Back in June I decided to branch out with my typical Arran activities. Visiting a few times a year on average for several years, there have inevitably developed a few staples – habits that remain strangely caught between long-time visitor and fleeting tourist.
Take meandering walks along stretches of beatiful raw coastline at Blackwaterfoot, close to Casa Being Elsewhere. Spend copious amounts on body lotions at Arran Aromatics. Pick up a bottle of Arran malt at the distillery in Lochranza (a measure or two late afternoon in the name of ‘tasting’, don’t mind if I do…). Try a wee hike I haven’t tried before: wandering out to the Machrie Moor standing stones; the circuit from Torr Righ forest down to the beach via the King’s Cave, where legend has it Robert the Bruce mused on his spider; looping up to Glenashdale Falls at Whiting Bay.
Visit the Arran Cheese Shop and position quasi-tourist status to self as sufficient excuse to demolish entire wedges of brie at a sitting (when travelling I like to view eating as a valid Cultural Activity, a tendency particularly exacerbated in Scotland whereupon any Glasgow chippy comes to acquire the status of a UNESCO heritage site. Blame London: fab city, shite chips.)
But Arran is strong on all kinds of things and the common sight of kayakers paddling past in the middle-distance had been working its way in for a while. I’ve not done a lot of kayaking, not being the most ‘watersports’ of individuals. But bits here and there; just enough for it to have lodged itself comfortably in my mental list of ‘doable & desirable’ outdoor activities, along with hiking and the odd bout of sporadic, low-effort cycling.
And in a near-total reversal of my usual fortunes with such excursions, on the Friday morning I set out from a Brodick beach, I hit peak Weather Karma. Dry and mild, with a placid rolling tide, the Firth of Clyde was favouring both me and my weedy upper body strength, hurrah! After 10 minutes instruction on best paddling practice and some pootling about to get the feel of things, we swished off northwards towards Corrie.
In a small group comprised of a much-practised mother and daughter, myself, and our guide from Arran Adventures , it was – let’s face it – a given it would be the nine year old child speeding off effortlessly ahead. But with calm, clear water and little choppiness, it didn’t take long to get a modicum of control over my paddle and then some downright flair, dare I say it, going on.
The journey was a serene couple of hours, tracing the coast line, listening to the sea and the birds, with just the dimmest of traffic audible from the coastal road and oars cutting through the water. There’s something inherently meditative about any trip by water and this is a lovely way to traverse a corner of the island. We chatted idly about travel and work, and alternately swooshed off in ones or twos, hanging back or pushing off alone as the mood took us.
By the time we’d pulled into the little harbour at Corrie, my shoulders were definitely Aware and my thighs were feeling the burn. But I felt thoroughly cleansed, rather blessed by the peace and the easygoing climate, and could gladly have kept going. Quite felt I’d earned the 10 year single malt that night, too…