We collected our soon-to-be new home on the Thursday morning before Easter, and with a crash course in how things work and some cramming as if before an important exam, we novices headed off in our Motorhome (now named Benny) for a short trip to Scotland. We settled on the Isle of Arran, returning for the first time in the four years since our intimate wedding in a rather special hotel in Brodick.
After a long drive – taking over seven hours due to the usual M6 shanaghans on Good Friday – we arrived just in time for our ferry, only to be informed it was cancelled due to high winds. A portent, perhaps? We got our booking amended to the next sailing, two hours later, on a larger and more stable ferry able to cope with the rough seas and wind levels. A stomach churning, uncomfortable but sometimes invigorating crossing later we arrived in Brodick, after dark, with the task of finding a suitable wild camp spot still before us.
We had a few ideas in mind and given the late hour we made for the nearest likely spot, at North Sannox beach. A beautiful and regal stag stopped our progress at one point, which then trotted off calmly whilst we gaped in wonder. When we arrived we spotted a few other vans also parked up for the night, so found a level place to park and settled in. We played with lots of settings, finally getting the gas, fridge and heating all working smoothly. The high winds, now joined by driving rain, loudly battered and rocked our van, but we sat warm and dry, and exhausted, inside. Sleep came easily, but were awakened many times in the night by the wild weather.
The next morning we were greeted by calmness and a sea view from our bed, a real luxury and pleasure especially for those of us from the centre of the country, many hours from the coast. It made the gruelling trip on Friday melt away. We had a quick look around outside in daylight to finally see where we’d parked up. We discovered an incredible vista of river, beach and mountains and felt very chuffed with ourselves for finding this place for our first night in Benny. As if to contrast our fortune, we were disappointed to discover we had a flat rear tyre; a slow puncture that deflated fully overnight. Not quite what we expected after less than 400 miles on the clock, but as the trip was about garnering experience and learning about the van, it was an opportunity to test the roadside assistance and breakdown cover than came with Benny as standard.
We called the number, and within a few minutes we had a local guy acting on behalf of the RAC on his way to us in, we were told, around 45 mins. Just time for a morning cup of tea we thought. Arriving in less than 20 mins, Angus had our poorly wheel off (complete with the culprit – a large screw buried deep in the tyre), the spare on and a promise to fix the original tyre and return it to us later in the day, wherever we were on the island. Fantastic service all round and a quite successful first test of the breakdown cover.
With Benny mended, we headed off to look around the nearby town of Lochranza, stopping at the castle for a while to explore. We then visited Arran Island whisky distillery for an informative tour and a wee dram. The Arran 10 year old single malt holds special meaning for us, as it had a supporting role in our wedding, where we both drank it from a two handled silver quaich as a symbol of our lives joining together.
We were always on the lookout for other wild camping spots, but nothing fully grabbed us so we, embracing the area like a comfort blanket, returned to our original spot and settled in again. We enjoyed a relaxing beer and an omelette, with some research on future countries we hope to visit, then an early night (after a sneaky dram of Lochranza Reserve to help us sleep). Still lots of wind and rain rocking the van, but not enough to keep us awake.
The next morning brought another surprise, this time a welcome one- white clouds and blue skies over the beach. Perfect weather for the walk we came to Arran to do- Goatfell ( 852 m). A quick breakfast and a short drive to Corrie, where we parked up and began our walk.
The path was clear and well trodden, so was easy to follow and we soaked up the views out to sea as we quickly ascended. The winds returned once above the shelter of the tree line, but the sky remained blue and the visibility clear all the way to the top. We passed some pockets of snow in the shaded places just off the path, a reminder of how different the walk could be in other conditions. We were rewarded with exceptional vistas out to sea and across the other jagged ranges on Arran, so rewarded ourselves with a welcome cup of tea and a butty in celebration.
We crossed the ridge to North Goatfell and began our decent into the valley bowl just in time for the weather to change. The cloud blackened above us and dropped like a blanket over the peaks, releasing a short blast of hail on us as we headed down. We were very grateful to have made the top and enjoyed the view when we did, as Goatfell and the ridge were now fully encompassed in darkness and our experience at the top would have been a very different one had we been only minutes slower on the ascent.