Wrapping up in Glasgow

Well that’s us – trip complete. We wrapped up our adventure lovingly called the Haggis, Hops, Hiking and Hilarity by our crew yesterday with a final day of travelling about seeing the sights.

We started with a delicious breakfast at Wanderlust Cafe in Edinburgh – highly recommended! About dead centre on the Royal Mile with a very cool orange sign with a compass logo. The inside of the place was decorated all travel like – we loved it!

From there we made our way to the train station and hitched a ride on a locomotive from Edinburgh Waverly Station to Glasgow Queen Street Station. At Queen Street we checked our bags in at Left Luggage for a few pounds and then hopped on another locomotive to Stirling.

We hopped onto the Stirling 1324 Bus for 4.50pounds that that goes on a circle around the major attractions (Stirling Castle, National Wallace Monument, Stirling Bridge, and more) all day and you can hop off and hop on as much as you like.

We hoped on and headed for the National Wallace Monument (aka ode to William Wallace)! The monument is a massive tower that has 5 floors dedicated to telling the story of the battle at Stirling Bridge all connected with a very steep, windy staircase that I in no way enjoy! But the view from the top platform and all the awesome history is totally worth it!

From here we hopped back on the bus and headed to Stirling Castle and some lunch at the Portcullis Pub – they have toasties (grill pressed sandwiches of deliciousness) and cold pints mmmm

Now off the Stirling Castle – this place is also pretty awesome. Lots to see and the views from the parapet are amazing.

After the Castle we walked the 1km to the Stirling rail station – the town is so fabulous we could not resist taking more photos as we waltzed down the hill. Amazing all the old stone – we just love reading the date of the buildings.

We caught the express train from Stirling Rail Station back to the Queen Street Station where we grabbed our bags again and made our way the 10mins to our home for the night, the Merchant City Inn. We had a quad room – a room with 4 single beds and our very own bathroom. This was particularly nice for our crew after being in a hostel for 2 nights where we shared the bathroom with all the people. I am too old to share bathrooms I think lol

After dropping our bags and a quick freshen up, we went in search of the amazing building murals Glasgow boasts – Shar marked them all on city map and we had a bunch within like a 10min walk. Yahoo – off we went with Shar as our tour guide. We gave her a solid 4 out of 5 stars for the tour. The pouring rain cost her a star.

We finished our evening with an awesome meal and some pints at Bar Home and heading back to the Inn to prep for an early morning taxi to the airport. Our meal may have included Deep Fried Haggis Bites and Max & Cheese with Chorizo Pizza. What!? To die for!

We are now onboard our flight and heading home – an amazing adventure with an epic crew!

Brande

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Absorbing All Things Endinburgh

We have had 2 amazing days in Edinburgh! With so much history in every stone, a story about every street and the amazing back drop of Arthur’s Seat – how can you not love this place?!

We started our first day with a much too fancy Scottish breakfast at the Delgarven House Hotel on Kilwinning. I think the breakfast room must also be used for wedding receptions. We did our best to get our fancy on in our travel clothes eating sausages and beans!

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From there we caught a taxi to the train, the train from Kilwinning for Glasgow Central Station, took a quick walk from there to the Queen Street Station and then a train to Edinburgh Waverly Station! A quick 1.5hr travel time for 20pounds to discover an awesome historic city – perfect!

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Once in Edinburgh we found our way in no time to MacBackpackers Hostel right on the Royal Mile! This is the first hostel experience for a couple of the crew and I wanted to make sure it was a good one. I have stayed with MacBackpackers before and they are great! Always super central, super clean, a great price and the staff are so nice! We were able to book a room all to ourselves too (4 beds, bunk bed style) so that also makes a great into!

We check our bags into luggage lock up and stepped out the hostel steps on the Royal Mile to find some lunch and a pint. We found it almost right next door at the Royal Mile Tavern – a recommendation from the hostel lady who lovingly calls it ‘The Tav’. We call it that now too! It was so great. The Haggis was amazing, the pints cold and the staff were so friendly.

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From here we set out to see, absorb, sip, walk and eat our way through Edinburgh! We started with a walk down the Royal Mile to Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Palace. Here are some pics of our walk down the Mile and our visit to the Palace and Abbey.

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It’s hard work this tourist stuff so our next stop was the very old and just so cool Tollbooth Tavern for a cold pint and a glass of water. Such a cool pub and it was super busy – good energy!

But then we got hungry and a little chilled from our cold pints … needed a tea and scone after that at Procaffeination. There may have been some shenanigan picture taking on the very steep stairs to the bathroom after the caffeine soaked in.

Pints in, caffeine in – we were ready to waltz about the city for a few more hours and see what we could see! Wow you can just walk in any direction in this city and see cool, old stuff! Love!

Guess what? We got hungry and thirsty again after all this seeing the sights stuff! So off to find some dinner and another pint. Oh and this stop (our last for the night) included some live music. One guy playing a harmonica, tambourine secured to his foot, played guitar and sang. Amazing! He even sang a Mumford & Sons song – yahoo, our fav!

Day 1 Edinburgh complete. We headed back to the hostel for a good sleep so we would be ready for Day 2. Well the beds were comfy and the room was a good temperature but being right on High Street (Royal Mile) comes at a cost – the street never sleeps so we couldn’t either! We heard every siren, all the drunken crowds, and some guy loudly looking for Paul (wonder if they found him?).

On Day 2, our morning alarm was a window washer all the way on our second story – filling our drying boots on the windowsill with soapy water. Maybe they will stink less now!

Well we are up now – so Shar and I went for a quick hike up Arthur’s Seat as our morning workout, checked out an amazing old cemetery that included a watch tower that used to be manned by guards to catch grave robbers who were stealing bodies for medical study in the 1830s, and enjoyed a Turkish coffee. Great morning!

Shar and I headed back to the hostel and once all of our crew was ready for the day we headed out in search of breakfast. We were all happy it was sunny outside and took full advantage of this rare occurrence in Scotland by eating our eggs and drinking our teas on the Carruber’s Cafe patio right on the Royal Mile.

After breakfast we headed up to Edinburgh Castle – Rosa has a friend of a friend who left us free tickets for the Castle! No jokes! How epic is that? Cheryl and Rosa who have never been before set off to discover the secrets of that amazing stone building.

Shar and I who have been the castle before heading off to see what we could see in the crazy steep and twisted streets around the castle. Well we got so far as the Castle Arms Pub!

During our pint, we did some research on what else and where else our crew should venture in this amazing place. We planned for some Old Town time, a pub for lunch, tea in the afternoon and our ghost tour that night.

After our pints and after the Castle, we all had a chance to see the inside of a very old church that sits on the Mile. We had the chance to talk to the history lady at the church about the Order of the Thistle – the highest, elite order of knights in UK who are appointed directly by the Queen. This is not for the Sir Richard Bronson or Sir Sean Connery knights of the world but a much higher order and only 16 sit on the Order at a time. They had a women on the Order once too .. well besides the Queen herself of course. The first picture below is one wall of seats of the Order’s meeting place. The crest of each night sits above their seat.

Post our Church visit we headed over to Princes Street area where we checked out an old Parish, and walked through a cemetery where the oldest grave was from 1820. Amazing all the stone work on the headstones and tombs.

After this we headed went up to Rose Street which is so neat with its pink banners and pub after pub along the largely closed to traffic street. This area also has a bookstore which we could not resist! Yah got me a new book for our flight home.

Next stop was the Sir Walter Scott Monument which if you have the stamina and fortitude to climb the small, winding 287 steps up the tower to the top offers amazing views of the city. I made it to the museum and then platform 2 level for pics – then chickened our as the steps got smaller and more twisty. No thanks. The views were still amazing!

After that wee workout we needed a tea and scones. So off to Deacon Brodie’s Cafe we go. Sadly they were already out of scones when we got there so I sucked it up and settled for a Nutella crepe and a tea. Rosa got one too and we shared a banana to kick it up a notch. Mmmm Deacon Brodie is a perhaps one of the most infamous character of Edinburgh’s history – he designed the gallows and devised the best way to hang criminals. Years later he committed a crime himself (burglary) and was hanged by the very device he invented. Karma?

Here we are post tea ‘locked’ behind the Cafe bars.

Our next agenda item was to get some souvenirs or gifties for folks back home – the amazing cashmere tartan scarves in every shop were so hard to resist. Post shopping we headed back to the room to pack up a bit, and ready ourselves for our Haunted Ghost Tour we had scheduled for 930pm.

The tour was awesome. Ella our guide was dramatic (but not too much), sarcastic (in the funniest way possible) and just all around a cool gal for sure. We spent about 30mins above ground hearing ghost stories about the closes and winds (skinny alleyways between buildings) and then another 30mins in the vaults below the city.

The vaults were awesome! We were so deep below the streets you could not hear any street noise or see any natural light. It was all bricks, stone, rock and coldness. They had the place lit with candles (I am sure for effect) and some electric lights on the stairwell down. It was cold, it was damp and it was creepy! Good fun! Ella would stand with her candle in hand and tell the story of each of the ghosts in the vaults.

Post tour we of course had to snap a photo with this chick, she was just so cool. The picture does not do justice for her hair though – it was all purple, white, pink and teal dress locks. She had dragon earrings and a cape and funky heels on as well. What else would you expect from a trained historian turned Edinburgh ghost guide!?

Wrapping up the tour it was about 1030pm and we felt one last pint to toast our couple of days in Edinburgh was in order. So we headed to one of my favourite pubs, Deacon Brodie’s (yes that character again), and all enjoyed a cider while we chatted about our favourite moments of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh thanks for an amazing time. Now onward to Stirling and Glasgow for our final day in this wonderful little country!

Brande

Breathing Deep in Kilwinning

With the Arran Coastal Way under our belts we had to find some way to celebrate our accomplishment … what better way than climbing the highest mountain on the Isle of Arran!

Yes you read the right. We finished walking 105kms and celebrated with a 5hour hike up Goat Fell Mountain. Clearly we all have some weird, hiking sickness that makes you keep logging the miles even with sore muscles, painful blistered feet and looming black clouds in the distance.

Here we go …

We had a bit of a sleep in. Aka we had breakfast at 9am instead of 8am (a whole hour extra sleep that none of us could actually sleep through). Rosa and Cheryl were at The Broomage B&B again and had a yummy continental breakfast; Shar and I were at the Carrick Lodge B&B where we had a full Scottish breakfast. Oh don’t feel too sorry for Cheryl and Rosa! While they might have had to deal with a cold breakfast – they had their laundry done and had warm, clean clothes to put on. The taste of my delicious hot breakfast was tainted as I enjoyed it while wearing travel worn clothes hiking up and do the steep hill from our place to theirs!

Here is a quick peek at the Carrick Lodge:

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At just after 1030am, Shar and I walked from our Lodge to The Broomage over at Goat Fell Mountain end of Brodick town to drop our bags with Cheryl and Rosa’s. The Broomage folks were cool with letting us all store our bags there while we climbed the mountain – basically just the sweetest B&B owners ever!

We had a quick stop at the Outdoor Store so I could get some compeeds (epic blister bandaids) and accidently buy a new Buff before we heading up the mountain. My feet are in a bad way. Darn it, I think my 15yr old boots may need to be retired and I am in absolute denial! Put it this way.. duct tape required to make it through  boot days.

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At just before 11am we were on our way to Goat Fell Mountain – to access it you walk the Fisherman’s Path from town to the base of the mountain. This path included walking on the beach, some easy underfoot grass path, a couple of bridges. and a long boardwalk. We actually walked this path when we started the first day of the Arran Coastal Way!

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In just a km or 2 the path turned into a woodland then rocky trail taking us up, up, and up the mountain. While hard work this felt so amazing compared to balancing precariously on slippery boulders along the coast. The day before we met a women and her dog (we nicknamed her Heidi McHikerton and I believe her dog’s name is Hammish) on the Arran Coastal Way who said we would think the path up the mountain is a dawdle after walking the coast. Well I don’t think it was a dawdle but wow it was nice to walk on flat surfaces!

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After a couple hours of trudging up we got to Glen Rosa! Wow! The expanse of green fields, waterfall and river flowing down the Glen, and the bay of Brodick in the distance … I had my fill.  Beautiful! At this point, the path was getting more and more rocky and way more exposed – soon it would be a ridge walk with some bouldering up to the summit. Nope! Be Brande! I am not a heights person and don’t pretend to be.

So it was here I said good luck, took a photo, handed off a sandwich or two to Shar and Cheryl and wished them the best of luck on this summit! Up they went, and down I went.

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Rosa and I headed back down with our sights set on the Arran Brewery at the base of the mountain and some sunshine, picnic table time while we waited for the two summit punks!

It was an awesome couple of hours just Rosa and me – I totally made the right choice to enjoy a pint and good conversation with a friend instead of Gullom like scrambling to the summit of fear!

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Shortly after Rosa and I sat down for our sunshine picnic of donut and cider yumminess,  we got a video message from a Cheryl and Shar advising they had made the summit and were on their way down!

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About an hour later we got another video message from Cheryl and a Shar to tell us to have cold pints ready – they were double, maybe triple timing it down! The minute, literally, I walked out of the pub with their pints Shar and Cheryl walked around the corner. Now how is that for timing!

We enjoyed our pints, checked out the gift shop, and made our way back to Brodick. A quick stop at The Broomage for our bags and a wee chat with the owner guy and we made our way to the co-op (grocery store) for another quick stop for Arran Gold Liquer and a chat with the other Broomage owner gal and then we made our way to the 7:20pm ferry! We loved the saying on the ferry door – ‘Haste Ye Back’ (hurry back). Ok!

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A couple hours later we were checked into our home for the night, Dalgarven House Hotel and enjoyed some fish and chips for dinner! It was an early night for us tired gals – we were keen for a good sleep and to switch gears from hikers to tourists!

Off to Edinburgh!

Brande

 

 

 

Celebrating Back in Brodick

We did it! On Day 5 we completed the Arran Coastal Way – all 105km according to the guidebook or 133km according to my FitBit!

We started our morning with … you guessed it! A full Scottish Breakfast again that was absolutely amazing. While eating we commiserated over how our feet were doing, and the weather and if we think it would improve at all. We were keen to finish this trail despite a hard, late finish the day before and most of us still with we gear.

So we made a plan to be out the door for 1015am and on our way – rain and blustery winds or not! We ran a little late cause of me, sorry gals. For some reason the outsides of my feet have developed some pretty impressive and very painful bruises (I think from all the bouldering where your feet are never flat and you push off from the outside of your boot). I had to do some first aid intervention if I was gonna get another 20km outta these dogs. Some foam backed moleskin and duct tape ought to do the trick!

We were out the door at 1045 …

We had stayed at the Burlington House which was just so cool. Shar and I were on the top floor where it was like an attic angled roof – I always wanted a room like that as a kid. We also had a heater in our bathroom so we could crank it up to dry our clothes and boots – a totally stinky hot box! Ick!

Our day started our on a pretty crazy, overgrown trail heading straight up out of town. The lady at the Burlington told Rosa and Cheryl that instead of backtracking a couple km to get back on the trail there is a sneaky-sneak straight up to the trail just down the road. Yahoo! We found it! At first a wide track (gravel road) then a cool wee trail that looked more like a creek bed than a path! At times we had to crouch hike the branches and bramble was so low We loved it!

From here we were on a minor road and had to guess a little at where to go next – assuming we continued with the coast to the right, we turned right. Well oopsy daisy! Sure felt like the right way. We even confirmed it with a fisherman! He told us to go up a wee road (massive, long, steep hill) and we would be back with the Way. Well we did that and ended up back where we had already been – hahaha sure let’s add a couple km to our day!

So, we asked another lady who drove by and she told us to head around and back down to the coast – yahoo we found the right way markers. Too bad we climbed a horrendous hill to find out! Looks like the driving lady knows a bit more about the inland paths than the fisher guy – weird?!

Ok back in action we spent the next couple of hours either rock beach walking or on boardwalks just above the beach. We could not believe the amount of work that went into building these amazing boardwalks. At the end of each there was a small sign that said how many meters to the next boardwalk- so you would know how long you had to suffer on the wet boulders before flat ground again. Brilliant!

The tide was still a little high so we had to walk a few steps in the ocean at one point to get around a headland. Cheryl went ahead to check out what was on the other side – making even soggier feet in the process but what a champ! She found our boardwalk on the other side, so we all followed! If your friends walked around a headland with ankle deep ocean, would you? Yup!

From here we soon found our way to Lamlash our mid way point and where we getting a hot lunch. This time we knew the tea house or a hotel would be open and we could not wait! All of us enjoyed a hot tea with Arran Gold (yummy, better than Bailey’s liquor) to warm up and some sandwiches with chips!

We also reconfirmed that yes we wanted to finish walking – even with basically ponds in our boots, and torrential rain and wind. We were gonna finish this thing! So we geared up and stepped outside to … no rain, no joke! The skies had stopped crying down on us and it was actually feeling like it might warm up a little. (insert the sound of the heavens singing).

We started with a 2km easy road walk which turned into gravel track right along the coast where we saw seals! Finally we saw all the seals the guidebook and locals were talking about! My photo below doesn’t do the seals justice – Rosa got some epic photos on her camera though!

From here we rounded a headland and had a couple of kms walking on the grassy knoll right beside the coast – sometimes precariously on the cliff edge in my scaredy-Cat opinion but no one else seemed to mind. Absolutely beautiful!

After this section if was some easy hill, fields and minor road walking into town. Stopping whenever we wanted in the sunshine for photos!

img_3278img_3311Wow, we made it! Strolled into town (and by that I mean hobbled haha) and took a photo back where we started 5 days ago – at the Arran Coastal Way marker. Wow!

We headed over to the Douglas Hotel across the street where we were presented with our completion certificates and felt some serious pride in our accomplishment! There may have been clapping and some fighting tears. A toast with some local lager and a cider on the sunny terrace completed our epic journey!

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Ladies! Wowza! Now shall we really celebrate by climbing a mountain, Goat Fell Mountain to be exact? I think so! Brande

Soggy in Whiting Bay

Well day 4 over and done! From Lagg to Whiting Bay in 16kms that felt more like double that!

We started our morning with another yummy full Scottish breakfast and some time checking in with our families and catching up on social media in the cute little sun room of the hotel. The forecast was calling for heavy rains and wind and we were looking to put it off as long as possible. Sitting in our little sun room we watched the rain deluge down sideways for a good hour. Ick! But we had some time to kill anyway so why not hope the rain would rain itself out!

This morning’s walk includes bouldering around Brenan Head which is only passable at a lower tide. The guide book says to arrive at the headland at high tide, take a break, and then go around when the tide is passable and we are confident it’s going out. If not confident then to backtrack to the escape root up to the cliff top and take the road.

High tide was forecasted for 1:06pm and we had 4-5km to walk to get to Brenan Head which included a lot of sand, boulder and bog walking – beautiful for sure, but can take some time to cross. So we left the hotel around 1030am and made our way to the headland. We made awesome time after leaving the hotel – likely because it was pouring rain and all you can do is put you hood on, keep your head down and walk. Good conversation and photo montages are a little tough in the blistering rain along the ocean. But we were lucky the rain only lasted about an hour or so – just long enough to soak a few of the crew to the under clothes.

We arrived at Brenan Head just after noon so got comfy on the boulders below an awesome waterfall just outside Black Cave (the biggest coastal cave on the walk – massive) and enjoyed our lunch while watching the tide come to high and then go out so we could time our crossing. Well as we sat there it got windier and windier, the waves higher and higher – soon crashing against the rocks! A beautiful sight to see but not as you are waiting for the sea to go out so you can keep moving. We committed to waiting for high tide at 1:06pm and picked a tide pool to watch as our indicator that the tide was going out.

Bundled up in all the clothing we had in our packs – for me this included a short sleep, 2 long sleeves, a fleece, my shell and a toque – we enjoyed the waves, had some good conversations and waited. Every once in a while the sun would peek out and brighten our cold, happy but impatient spirits. At 230pm the water was not visibly retreating, the waves were getting worse by far and there was no way to pass Brenan Head – our gut instinct to not attempt the crossing due to the conditions were later confirmed when we found out all ferry crossings to/from the island were cancelled due to bad seas. Bad sea, bad! A weather warning was issued after we left our hotel in Lagg – missed it! So back to the Escape Route we went … we hadn’t seen the markers for this on our way through so Rosa and I double timed it to see if we could find these while Cheryl and Shar got a few things sorted and followed behind. We found it! Not sure how we missed the marker on the way through the first time. I was a bit ‘grumpy’ about having to take the escape route because we had waited so long for the stubborn tide and the Brenan Head crossing just seemed like the cool coastal thing to do. But the escape route ended up being great – up a steep incline to get the thighs burning, across some fields so we got to walk along with some sheep, and then easy road walking with amazing views of the Prada Island lighthouse! After 4km on the road we had a decision to make – walk another 8km into Whiting Bay our home for the night on roads OR walk 12km through woodland on the actual Arran Coastal Way.

By now the rain was looming again, the wind had picked up big time and it was 430pm – we had lots of time but there is always the concern that you won’t get a meal in the next town if you arrive too late. So Shar chatted with the Burlington Hotel where we were staying and confirmed we could order till 830pm.

So we had just under 4hrs to make 12km, we could get a hot meal at the end, and the path was largely through the woodland which I love – decision made, let’s keep on keeping on! About mid way the storm hit! Big style! Soaking, sideways, heavy, bouncing back up off the ground, rain quickly turning us from chilled hikers to soggy sloggers! Hoods on, heads down, we made our way. Even in the rain it was really pretty! Until we got to town and then it was just rain, rain, rain – running down the streets and overflowing drains kind of rain.

By the time we arrived at our Burlington Hotel for the night it was just before 8pm and we were literally dripping – I had to actually ring out my socks! The hotel lady didn’t care one bit and led us to our rooms and had the chef on standby for food. We toasted the end of a crazy, soggy day at dinner and all of us were keen for a good sleep and a chance for our clothes and boots to dry! Brande

Chilling in Lagg

Day 3 (the real day 3 – sorry about the typo on yesterday’s post) here on the Arran Coastal Way was amazing. We walked from Machie to Lagg just over 20kms and loved every minute of it. A day full of amazing views, challenging and beautiful trails, and many a quintessential Scottish moment. Cheryl and I couldn’t believe how many Scottish moments we got in before noon!We began our day at 8am with a full blown Scottish breakfast – complete with Black Pudding or Haggis. Shar and I of course took the Haggis, we both love it. Rosa had Haggis too but Cheryl went with Black Pudding. She originally hails from Newfoundland, Canada where Black Pudding is a regular menu item and she wanted to know if it was as good as home. It was!We dallied way too long at breakfast but how could we help ourselves with such an awesome meal, beautiful sunny dining room and all the tea and coffee we could drink. Ok full disclosure here… we were expecting rain and no one was ready to get out there into the potential sogginess.Leaving our B&B, the amazing owner woman lady (I feel so bad I can’t remember her name) knowing our love of Helian Coo’s offered to take us out to her family’s pasture where she raises them for a ‘wee look’ before she drops us off at the start of our day – heck yah!We met Aggie a beautiful brown mom nd her baby, and another black Coo (I don’t remember her name) and her babe – they are absolutely adorable! Standing in a classic scotch mist rain seeing Helian Coo’s – now that’s quintessential!Oh my goodness they even have a Coo named Pippa and she knows her own name. The B&B gal called it out and all the way across the field Pippa raised her head and made to come our way! She is the Coo way way across the field.Once we got our Coo time in, we were dropped off in Machrie (where we were picked up yesterday) to start our day of walking … with standing stones! Oh wow, wow, wow. Sadly, Rosa did not hear the buzzing of bees and find Jamie Fraser but we had an awesome time all the same!Overall I think there was 3 or maybe 4 standing stone circles in that field – some more impressed than others in size but all pretty awesome to see. Our standing stones excursion was a 3km+ detour and worth every blister bandaid step! Just amazing how they have stood the test of time. From the standing stones we made our way the couple of km to King’s Cave. This is the cave where Robert the Bruce hid out and they say spoke to the spider who changed the course of Scotland. I have heard many a cave claim the Robert and spider story so I am not sure about that but it was amazing all the same!The walk to the King’s Cave Park area was 1.6km on the road but once there it was the most amazing path trough the forest and across the hill top then down a rock gulley to the shore – beautiful!From the King’s Cave we continued along the coast on a gassy knoll just above the boulders on the beach heading towards Drumadoon cliffs and Blackwaterfoot town for lunch. This section of trail is so far my favourite! Easy underfoot on the knoll and then entertaining boulder hopping with amazing views of the ocean to the right and imposing beautiful cliffs to the right – wow!We wrapped up this morning with a 1km+ beach walk to bring us into Blackwaterfoot for lunch. We hit the Post Office/Liquor Store/Grocer to refill snacks and suck for our packs and then grabbed some lunch from On A Roll.I had a very tasty Scotch Pie and the rest of the crew enjoyed super fresh sandwiches. Sitting outside at a picnic table we enjoyed our lunch, took care of any feet concerns, and reviewed the trail info for the afternoon.Once back on the path, our next milestone was Preacher’s Cave at about km 1.6 – we found it. It is a massive triangle shaped cave that was used as a church in the early 1800s. Pretty neat to see! From here the guide book describes the path as ‘tortuous’ over boulder fields grown over with vegetation making for difficult and uneasy footing with very few way markers. Bang on!Well the description was correct .. but we loved it! The sun came out, the stepping up and over and across to the different rocks was entertaining, and the conversation was great. For sure our speed slowed right down as every second stone was an ankle breaker but we didn’t care – we were happy as clams out there and we saw a seal!From this tortuous path we made our way up a very steep – outside of my comfort zone – hill to the top of the cliffs where we rejoined the road.Once up the hill, we took in the amazing view and changed from boots to shoes and continued walking. We had 6.8km left to cover on the road to reach our evenings destination, the Lagg Hotel built in 1971.We walk on the side of the road where the traffic is coming at us so we can give them a chance to see us and give us some space or we can jump into the ditch. There is no shoulder on these roads and barely enough room for cars to pass so it’s a little sketchy but easy underfoot.At 3.8km we happened past a bus stop and hmmmm don’t mind if we do! We didn’t come here to walk on roads – we came to walk on paths and when there is no path, we are outta here! Sure it was only a 3.8km trek and only saved us about 30mins but wow did our feet thank us!We made it to the Lagg Hotel at just after 6pm our earliest at night so far! We checked in and even had time to shower and get into clean clothes before dinner, which was booked for 830pm. It was so nice to have our home right in the very place we were enjoying a cold pint and our meal.We even met the hotel owner who lives part-time in the Calgary area, just like 3 of our peeps! Lots of chat about the Calgary area ensued. We finished the night off with a wee dram of Arran Gold Liquor (like a really good and more real Baileys) liberally poured by Peter and then headed to bed – all secretly hoping the rain in the forecast was a bad weatherman’s joke.Brande

Hobbling in Blackwaterfoot

Day 2 on the Arran Coastal Way proved to be another doozy. A beautiful doozy that has left all of us with a bit of a hobble or a limb tonight- tight muscles, dogs barking, sun burns, and blisters seems to be the order of the body today for our crew.

The day started amazing! We stayed at the Butt Lodge (not a typo) which had the cutest rooms, comfy beds and was so quiet. Except for the temperature of the rooms (too warm) it was a perfect stay. Oh and we had the pleasure of a full Scottish breakfast!

If you don’t know what a full Scottish breakfast is let me tell you! 2 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausages, baked beans, grilled tomato, potato scone, fried mushrooms, and toast. Most of the time it also comes with Black Pudding. Ours did not but it would have been epic if it did. So yummy!

After breakfast we packed up and heading out the door. Leaving our big bags for Contours Walking Company to carry forward for us, and just taking our daytime backpack.

At 930am we were on the road. We kicked off the day with a visit to the Lochranza Castle built in the 13th century. Robert the Bruce stopped here on his way from Ireland when he returned to claim the throne. Today, it is just some really impressive ruins – in really gold shape!

From there, we started out on the path. This included a short distance on the road around the headland and a steep, long uphill to take us to a fern filled, undulating path on the cliff above the beach.

A few sections of the trail where beyond my ‘fear of heights’ comfort zone – just a foot wide if that with what would be a hard drop off of it wasn’t for the ferns growing out of the hill to give you illusion of solid ground. You can’t fool me. I took the lead and powered through it! I find when spooked on a trail just ‘doing it’ gets me through it!

Following our up on the cliff walk, we then came down a very steep hill to the village of Catacol where we got to step over our first ladder stile.

These are basically two ladders leaned against each other over a fence. They are used to keep the sheep in the pasture but give us humans an easy way up and over without the pain of a gate. Seems sheep don’t know how to climb ladders. I wonder about that!

The village of Catacol is famous for the row of 12 white houses that face the sea. Each has a different shaped window design so the wives of fisherman who lived there could signal their husbands by placing an oil lamp on the sill.

From Catacol we did a bit more road walking (about 4-5km) before making our way back onto the beach for some Coastal hiking. This is such a beautiful way to see the coast but it’s hard work keeping your balance and purchase on the rocks. Worth the work though for the amazing views! Well the view from the road is awesome too but the is just something fun about hiking on the road vs on a path or the beach!

We soon left the beach to walk into Pirnmill where we were excited to have a warm lunch and a pint at the Lighthouse Cafe. I could already taste my cheese and tomato toastie and a cold pint of Tenants lager.

Well hopes dashed, there was a homemade sign on the door announcing it was closed for today and tomorrow. Boo! Well when life serves you lemons you make lemonade.

There was a small village store next to it where we grabbed some Tuc crackers, Island of Arran Brie, a lemon loaf, some candy and bought a can of Tenants. We then grabbed a picnic table and popped all our pack snacks and new purchases into a pretty epic family style lunch.

After our picnic, we had a few more kms of road walking before getting back on the beach. The road walking while flat surfaced and easy is tough on the body and the mind.

There is no shoulder at all so you are have to be hyper vigilant for cars, walk single file (so no chatting), and the hot black tar with the sun makes for warm and very sore feet. We were glad to get back onto more natural surfaces!

Along our travels we came across 2 seaside graveyards. Wow they were pretty old. The stone fence around the outside always falling down in places and all the graves were covered in lichen. I think the oldest grave stone we could read was for a poor soul who died in 1812. What an amazing final resting place.

By mid afternoon we were no longer beach walking but rather rock balancing and hopping – these amazing lava formations stretched for kms of the coast with a few random grassy or beach breaks. The surfaces were very rough making for sticky walking allowing us to easily walk up and over and across, picking the route we wanted so long as the ocean stayed on our right we were heading in the right direction.

From here the path turned into a very grassy headland with lots of vegetation- mostly some type of tall fern and thistles. At some points we were pushing through shoulder high ferns on the path hoping spiders and tics were in residence on another part of the island today.

Totally worth the vegetation foraging as we got a glimpse of a golden eagle above the cliffs and found some cool caves!

Our beach walking wrapped up around 430pm and a quick look at the map and some math confirmed we still had 8km of road walking left before our day was done. None of us were keen to be back on the road.

Rallying our selves for the next 1.5hrs of a silent, windy, hot, sore slog we tried to think of just how lucky we are to be here and that the road was right beside the sandy beach so we could seal watch while walking! The idea of a spot of tea and a fresh scone at the Machrie Tea Room and Golf Club (our day’s destination) was also a big incentive. Sure glad we didn’t know then it was closed – nooooo! Sad face!

Instead we called our Greannan B&B lady who was picking us up to drive us to the accomodation in Blackwaterfoot as it was far off  today’s walking route. She was lovely and had lots of say about the island so raised our spirits some. Oh and what she couldn’t raise, the beautiful B&B did! A bed has never looked so comfortable!

No time for resting! It was almost 7pm and we still had to walk … hobble, shuffle, wrangle … the 1km down to the Kinloch Hotel for some supper before they stopped serving meals. Our B&B lady was so sweet and called to book us a table to we wouldn’t miss out on getting some eats! We cheered our amazing but tough day and commiserated on our hate for road walking over cold pints!

What an awesome day and fantastic evening meal – now let’s back to our home for the night to tend to the blisters, muscle pain and sun burns!

Brande

Giggling in Lochranza

Today was quite the Arran Coastal Way kick off … perhaps a little trial of fire really with such high temperatures, 27km distance, bouldering, beach walking, hill climbing and wardrobe malfunctions. Amazing every step of it, wow what an experience. We began our day with a yummy continental breakfast at our B&B, The Broomage, after a decent night’s sleep. Most of us were up a few times in the night – our brains refusing to adjust too quickly to Scots time from west coast Canada time but we felt rested and ready all the same. Breaky in, water bladders full, and packs on we headed out the door to start our walk – there may have even been some high 5s! We headed to the start of the trail which is marked with a really cool map of Arran on this big stone slab thing – I am not doing it justice with that description haha! The day started with a walk along the path, boardwalk and across the beach around the Brodick Harbour. Easy walking makes for such nice start to the day – lots of good conversation and a good way to get the muscles warmed up.From there we progressed from beach to forested path. Now we are talking! This is the kind of walking I love – in the trees, shaded from the sun, lots of up and down and stepping over roots and across little streams. We were still feeling amazing! Once through the forested section, we arrived in Corrie & Sannox a string of small villages along the coast. This had us walking on the road for a few kms and gave us a chance to stop for a wee spot of tea and some cookies! From there we were off for a bit more road walking and then refreshingly back to coast line. About an hour or so later we stopped for a sea side picnic, boots off to give the toes a break and some air, some more sunscreen and we were off again. The afternoon was much tougher that the morning but wow was it amazing. We were back on the coast but now this was a rough coastline with loads of scrambling or bouldering – the views were amazing and the terrain fun to walk but this is the type of trail that’s hard on the body and oh I love it. But wow those random moments of flat terrain were such a welcome break for the tired ankles!Wow – after 10 hours of hiking, a total of 53,640 steps and 4,939 calories we finally arrived in the cutest little coastal town of Lochranza. This town could not have come sooner – we were tired! Some of us switched from boots to shoes to give the feet a break and all of us enjoyed a few Haribo chewy candies (coke bottles, fried eggs and such) for a boost for the last couple of kms. Mmm Once in Lochranza, we headed straight to the Lochranza Hotel. The only place you can get food in town and only until 830pm (and it was already 7pm). The gulp of that cold pint was a dream! Oh like you have no idea – too good. We had a yummy dinner out on the hotel lawn at a picnic table with with views of the old Lochranza Castle across the harbour. You could tell we were tired, loads of giggles and laughing till we cry moments! Best finish ever to an awesome day!BrandePS for the Outlander fans out there … despite multiple attempts, Rosa has not yet heard the buzzing of bees. No worries though, our scientific endeavour to find Jamie Fraser will continue!

Happy in Brodick

We said goodbye to the west coast of Canada at noon on Mon July 23 and have been saying  hello to Scotland since 9am on Tuesday July 24. Wow, that was quick. Just three flights for me and two for my fellow travellers, a Harry Potter movie, a few games of Yahtzee, a fresh lobster roll, a face mask treatment on the plane or two, a bus and we arrived safe and excited to be in Glasgow!

We caught the Glasgow Airport Express (20pounds for 4 of us) to Glasgow Central Train Station (about a 15min journey) so we could hit Buchanan Street. This is a long, cobbled stoneshopping street or district with lots of clothes shops, Tesco (grocery store), Boots (drug stores) and Poundland (dollar store). A great place for the newly arrived tourist to grab a  iPhone charger that works in the plugs here, an international SIM card so I can gave a data plan for safety .. and blogging reasons, etc.

While out and about in Glasgow, we stopped at the Willow Tea Room – a Charles Rennie Mackintosh inspired cafe – for scones and Loren sausage morning rolls, fresh tea and strong coffee. Charles Rennie Mackintosh is a famous Scottish architect and artist who draws these beautiful roses! During breakfast my amazing crew had birthday cards for me and eeeeeek a Polaroid camera! No joke!

Yup that little lime green guy is mine! This is going to make scrapbooking this trip even more fun – oh my goodness I cannot wait! That’s the first pic I took so I could remember how crazy happy I am! Wow, what a present! You even have to  wave the Polaroid around darter it slides out until the film does its magic show up thing. So fun!

We did a bit more looking about in Glasgow, grabbing a few wee things we thought we might not be able to get on the small Island of Arran and then made our way back to the Glasgow Central Station to grab a train out to Adrosson Harbour and then onto the ferry to Brodick on the Island.

Of course we snapped a few pics on the way … including one of a Tim Horton’s right in central Glasgow. Who knew!?

The ticket for both train and ferry was about 12 pounds total, that is pretty awesome considering we spent almost a full hour on each. We bought them right from the ticket office at ScotRail with no problem at all and during the summer months he trains sets out every hour. We were on the train for 12:19pm and then the ferry by 2pm. So easy.

Once in Brodick we quickly got acquainted with this very small village, found the best photo spot, sized up all the local pubs (all 3 haha) and found quick directions to our home for the evening.

We are staying at a little B&B / self catering apartments place called The Broomage. The family that runs it is lovely and live on the top third floor, while the rest of us have the run of the main and second floor. A little sad we don’t get a full Scottish Breakfast our first morning of our hike but no one should complain about yummy fruit, toast and cereal when you aren’t the one making it. Love that!

We dropped our heavy packs, chatted with the owner couple a little bit, and then headed into town (snicker, snicker that’s about a half a block away and about that big) for something to eat – we were famished.

Yahoo at the Fiddler’s Roof we found haggis and Arran Island cheese toasties and Cullen Skink soup – two delicious, very Scottish meals. Haggis is well um sort of peppery meatloaf (we will leave it at that) and Cullen Skink is a fish, cream, potato soup. Oh and some local Scottish ale too. Mmmm

We had a great supper pouring over the maps, guide book and information about the towns we would visit in the days to come. Many of us yawning and ready to go grab groceries then get back and sort out our backpacks  for the next day! But not before Cheryl gifted the bar a sweet, crisp, pretty 5dollar bill for their brick wall of money. They had loads of other kinds of money up there but  Canadian – well that just had to be remedied! Go Canada Go!

Ok back at our home, we got to packing. Sorting out what would be in our day packs (rain gear, fleece, chow for lunch and snacks, first aid kit, sun screen, hat, sneakers if wearing boots or vice versa, lip chap, camera, map, compass, etc) and what would go in our carry forward packs. Contours Walking Company will be picking up our carry forward packs in the morning and they will be there waiting at our next evenings home.

By now, just 7pm Glasgow time, the flights and the time change are getting to us. A couple of the crew turned in while Shar and I went to the beach for a few sunset pics, some blog time and journaling.

Shar and I wrapped up the evening with some tea and biscuits while we reviewed tomorrow’s route and looked ahead to the highlights of the days to follow.

Now that’s us off to bed – we have a 27km day tomorrow up island to Lochranza! Time for some Z’s!

Brande

Haggis, Hops, Hiking and Hilarity – Here We Go

We are off …

Our merry band of 4 is about to take to the skies from Calgary via Halifax to Glasgow, Scotland on our favourite airliner West Jet. All my past adventures to Scotland have been on direct flights of 9-10hours into Glasgow. I am looking forward to splitting this up into two 5 hour flights with a chance to stretch the stems in Halifax for a wee bit … maybe enough time to grab an Alexander Keith’s! Mmmmm

We land tonight Vancouver time around midnight but in Glasgow, which is really breakfast for us on arrival. 10hrs in flight and a 9hr time change will make for some hilarious, way too tired, giggle moments tomorrow as I celebrate another birthday in Scots!

I had the pleasure of celebrating my 30th and 35th in Fort William, Scotland and now my 40th in Brodick, Isle of Arran, Scotland. Pretty excited about this little trend .. maybe the Orkneys are calling for my 45th? Hmmmm

Right, see you on the flip side, us lassies have a couple of wee flights to catch.

Brande