It was our third family holiday in under three months, and as such we breezed out of the door a mere 15 minutes later than our scheduled leaving time. Yes, we smashed the steriliser just as we were about to walk out of the door, but cross words were evaded due to the ticking clock, and before I knew it we were on the M6 heading North just as Chris Evans introduced his news bulletin.
We were heading off to Arran for five nights, courtesy of George & Nik kindly agreeing to loan us their holiday home again. Dad and Carol had made the journey there on the Saturday, and after a slight disruption to the ferries had made it onto the island and started chilling the beers.
Whilst we may have got quicker at packing a car full of baby paraphernalia, we hadn’t got any quicker at getting ourselves out of the door generally, unless bound by a ferry running on a reduced timetable. We’d warned Dad and Carol that we wouldn’t be keeping the same pace as on our previous jaunts as a foursome. Despite the fact that Balmara is in a relatively remote part of the island with no pubs within walking distance, having a five month old doesn’t exactly lend itself to long afternoons in the pub. Or late nights, long steep walks, relaxing meals…or any of the things we’d previously enjoyed doing. Chris and I knew that the Arran we would see this time would be a much reduced version of our trip last year.
We were right in many respects, but not to its detriment. Having a baby makes everything take longer, that is unarguable. It also makes you demolish cake bars, no longer care if you have sick on your clothes, attend classes where grown adults pretend to be goats, and rock from side to side even when your baby is in bed – but that is for another blog post. What it also makes you do is take the time to look at your surroundings and appreciate them more fully. Yes, this is because getting from A to B takes so bloody long, but also because you can do so much less at this stage of parenthood, you take what you can get. I went on my friend Kath’s baby shower earlier this month (and a big welcome to the world twinnies, who arrived safely whilst we were on Arran), and I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed an afternoon tea more. When you get used to throwing cold crumpets down your neck because you may not eat again for a few hours, having three hours to yourself to eat tiny sandwiches is suddenly the equivalent of your first decent meal after a week at a shit all-inclusive.
I digress. The Arran we enjoyed last week was a calmer, less mountainous, and certainly less boozy one, but what we did see I took the time to take in. Brodick last year was the place where the ferry docked and home of the co-op. But Brodick is actually a stunning harbour town, flanked with forested hills, and the highland fells that run through the centre of the island peeping above. As you approach Brodick, the picturesque Holy Isle juts out off the mainland at Lamlash, home to a Buddhist retreat and wildlife in abundance. On our previous trip Brodick was simply where we entered and exited the island, and replenished our beer supplies. The day Carol and Chris climbed Goat Fell, Tom, Dad and I walked the length of the front, admiring the views out into the hills, and back towards the mainland. It was the only consistently dry day of the week and a pleasant stroll along the coastal road was all the better for the sunshine. We stopped at the Little Rock Café for a snack, went onto have delicious homemade cake, and had we been willing and able, would also have been able to enjoy a drink from the licensed bar. Yes, the photos they sent from the top of Goat Fell did bring a pang of jealousy that I can no longer just take off whenever I want, but the Snickers cake pretty much made up for it.
Similarly, last year on Arran, despite Blackwaterfoot being our nearest village, we only really went there to use the public bins. This was such an incredible waste. Having been granted an entire hour to ourselves, (the first hour we have had to ourselves as a couple since March), we chose to go down to the Kinloch Hotel for a quick couple of drinks. Last year we ruled this out; because why would you drive down to a local hotel when you can stay at the house, drink your own gin and not have to drive? As Tom was pushed around the golf course by Grandad and Carol, Chris and I were necking Amstel, staring out to sea and trying to remember how to speak to each other without discussing feeding, nappies or my unshakable fear that I’m ruining Tom’s future prospects by not taking him to enough sensory groups. The views out to Kintyre and beyond were incredible, and once you take the time to enjoy your time in Blackwaterfoot you see what it has to offer. It’s also home to the Arran Butcher, a bucket and spade shop, the Blackwaterfoot Lodge, which stocks a great range of gins (for next time – we haven’t visited yet), and Shiskine golf club, which serves homecooked food and you can bring your own beer. Not bad for a tiny village that we previously just drove to with our empties.
Other trip highlights were the return visit to the Little Rock Café for a full Scottish breakfast, watching catch up TV on George’s massive, crystal-clear TV instead of in installments on my phone whilst Tom naps, and finally, the drive back to Brodick on the last day when the sun treated us to a gorgeous view down into the bay.
Yes, we didn’t see or do a huge amount, but this trip reiterated everything I found when we visited the island last year. Arran is a simply stunning place and one worthy of many repeat visits. It’s also proof that Chris and I are capable of leaving the house when we say we will. After six months of some of the latest departures I have ever known, this small step suggests that we might just be starting to get the hang of this…