Thursday, 20 August 2009

Island Hopping

As well as being reunited with Yeoman, who appeared to have thoroughly enjoyed a day or two off, we also met up with Bill and trailer, come to shift us on to Arran (Caledonian Macbrayne won't travel animals loose on the ferry).

The ponies were billeted with the hospitable Macqueens in Brodick, in a fine grass park with glorious views of Goat Fell.

For a treat, Bill and I had booked into a local B&B. We were slightly nonplussed by the reaction when we asked for directions from a local, who went slightly pale and gasped, "you're not staying there, are you?"

Well, (almost) anything has to be better than a tent in the rain, but we were in turn slightly surprised to be met in reception by a plump hen.

Mein host was only slightly less odd, in Highland dress and an is it/isn't it wig. It seemed we had stumbled into a parallel Arran universe, especially when he addressed us in a broad Yorkshire accent. I really thought I might be getting overtired...

However, the place was comfortable and clean, seemingly almost entirely dependent on the services of a rather overworked Australian ex-zookeeper who did everything .

We had a rest day on the island, visiting the rather excellent Heritage Museum, where I hoped to find out more about Donald McKelvie. As well as being the breeder of the 'Arran' strains of potatoes (Comet, Victory, Pilot, etc), he was also a renowned breeder of Highland ponies, and indeed exported stallions to Palestine to breed mules. (As an aside, I was told recently the British Army were using Highland ponies during the Bosnian war - can anyone verify that?)

The forecast was dismal for the next day - and so it proved to be, with the tippiest of tipping rain and high winds . Although the boys were well rested after some good Macqueen grazing, it was not a day for riding to Lochranza -on safety grounds. There are no through tracks on Arran, so I was restricted to sharing the road with cyclists, pedestrians, lorries and tour buses: bad enough on a fine day with good visibility.

As it was, trailering the ponies the dozen miles to Lochranza to catch the small ferry to Kintyre we were forced off the road onto a ditch by an aggressive tour bus - luckily only minor damage: a rear light housing (the trailer) and a fuse (Bill's).

Boy, but it can rain and it was a sodden party which drew up at the Lochranza ferry terminal to read the notice: Sailings Suspended Due To Weather Conditions. Oh no - stormbound on Arran!

Well, there are worse places to shelter than the Lochranza Hotel. The barman fielded my worries about grazing for the horses, should we have to wait until the next day. "Oh just park them up anywhere: the farms round here are all managed from the mainland and it takes at
least three days for the police to move tinks on anyway". That's all right then!

After a few hours the wind died down some and the ferry was going to try the crossing- no guarantee of being able to unload at the exposed Claonaig though. (I was to learn later that there hadbern a tragic accident at that slipway a couple of years back, when two elderly ladies died trying to disembark in stormy conditions - lucky I didn't know it at the time.)

The ponies didn't seem to particularly mind swaying about on deck but I was relieved when the short 30 minute crossing was over though.

We had arranged to put the ponies up next to the local games pitch overnight. We'd intended to camp, but given the weather conditions were offered the option of sleeping in the pavilion instead - yes please! The games haugh is sited next to a Forestry Commission car park. Through the lashing rain I was amused to read its name: 'Port na Storm'. I was very tempted to graffiti the word 'Any' at the beginning of that!


  1. Oh Kate, what an adventure!! Loving picturing you and ponies, sounds fantastic, although I can't say I wish I was there on this leg!
    Ali x

  2. Ann Phillips,
    Hi Kate, glad to see you are getting round the country,weather not been very kind,very interesting to read your blogs, good luck.

  3. God! the weather, I mean we`ve been flooded out here in my house, the rain was insesant! But you? fantastic job Kate!