Let’s be honest: I have not been to a lonely island. It was the Isle of Arran, quite a popular place at the west coast of Scotland. Yet, I got lost, at least for a few days, in stunning, deserted landscapes. And, even more important: I became a witness of the very rare appearance of the Big Grey Man. But let me start at the very beginning…
Studying humanities sometimes means to go to uni quite rarely. That is not owing to me playing truant. Rather, it is due to a very lucky coincidence in my timetable. That is to say, I do not have class on Monday and Friday. Quite decent, as this gives me the opportunity to
travel around Scotland. Last week, I decided to check out the Isle of Arran that is sometimes referred to as uniting all shades of Scotland on just 167 square miles. Getting there from Edinburgh is easy and cheap: After taking the train to Ardrossan, I boarded the ferry. Altogether, it just took me 4 hours and hardly more than 30 pounds (return!) until I arrived in Brodick. Then, I left the civilised world and set out for the wilderness…
It did not take long until I realised that Arran is not just a few hills in the ocean – the mountain heights (874 meters at the most) are pretty misleading and do not represent the truly alpine conditions. And so, it turned out that not only the landscapes on Arran are breathtaking. So is the hike up to the distinctive peak of the “Goatfell”, too. However, the strenuous walk is worth it, unless the weather is misty. But once again, the sun did not let me down. In fact, I am more and more convinced that the weather in Scotland is way better than in Germany. And there seems to be solid proof for this:
“Northern Scotland saw its sunniest October on record this year, the Met Office has revealed, with the UK as a whole experiencing its driest October for 65 years.” – The Scotsman
When I went down on the other side of the mountain, I suddenly spotted something that looked like a rainbow kind of halo and the perplexing thing about it was that in the centre, there was the shape of a man. When I was moving, the whole thing moved, too. “Is this some celestial sign?”, I thought, marvelling at this unusual sight. Then, I continued my hike to the other side of the island, not taking further notice of it.
The sun was already low when I had to leave the official trail. There are lots of hiking trails on Arran, however, to get to my destination, I had to leave the beaten track and punch through the most deserted areas of the island. Considering that Arran is quite small and that the population is something around 5000, the centre is surprisingly wild. I walked through wide valleys that appeared surreal in the evening sun, crossed rivers and finally, waded a peat bog. The mud almost became my undoing…
The sun was setting when I realised that it would take me another hour to the coastal village of Lochranza. So I took to my heels, jumping from stone to stone in order to avoid getting stuck or falling. I even considered pitching my tent somewhere and hold out until the break of dawn. But it would have sunken in the mud, anyway. Also, I had run out of water. After what felt like an eternity, I saw some lights in the distance and I knew that I had finally arrived.
Lochranza is a small picturesque village in the north of Arran. With its whisky distillery, castle ruins and coastal walks, it is was the perfect place to spend the following two nights. When I had lunch on the next day (Omelette with Coleslaw and Crisps) at a popular restaurant, I talked to two elder local ladies who were enjoying Scottish lamb (“It is to die for!”). They were quite impressed with my hike and they confirmed that the weather was unusually good for that time of the year. I tried to take advantage of this fact as much as I could and spend the rest of my last day on Arran walking the shores.
Back home, reading the online version of a newspaper, I suddenly came across a picture of a kind rainbow with a man in the middle of it. Headline: Arran mountaineer captures stunning photo of a Brocken Spectre. Obviously, I and some other hikers had observed a very rare phenomenon that occurs only under certain circumstances: The sun shines from behind and as a consequence, projects the spectre onto the mist. This phenomenon is responsible for the Scottish legend of the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui, who is said to inhabit the Cairngorm mountains. I know that I won’t see anything like that again shortly. Anyway, the Isle of Arran with all its beauty will have me back soon.