Our third day on the island brought us more sunshine and it was our anniversary 💖.
Today we decided to visit Whiting Bay to see the Giants’ Graves and Glenashdale Falls. We didn’t want to travel too far as we’d booked dinner in the hotel earlier so we could visit the Machrie standing stones at sunset.
Purely coincidental, and it wasn’t until after that I realised this, the places we visited today have an even more special memory in our hearts. It was the perfect date for our anniversary.
There was a detour in place at the Glenashdale Falls because of tree felling. Access was diverted via the Coffee Pot cafe further along the road, the anti-clockwise route. I felt sad already. Yet another woodland that I love was being felled. I understand that some of the trees could have been diseased or past their life span, but it’s still sad to see the devastation.
We parked at the Glenashdale bridge to check the clockwise route and read the diversion notice first. It did say there was no access to the Falls and to walk via the Coffee Pot, but we decided to walk further up the trail to check if the Giants’ Graves path was open.
When we reached the two paths, the Giants’ Graves to the left was open and the Glenashdale Falls path straight ahead was closed, possibly until August 2019. The sign said we could access the Falls via the Giants’ Graves and walk along the higher forestry road. Upwards we went along with a few others doing the same.
After a short hike, Alan walked off the path into a wooded area looking for the old steps that used to take you the Giants’ Graves. I can’t believe he found them. A short section of the wooden steps were still there, now overgrown by nature.
I looked back at the old photo he took in 2006 and it was the exact same section. I could tell by the angle of the steps and trees to the left and right. It felt like going back in time and quite ghostly. I remember the American girls skipping down the steps chatting as they went.
We met them at the graves on a really hot day like today and gave them some bottled water. Alan was carrying some spare. I watched as they made flower circlets, embracing their own moment at the stone graves.
We walked back out of the trees to the path and starting chatting to a couple from the Isle of Wight in England. We told them about our excitement finding the steps and continued walking all the way up to graves with them, chatting all the way. Such a nice couple and they were enjoying exploring Arran too.
We said farewell at the graves, with the gentleman giving us the Vulcan salute saying “Live long and prosper”. I loved it and we both returned the gesture with a smile.
I used to think the Giants’ Graves was a burial ground where giants were laid to rest. It made sense to me with the given name.
The story was the other way around though! One of the information signs said that people once thought that giants built Arran’s stone circles and they were the ones who buried their victims in these cairns.
Similar to Torrylin Cairn at Lagg, the Giants’ Graves are the remains of two chambered tombs built in the early Neolithic period, 5,700 to 5,000 years ago.
Bodies were left lying outside the tomb and ripped of their flesh by animals or birds first, then the bones were places in the tomb.
Below is an artist’s impression of what they could have looked like. If you’re viewing on a PC, right click on the image below and open image in a new tab. Zoom in and you should be able to read more about this.
I know they’re just a cluster of old stones, a burial ground. What I find spellbinding is that they’ve been standing here for over 5,000 years fighting against the elements, animals and humans. What’s left in this time might stay here for another 1,000 years with the landscape changing around them.
Do you remember the 1960s movie the Time Machine? George (H G Wells) travelled forward in time with life visually changing around him.
The mannequin at Filby’s shop changed fashion over the many years. His house disappeared and he was inside a mountain for a long time after many wars and volcanic eruptions. Over eight hundred thousand years passed before his eyes.
This is what the Giants’ Graves and wooden steps in the woodlands feel like to me. It’s not quite as impressive as a time machine, it has only been 13 years … still, these are time changes that I have saw with my own eyes.
When we first visited Arran together in 2006 we’d just started seeing each other. It was odd that we found both our surnames carved into one of the stones, along with other names “In memory of”. I’ve never found anything online about the people’s names carved into the stone or what happened to them.
Giants’ Graves 2006
Below are the graves in 2006 when they were surrounded by woodlands.
Giants’ Graves 2009
Next are the graves in 2009 after all the tree felling back then.
I told my children they’d need to come back in about 30 years to see this area flourish again … My daughter should have used some of the fairy magic she was carrying in her backpack…
As you can see from my 2009 photos above, deforestation really does look sad and desolate and feels like the end of the world.
Giants’ Graves 2015
I returned with my sister in 2015 and was happy to see some greenery return again.
Giants’ Graves 2019
Now in 2019, trees, fern and wildflowers are beginning to take over again. The views across the island and to the Holy Isle are stunning.
After 13 years, we could still make out our two surnames on the stone slab. I always think to myself, what are the chances that you visit a place for the first time together and out of all the surnames in the world, two were ours.
Looking back at the landscape changing gives me hope that the current deforestation that’s taking place isn’t forever. Nature will thrive again, it just takes time.
Giants’ Graves 2022
Jumping forward in time from this post, I returned in 2022 to see the growth was thriving walking up the zig-zag path to the top of the hill. High fern on either side of the path with some pine trees coming back and getting taller. Even at the graves the trees were beginning to hide the view to the Holy Isle.
Back to my walk in 2019
We left the stones and made our way to the forestry road. Some people were turning back as a sign informed them that the road was closed. Other people were going through road, including cyclists, and we also saw a vehicle driving through.
It was a Sunday, so we decided to just walk down the road. Afterall, the earlier sign did say we could walk this way. It might be different during the working week though.
Many trees had already been felled with stripped logs piled up high on the forestry road, sorted by wood type.
We reached the entrance to the Glenashdale Falls and stayed here for a wee while to capture some footage. It was pretty quiet, only meeting one couple in the time we spent here.
Below is a walk along the viewing platform. I was so scared I’d drop my phone over the edge!
The Falls are pretty spectacular, even more so in winter when there’s heavy rainfall. The water didn’t look as clear this visit though, possibly because of the tree felling causing extra dirt being carried in the water.
We continued walking the clockwise route over the footbridge and eventually into the woodlands again. I was so glad these woodlands were still here. I hope they stay as they are beautiful.
I love this mini waterfall, maybe even more than the Glenashdale Falls. You’ll eventually cross over another small footbridge and see this magical waterfall.
As we walked through the woodlands I spotted a cave-like rock high up on the slope. My knees were giving me pain as usual, but I just had to hike up there for a nosy. It was a shallow cave, but shelter if you needed it.
We didn’t stop at the Iron Age Fort this time. Below is a photo from 2009 with some information about the site.
When we eventually returned to the car, it was a quick stop at Lamlash, where we were married. I was hoping to capture a scenic video clip of the Holy Isle. The light on the island wasn’t bright but still quite pretty with the water rippling in and a sense of calm.
We didn’t stay long at Lamlash, so it was back to the Lagg Hotel for an early dinner.
We both ordered venison sausages again for dinner. I was so full I couldn’t finish them. I enjoyed an Arran Blonde lager which probably wasn’t the best choice as I started to feel quite tired all of a sudden.
I would have preferred to chill in the hotel for the rest of the night but I knew I had to make an effort to catch a sunset at Machrie. It would be perfect for my video and a beautiful experience to watch… so off to more ancient stones it was.
Machrie moor and its standing stones
We arrived at the car park area and walked through the gate to be welcomed by lots of sheep and lambs.
I was a little wary as I didn’t want to scare the little ones. As I walked past them, they would run to their mums. It’s so amazing to watch and listen. The little lambs shout “Ba ba” (Mum!). Mum shouts back “Ba ba” (What!) and they know exactly where to find each other.
The lambs were so cute bouncing around. I stopped a few times to let them find their mum, then moved on.
We didn’t stop at the other stone circles and kept walking until we reached the tall standing stones. The sunlight was slipping away fast. What a view it was with the light glowing across the Arran mountains.
I quickly set my camera up for a timelapse then my battery ran out and my spare one was flat too. I can’t believe I forgot to charge them! Oh well, I can’t remember everything. Luckily, Alan to the rescue with his fully charged GoPro ready to go.
We couldn’t stand still … it was midge hell at Machrie. Midges were swarming us as soon as we stopped anywhere. Thankfully Alan brought the midge nets for over our heads. My hands were bitten a fair bit though. They kind of spoiled the Machrie magic, but I’m pleased with the footage and photos we both captured.
The clouds were painting the most beautiful picture as always.
I’ve cut the clip below as it was over one minute. The first section shows you the pesky midges looking for dinner! Then it jumps to when the sun eventually slips behind the stone.
It was time to escape the midges, or so I thought. A few more video clips were a must as the moon decided to appear and wow us sitting above the stones.
It was a strange moment. I now wish we could have stayed longer to capture better photos, but the midges were telling us time was up.
We started walking back in the moonlight to sound of the sheep and lambs. They seem to be quite lively at this time of night. We reached the car before it was too dark. I was so tired and itchy, but happy that we made the effort to visit.
This was our last night in the Lagg Hotel, time to go home the next day. In my final anniversary post we revisit the woodlands at Lagg to catch the morning light, stop off at Lamlash again, then onwards to Sannox to check out the beach and the stunning Glen Sannox.
Thanks for reading. I hope you are able to view the video clips.
Love, Dawn-Marie x