17 nights in the UK in May!

Old Jun 6th, 2017, 03:59 PM
  #21  
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ARRAN

One thing I've found in planning trips like this one is that you can't see everything. You just have to prune away at your list. I originally wanted to see one of the western isles- Islay, Mull, Skye, etc. However, as I said, Kilmartin Glen was my main objective. So while studying the map and http://www.ancient-scotland.co.uk/ and http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/, I came upon the Isle of Arran. Ha! I have never seen anyone suggest this island on the boards.

Look: they brew beer, distill whisky, make Arran cheese and ice cream. What else do you need? They have a plethora of ancient monuments. They have 7 golf courses. Bicycle riding is big. "Walking" (which is really hiking or mountain climbing!) is even bigger. And it isn't impossible to get there. I guess that's why we ran into all sorts of visitors from Glasgow, Ayrshire, northern England, etc. We only met one other American, and she was living in Europe. LOL

There were two events going on over the weekend we were there: The Mountain Festival http://www.arranmountainfestival.co.uk/ and the Goatfell Race (see http://arranrunners.weebly.com/ if interested in trail running on Arran), a 13K race up a mountain.

Friday- When the ferry disgorged us at the dock in Brodick, Dora was able to take us directly to our B & B, http://www.glenartney-arran.co.uk/, in a quiet residential area right behind the town. Hannah and Ross have 12 rooms,a couple of lounge areas, a drying room for your wet hiking stuff and a comfortable breakfast room with cold buffet and hot cooked breakfasts. Our "cozy double" looked over Goatfell and part of the bay in Brodick. Because of the Mountain Festival,most of the other guests were hikers and a couple of bicyclists. An outdoorsy crew. The first evening we walked around Brodick and discovered that it is really pretty small, but has a few restaurants and pubs, also a huge sporting goods store. You get the idea that this is an active island? Dinner at Brodick Brasserie and an after dinner Drambuie at their bar.

Saturday- We started out the morning at the Heritage Museum. I was not successful at getting a guide for the ancient monuments, but decided to see what we could figure out from the museum. It is tiny and covers just about the entire history of Arran, starting with plate tectonics (Arran was once near the equator!), geology, archeology, and continuing to the Clearances, the wars, etc. We had some good maps- Arran is very visitor friendly- and took off for a drive around the island, lunch, and eventually Machrie Moor. There is an entire complex of cairns, stone circles, and standing stones in a small area. It is incredible in the way Kilmartin is. It was built over a very long time and, again, is a beautiful site with the ocean on one side and hills on the other. I would recommend trying to get a guide,as it is difficult to interpret. The sun was shining for us, so we spent some time wandering about the stones, the only visitors there. We drove back through the center of the island to Brodick.

There had been an announcement that a Ceilidh was to be held at the Community Center that night. Our hostess said if we had never been to one, we should go. £5 per person, bring your own bottle, and and a fish and chip truck would be there for food. Okay, we're up for this! When we arrive, there are long table set up along the side of the room, a band tuning up at one end. A large group invites us to join them. One of the band members comes out on the dance floor, gets people up and arranged, explains the dance,walks you through the dance, then starts the music and- you dance! We had so much fun. The best night of the trip. Our tablemates were all there for the festival- several had "walked" up the mountain at midnight the night before. The last song is Auld Lang Syne; everyone forms a circle, holds hands, and sings. Whew!

Sunday- Raining again, and I had already seen what I wanted to. We went to the Brodick Castle and looked at the gardens. The inside is closed for repairs this year. Stopped for a long lunch near the brewery, but we missed having a tour. Another long walk by the waterfront. At dinner we started talking to some "mainland" Scots about all sorts of things, including Scottish accents (Some say "Are-un" and some say "Air-un","youse" and some I can't understand at all). We all try to go for an after dinner drink, but the Brodick Bar is closed.

Monday- Time to go. We drove north this time. This end of Arran is totally different from the south. I guess that is why they say it is Scotland in miniature. We stopped at the Arran distillery in Lochranza, only have time for their short tour, and we are off to the ferry. It was pouring rain, so we sat in the car, waiting to be directed on to the "wee" boat. It is a 35 minute ride to Claonig...
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Old Jun 6th, 2017, 04:55 PM
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Bookmarking for later...
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Old Jun 13th, 2017, 04:28 PM
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CRINAN

The small ferry dropped us off at a remote dock. If we didn't have Dora, I'm not sure how we would have found our way. Each stop along our journey has seemed more and more quiet. All of the traffic for at least 15 minutes seems to be the cars from the ferry. We finally get to Tarbert and stop for a snack by the marina. Then by Lock Fyne, eventually we come up to the Crinan Canal and know we are close. More single tracks with ample pull over space, around blind corners and finally we arrive at the Crinan Hotel https://www.crinanhotel.com/ overlooking the canal and Loch Crinan. I had booked a balcony room- it was huge with a large closet, a skylight in the large bath- on the third floor. The balcony looked over both the loch and the (last) sea lock of the canal. Although it was cloudy most of the time, and the photography was "atmospheric", we did have some incredible shots across the water and of sunset over Jura and Mull.

Breakfast was included and was served in the dining room in courses. Very elegant. Dinner was either in the dining room (several courses) or more casually, in the Seafood Bar. The food was great if you liked seafood (fish, scallops,mussels, etc.) but there were no meat selections while we were there. The bar had a 50 whisky menu and we tried to sample them all. LOL. Because of the remote location, all dinners were at the hotel.

I must say, I chose Crinan because I wasn't sure my dear traveling partner would be able to take three nights in Kilmartin. Here, there were endless opportunities to watch the locks, observe the boats passing through, chat with the lock masters (?) and the other boating enthusiasts, etc. If the Ceilidh was the best night, this was the best stop. I was amazed.

Tuesday- We were off to our (my) prime objective, Kilmartin Glen. Across the canal, across the Moine Mhor, past the gravel pits, to Kilmartin Village. Great signage to the museum where we parked, bought our tickets to the museum and got a map of the area. We started in the museum, but there was a break in the weather, so we walked out to the linear cemetery and began our tour. Between the map and the information boards, we were able to find all the monuments to the Nether Largie stones (a very odd arrangement), then back and had a great lunch at the museum cafe. Spent some time in the museum after lunch, then took off for home. Wander around the locks, dinner. We have slowed down and are now just enjoying the time.

Wednesday- Drizzling and raining in turns, we return to Kilmartin and park at the Ballymeanoch car park and investigate the cairns, standing stones, henge, etc. I can't do this landscape justice, and maybe it is just because I have this thing about neolithic and bronze age monuments, but, even in the rain, and avoiding the cow patties in the field, this was incredible. Lunch and restroom stop at the Kilmartin Museum again. As we drive back, planning to stop at Dunnadd fort, the rain comes down even harder. Neither of us feel like scrambling over slippery rocks, so we return to Crinan Canal. The weather is a bit better and we spend a bit of time walking the tow path and watching the yachts. The place is full of groups of boaters telling tall tales at dinner!

Thursday- Of course on the last day, the sun comes out and it is brilliant! We delay our departure as long as possible, walking on the tow path and watching the operation of the locks. Our destination for the night is Loch Lomond,so we decided to take our time. First, we drive along the canal stopping several times to watch boats ending up at Ardrishaig and observe lock 1.

ON TO LOCH LOMOND

We turn back and Dora says it is 1 1/2 hours to Luss, our last stop. It is a beautiful drive along Loch Fyne.And when we get to Inveraray, tourists are absolutely crawling every where. It is a world apart from quiet Crinan. We stretch our legs and have a nice lunch at the Cottage, off the main street where the tour buses zip by. From there to Arrochar, there is a climb, then down to Loch Lomond. Dora takes us straight to Corries B & B, unfortunately not where we are going. The kind proprietor gives us directions to http://www.innonlochlomond.co.uk/, where we actually are staying. Actually we aren't IN Luss, but outside. We picked this place because it is not so far to drive to the airport in the morning, but still allows us some quiet. The building is across a busy road from the water, but there is a walkway under the road and we were able to take a nice walk in the sun. The trip is catching up to us and we have dinner, wine and go to bed.

GLASGOW

Not much to say about the last day, except we found out our plane was delayed two hours, so we slow down our breakfast and packing. We had heard about the bombing in Manchester but didn't really know if the security would be different. Drive down is fine. Turn in the car. Walk over to the airport terminal, check in and wait... We are on Delta back to JFK. I miss the UK already.
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Old Jun 14th, 2017, 01:59 PM
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Great trip report! Arran especially sounds wonderful. I am bookmarking all of your lodgings.

Also appreciate that you named your GPS unit. Did you actually drive over the rushing stream and was that the place in Wales?
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Old Jun 14th, 2017, 04:50 PM
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5: Thanks! No, we didn't drive across the stream. We turned around and Dora figured out a different route. We were looking for Pentre Ifan, which is in a really rural location in Wales. Most things in Wales are rural. ;-)
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Old Jun 15th, 2017, 07:29 AM
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Then by Lock Fyne, eventually we come up to the Crinan Canal and know we are close. >>

Ah, Loch Fyne - home of the humble kipper. [honestly, they were a "thing" in the UK while I was growing up].

we stayed in Troon once but never got to Arran. Sounds as if we missed quite a lot - thanks for sharing it with us.
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Old Jun 15th, 2017, 10:17 AM
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Bookmarking for Kilmartin and Crinan. Thanks for the report.
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