Those Arran days...

No matter how many times I visit, I will never tire of the Isle of Arran. The friendliness of the place is apparent from stepping onto the ferry: a local helps me with my suitcase and the staff in the restaurant on board are perfectly jolly. I start to forget about the everyday as I tuck into a delicious portion of fresh fish and chips and by the time Tim and I are driving down the coast from Brodick to Lochranza, Switzerland seems a million miles away.

On the coastline that we had observed drawing ever closer from the Cal Mac, we gaze over the expanse of satin water towards the mainland. The evening sunshine splashes gold dust over the pebbly beaches. We are astonished when this gleam first begins to disappear at around 10pm and are treated to a spectacular burnished sunset. A place where time seems to stand still, Lochranza is the perfect destination for relaxation. Spending our days in the fresh air, we quickly begin to feel alive. We dodge midges while playing golf and sneaking peeks at the graceful red deer around us. I hope for a sight of one the calves that are hiding in the bracken!

We climb the Castles - a collection of tumbledown rocky summits at the heart of Arran. The route is unforgiving, but rewarded with views to Bute, Loch Fyne and Kintyre and beyond to Islay. Hiking in Scotland is challenging because there is a distinct lack of paths. This wilderness is at once appealing and intimidating. We sink into bogs, stumble over heather and clamber over boulders. But you don't see another soul and feel at one with nature. Sea kayaking along Machrie Bay is magical: the blue haze of the backdrop, the seal that bobs its head above the surface and accompanies us, and the clear view into King's Caves (the alleged refuge of Robert the Bruce in the thirteenth century).

And I manage to get back in the saddle after so many years when we go riding at Cairnhouse Stables in Blackwaterfoot. Instructor Dawn is very patient with us and expertly combines a beginner's lesson for Tim with a refresher lesson with me. I ride Dynah, a stunning 15.2 hands bay. She is responsive and confidence-inspiring. Benji, Tim's steed, is "the Skoda before the Ferrari", as Dawn lovingly puts it - a predictable and trustworthy horse. Benji may be a "Skoda", but Tim even manages a canter - albeit accidental!

Of course there are the homely tea rooms, too. After our sea kayak we gobble heavenly Victoria Sponge, filled with a naughty amount of fresh cream and jam - I think we earned it! Tim and I treat ourselves to lunch one day in the recently-refurbished Cafe Thyme at the Old Byre Showroom. Its panoramic window reveals the bay and we sit beside a delightful stained glass window depicting a heron and a standing stone - it could be a nod to the prehistoric landscape at Machrie Moor. The food is fresh and delicious - I try a take on the Greek salad.

And The Lighthouse at Pirnmill is a charming spot for an evening meal. The setting is homely: artistic models of lighthouses decorate the airy room that is filled with wooden tables. The large windows are an almost invisible barrier between the restaurant and the landscape. I try cod on olive mash - it is a meal the term "melt-in-the-mouth" could have been made for.

On our last night, Mum treats us to tickets to the Arran Folk Festival. The concert opens with Bobby Watt - a character with a marvellous voice, who tells jokes and sings traditional songs and ballads. The stage comes alive with Lori Watson & The Rule of Three - a trio including guitar, violin and accordian. Singer Lori has a hauntingly beautiful voice and all band members are lively and enthusiastic, drawing the audience into their performance with impossible (in a funny way) singalongs and tales of previous concerts - including in Austria, when a drunk man sang along completely out of tune and time.

The concluding performance is by Anna Macdonald, whose songs are sleepy but moving. We awake almost every day to clear, cool weather and calm seas. Our last day, however, brings stormy winds and deluges of rain. The dramatic sea makes me gasp, as white horses gallop towards the shore and crash against the rocks. Indeed, we are 'lucky' that our ferry back to Ardrossan sails - the subsequent trips that day are cancelled.
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