Friday 28 September 2007

Island Hopping Second Leg Ardrossan to Isle of Arran

Three hours and 166 miles after leaving Kendal, we arrived at the ferry port of Ardrossan, north of Irvine. Whilst we normally buy all manner of things online, because of the nature of this trip, we wanted to ensure that our plans would work, and needed to check ferry times/days – especially ferries for Islay, which were particularly confusing. The staff were very patient with all our questions, and pre-booked all our ferry crossings with the exception of Arran to Claonaig, which is not bookable. It's important to reserve crossings for motorhome/ caravans to and from Islay as these get booked up very quickly. £220 lighter and wanting to fill up with diesel before embarking on our adventure, we drove back down the port approach road and fuelled up. An Asda Supermarket being built adjacent to the port, which will be ideal for stocking up on essential before departing for the sticks. Back at the port, we were first in the queue, and first on the 5 pm ferry to Brodick, the main town on Arran.

Caledonian Macbrayne Ferries pretty much have the monopoly on the ferries in this part of Scotland, and run an incredibly efficient, and (we think), value-for-money service. The ferries hurry into the port, their front ramp coming down as they approach, the anchors are crammed on and within seconds of docking, vehicles of all sizes, including juggernauts, pour off. In no time, the waiting vehicles are loaded with expert guidance from port staff, and off the ferry goes on it’s return journey. We were both excited and nervous about taking our beloved motorhome on so many ferries, but there’s no need to worry about anything. It’s a whole lot easier than Cross Channel ferries, and really nothing like it. Dogs are allowed on board and there is a lounge where they are welcome with well-behaved owners, and you can walk them on deck too. The cafe on the larger ferries serves reasonable food relevant to the time of day, and there’s a small shop selling newspapers, sweets, gifts and books. It’s well worth having a look at the books – we picked up “Hebridean Island Hopping” by Martin Coventry, which became our bible for the islands we visited.

The crossing to Brodick, the main town on Arran, was smooth and took just 55 minutes. On arriving at Arran, we turned left and headed for Seal Shore Campsite, Kildonan, on the south of the Island – a pictureque journey of 12 miles, 40 minutes. We were nervous about travelling on narrow roads, but the journey was a doddle – we hardly met another vehicle, and there was plenty of room for passing at most places when we did. The short drive down to Seal Shore had us full of anticipation at what looked like a beautiful site......

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