandy beaches, rolling tree-covered hills, more rugged cliffs along stony beaches, moorland, castles, pointy mountains and everything in between. It’s a lovely place and best of all, it’s not densely populated and there weren’t that many people around – which was the whole point.
We spent most of the days hiking up those aforementioned pointy mountains which meant that my good lady spent most of the week complaining at me for dragging her up those aforementioned pointy mountains! To be fair though, we did get some pretty impressive views of the beautiful island and some nice places to have lunch:
Annoyingly though, each time we went up the main ridge containing the highest mountain on the island (Goatfell) the visibility disappeared meaning no nice views. I’ve had the bad luck over the years that pretty much any time I stand on the summit of a mountain it’s shrouded in cloud and there is no view at all. My good lady turned back before the top of Goatfell as she was knackered and wasn’t enthused by the lack of visibility. I pressed on and while I could see the sun trying to poke through the clouds, I couldn’t see much further than 20 yards in front of me (see right). Lovely! I hung around for about as long as it took to take the photo then started running back down to catch up. It was nice to be able to bound past people from rock to rock like I’m still in my 20’s – I’m not over the hill yet! (Pun intended).
One day we went over to the Holy Island, which is an even smaller island about a mile off the south-east coast of Arran. The interesting thing about the island is that at the north side is ‘The Centre for World Peace and Health’ which has a retreat people can stay at. The even more interesting thing is that on the south side is a Buddhist retreat. We walked over the top of the island (it’s about 400m high at its highest point) and came back around the coast. On our way back we saw quite a few painted boulders (pictured right).
Now personally, if I’m trying to respect the environment and be at harmony with nature then my mindset is to not affect it and leave it exactly the way it is (or as close to that as possible). The National Trust goes to great lengths to ensure that the Lake District looks exactly like it did a century ago for the same reason (even going so far as to pay to have Lakeland sheep – which are amazingly cute – living on the hills). But painting brightly coloured pictures like this every few hundred yards in a beautifully scenic, mountainous place just smacks of bad taste and a total lack of harmony with your environment. I’m all for anybody’s right to follow their own religion but things like this cross the line for me and have no place in my country. Leave graffiti to inner cities, not the Scottish countryside.
Still, I had a lovely week off and will definitely go back to Arran next year (if nothing else than to hopefully spot a Golden Eagle that apparently can be found on the island). If you want to see everything Scotland has to offer but can’t be bothered to drive 300 miles around the place to find out, then visit Arran, it’s got the lot!