Bewilderment, disbelief and general questioning of my sanity. These were all reactions I was met with, whilst informing people that we were going to the Isle of Arran for the day. Why? I hear you ask, as Arran is a fantastic place to visit. I have to confess that we don’t actually live in Scotland. We live in the Morecambe Bay area of the North West of England, so visiting a Scottish island, with three kids in tow, just for the day, could be classed as ambitious, to say the least.
My daughter Tasha, being five, loves trains and seeing as we were now the proud owner of a Friends and Family Railcard (they really are great; adults get a third off travel and kids get 60% off!), I decided that the Easter Holidays would be a great time to go on a long train journey. The question was where? Imagine my excitement when I discovered that if we set off really early, we could be at Ardrossan Harbour (the port where the main Arran ferry leaves from) by 9.20 am. Not only that, if we used our railcard and booked cheap advance tickets it was affordable too! I roped in my lovely mum and step-dad (who are always up for an adventure) and we duly booked our tickets.
We excitedly (but with blurry eyes) boarded the 6.00am Glasgow bound train. The weather forecast was for sunshine and showers and it was freezing. The only downside to advance train tickets is that you can’t change your mind and ‘go on a nicer day’. However, we have years of camping etc under our belts and luckily the weather doesn’t really bother us. The kids were all togged up nice and warm with fleeces, waterproofs and gloves etc.
After a quick change at Glasgow Station, we soon arrived at Ardrossan. The majestic MV Caledonian Isles was already there waiting. It was a lovely reminder of our holiday two years ago, watching the vehicles driving onto the ferry. We purchased our tickets and waited until we were told to board.
I absolutely love Caledonian Macbrayne ferries and my mother is equally besotted. Once you’re on board you start to feel the stresses of every day life seeping away. The sea and the beautiful scenery just make you feel totally relaxed. Even in the mist and rain, the journeys are still stunning.
The weather was a little wild (even for us) to stay outside for the whole crossing, so we made ourselves cosy in the comfortable interior of the ferry and tucked into our packed lunch (a little early but we had been up since 4.00am!). Calmac Ferries have very good facilities, I feel I should point out. If we had wished to do so, we could have purchased reasonably priced hot food, drinks, souvenirs etc.
After a fifty five minute crossing, we arrived at Brodick. Brodick is a bustling little place, which provides just about everything you could need. Stepping on to a Scottish island is like visiting another world. As cliched as it sounds, time seems to just slow down. Taking deep breaths of icy, island air, I commented to my mum, that I felt more chilled out than I had for months. Emily, who is eleven, bemoaned the fact that we were only there for the day and couldn’t stay for a holiday!
It was really cold and it began to rain heavily, so we decided to find a cafe. The Little Rock Cafe was just a couple of minutes walk from the ferry terminal. Hot chocolates were enthusiastically consumed by all and we soon warmed up.
The rain soon stopped and in typical April fashion, the sun tried to peep out. We had a lovely walk along the front, enjoying the views of Goat Fell and surrounding hills, in their snow capped, dramatic beauty.
We also had a really pleasant potter around some of the lovely shops that Brodick offers. I was very happy to buy some of my favourite Isle of Arran flavoured cheddar (the caramelised onion one is to die for!). Arran is known as a foodie paradise and for very good reason. I think I will perhaps write a whole other blog post just about the cheese! We also visited the Co-op supermarket, which sells everything you could ever wish for, to buy some food for tea, on the train journey home. We decided on Scotch pies made by the Arran Butcher.
Our three hours on the island sadly came to an end all too soon but as we boarded the ferry for the return journey, the sun magically made an appearance. We headed straight for the top deck, making the most of the views.
The return ferry ride was the most magical part of the day. The sunlight collided with ‘rainbombs’ of clouds, creating rainbows just above the surface of the water. I sadly failed to capture this on camera but I think that the picture below demonstrates the lighting conditions.
The train journey home ran like clockwork and we made our connections with ease. Sitting munching scrumptiously meaty, Scotch pies aboard the comfortable Virgin train, we agreed that we had all had a fantastic day out. We arrived home just a little after 7.00pm. The other bonus was that Tasha, who is commonly known as the child who won’t go to bed / sleep, was fast asleep by 8.00pm for probably the first and last time in her life!
So, would I visit a Scottish island for the day again? I definitely would. We all had a fantastic day out. Now, what was the name of that online train ticket site again….I’ve run out of cheese!