Sunday, 20 July 2008

Lochranza to Glen Catacol, Isle of Arran

I thought that Richard and Kath might like to see some Adders and Red Deer so we took a bus to Lochranza (which pretty much satisfies every Scottish stereotype, scenery-wise). Sitting down at the bay near the castle, we shared our sandwiches with some Mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos). Further out a female Merganser (Mergus serrator) was busily diving in the sparkling water.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) female
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) female
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) female

We didn't have to look far for Red Deer - this hind was so unbothered by our presence that she continued to graze as we stood a metre away: in fact we were unable to get a picture of her head! So, despite feeling like a pervert - a hind (in both senses of the word!):

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) hind

We took a gentle walk up Glen Catacol (to compensate for the previous day's death march), keeping our eyes peeled for Adders. Despite our best efforts we were unsuccessful in that respect. We did, however, closely approach a basking Slowworm (Anguis fragilis). For me this was better than an Adder as it is only the second time I have seen one! These legless lizards have very boxy heads and are almost cuboid in cross section.

According to the Herpetological Conservation Trust this species is 'widespread throughout the British Isles' and 'probably the most frequently encountered British reptile'. Personally, I have not found this to be the case but it may just be scarce in the Central Scotland area, or maybe I'm unlucky.... Years ago, I found a Slowworm between the Test and the Greenside Reservoir in the Kilpatrick Hills. Despite much searching I have never seen one in this area since.

Amongst the boggy patches were Great Sundews (Drosera longifolia) and plenty of Gold-ringed Dragonflies (Cordulegaster boltonii) - one was happily chewing on a wasp!

waxcap (Hygrocybe persistens)

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Lamlash to Kildonan, Isle of Arran

This week I went to Arran with Richard and Kath and we stayed at Aldersyde Bunkhouse in Lamlash.
When we arrived we had problems finding the bunkhouse as the only indication of its presence was a wheelie bin with 'bunkhouse' written on it (we later discovered that this was due to a land dispute between the owner of the bunkhouse and the owner of the inn next door). The bunkhouse was nice enough although the kitchen was very cramped and the showers looked a bit unhygienic. The rooms were also mixed gender (which I'd avoid if travelling alone).

Before we left the owner informed us that we would be sharing our room with 'missionaries': which led us to jokingly speculate whether our room mates would be missionaries of the holy evangelical bible-bashing sort or violent satanic anti-missionaries.

At the bus stop we found out that we'd be waiting more than an hour for the next bus, so I suggested we start walking towards Kildonan. The road was more dangerous than we imagined with plenty of blind corners and no pavement. Turning a bend we came across a crashed car, upside down, in the middle of the road. Next to the car were a group of young touristy-looking people on phones - luckily everyone had managed to escape unscathed. This convinced us to get off the road as soon as possible and at Largymore we were able to follow a path to the shore.

Shortly after this, whilst walking through a shoreside field, we were chased by a large horse: an incident both terrifying and hilarious in equal measure.
The beach was a scree of boulders backing onto a cliff and proved difficult and time-consuming terrain to cross.

We briefly stopped at Port na Gaillin, where the beach flattened out. The boulders here were profusely covered with a variety of wildflowers including Larger Bindweed (Calystegia sepium), Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) and Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).

Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)
Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)

It was late evening by the time we reached Kildonan and we soon found out that we had misread the bus timetable and had missed the last bus. The only option was to walk via the main road to Whiting Bay and then catch a bus to Lamlash.

Ailsa Craig
By the time we got back we were absolutely knackered and too tired to eat anything, so we made a pot of tea. One of our room mates had arrived back: a beefy, skin-headed man who looked exactly like Chewin' the Fat's 'The Big Man'. We made the mistake of offering him a cup of tea. Once the man opened his mouth he wouldn't shut up.

It was impossible to find a breathing gap in the conversation to politely announce that we were going to bed. The conversation began to take a sinister turn: our room mate Dave began calmly to tell us about the people he had severely beaten up, his youth spent in borstals and mental homes and how religion had changed him (despite this he planned to smuggle a gun in order to kill someone). The 'missionaries' turned out to be an Orange Order group :(
We were afraid to cut off the conversation with dave in case he got angry but we were so tired that our eyelids were closing involuntarily.

Then, during the night Dave woke up Richard to tell him that the toilet was broken (something that could really have waited to the next day *sigh*).