It felt strange but so wonderful to be able to travel somewhere exciting again.
Of course it was the Isle of Arran again for our wedding anniversary. Five years married, gone just like that. Even the last two stressful coronavirus years, which I’m sure you will agree, just disappeared right in front of us.
It had almost been two years since we last visited the island, so this year our destination was the Auchrannie Resort in Brodick, to one of their couple retreats. I’d always wanted to stay in one of the retreats, so even though we couldn’t afford it I went ahead and booked two nights for us. We were both wearying and needed a break.
Sailing to the invisible island
We thought the ferry wasn’t going to sail the day we were leaving as the Calmac Service Status app was showing a ‘sailings could be disrupted’ alert. We had already booked our tickets in advance so decided to drive to the Ardrossan ferry terminal anyway, hoping that all would be okay. Thankfully it was, phew!
Breakfast on the ferry was good as always. Thinking back it has been three years since we have eaten food on the ferry. I’d even forgot where to find all the condiments and milk for tea … or maybe that’s just my age showing. 😂
A full Scottish breakfast is a must to set us both up for the day and more enjoyable as I don’t tend to make this at home. I was enjoying being a tourist in my own area, Ayrshire and Arran.
As I stepped outside onto the deck it was so calm. There was hardly any wind and the Scotland flag at the bow wasn’t even flying which shows how calm it really was. The rain would decide to fall now and then but it was refreshing without the usual wind you would expect out on deck.
Gazing out into the horizon, the island was nowhere to be seen… Thick low cloud completely covered any land that should be visible. We couldn’t even see the highest peak, Goat Fell at 2867 feet!
Land ahoy! It really was there afterall … or maybe this was just a mirage …
I often wonder what first time visitors think when they approach the Isle of Arran on a day like this. Usually within an hour or two the clouds can lift and it’s a “wow, there are mountains there” moment.
It wasn’t a mirage thankfully, we really were docking at Brodick. Even the Scotland flag started dancing as the wind picked up.
I was excited to enjoy wasting some time here.
When we arrived at Brodick we still had three hours to wait before we could check-in at the Auchrannie Resort.
I remembered that Brodick Castle recently reopened, so after a short drive through Brodick we arrived at the castle and used our National Trust for Scotland membership cards for free admission. We’ve visited the castle and grounds a few times over the years but there’s always something new to discover and areas we haven’t even explored before.
You can usually see the castle across Brodick Bay, on a clear day. It sits high among the trees, with the majestic backdrop of Goat Fell mountain. Below is a photo we took a few years ago.
It was still raining on and off, so we walked towards the castle first. The castle grounds were looking so lush with all the recent rainfall.
We wandered the castle’s rooms at our leisure. It’s always more enjoyable when you have no time pressures. Ah … just what I needed.
A small selection of photos from my castle wander are below. Click or tap to view larger versions.
I really loved the fake roast potatoes in the castle kitchen. They looked so real and much better than any real ones I’ve ever made!
The gentleman in the kitchen told me a wee story about what happened with the bread that was baked in the large oven. The base of the bread would always be burnt, so the servants would have the bottom slice with the family upstairs having the fresh upper crust!
The dungeon is a must visit too. It seems odd that you go up the stairs to a dungeon. I thought most dungeons would be deep down in the darkest place of the castle. The Brodick Castle we see today was more of a family home than a castle though.
The story about the prisoner “Yellow John McAlistair” reads:
Who was the unfortunate man we know as ‘Yellow John’?
There are rumours he was an islander by the name of McAlistair, imprisoned within the castle for cattle theft. He was held here for three years with no heat or light and very little food, and then stabbed to death!
However, we have to think he wasn’t an ordinary thief, since carved into his prison wall are the words ‘May 1715 had barley’. A poor prisoner wouldn’t have been able to read or write …
Silver garden trail
It was a fond cheerio to the castle and time to look for the Silver Garden trail. The installation was created to attract more visitors and also acknowledging the castle’s extensive silver collection.
They are just beautiful and I love the reflections of nature you can see from different angles. I think I missed seeing a few though.
At first I thought you talked into one talking tube to hear your echo come out the other one. Then I found another set down the hill. One person at each set can then talk to each other. Brilliant!
It reminds me of my youth when we made our own telephone using two tin cans, pierced a hole in each base and tied a long string between them so we could talk to each other.
Next we found a magnificent life-size sculpture of a stag, crafted from steel bracken and Arran Whitebeam leaves. It’s really beautiful and was a nice surprise when wandering the many paths around the grounds of Brodick Castle and Country Park.
The stag sculpture was created by artist Sally Matthews and inspired by the legend of the white stag on Arran. There has been a few sightings of white stags on the island, but I’ve yet to see one. There are many myths and legends about the white stag, the Celts believing they were a messenger from the other side … and I also read they are a sign of good luck if you see one.
Either way, I’d love to bump into one unexpectedly in their own natural environment.🦄
Silver standing stones
We then looked for the silver standing stones. They are not real standing stones of course. The 21 reflective pillars are influenced by Arran’s Machrie Moor Standing Stones on the west coast of the island that are very real and also a beautiful and atmospheric place to visit.
It might seem strange to have mirrors within a natural outdoor space, but I loved the reflections of nature and it felt hauntingly magical … is there such a phrase?
I walked around them and Alan took a video clip of me which had a really nice effect. I just wish I had worn something more mystical like my blue cloak or a white dress. You can have such fun here and be very creative with your own artistic illusion.
You can watch my short video on Instagram. Turn on the sound to feel the full effect!
It was time to check-in to the Auchrannie, so we walked back to the car and was there within five minutes.
My next post will be about our stay in the beautiful Auchrannie retreat, a walk up Glen Cloy and the Fairy Glen in the pouring rain. Then when we were leaving we visited the Lagg Distillery before we caught the ferry back home. At last I got to see this beautiful distillery building and what a beautiful south island location.
Love, Dawn-Marie x