I was, along with friends from the Greenock Cut volunteer’s group, on another ferry journey across the limpid waters of the Clyde. This time it was from Ardrossan to Brodick, on the island of Arran. It was the longest crossing that I had made in these parts. The deck was full of people; commuters or otherwise tourist who seemed mesmerized by the sluggish approach the island and kept snapping photos. Arran was swaddled in mist as if, like a young maiden, it was reluctant to expose its secrets.
But then, as the ferry churned closer, the mist thinned and began to reveal the imposing character of the island. Dark conifer forests clothed the steep slopes of the mountains whose peak were still lost into the brume.
We had disembarked from the ferry and caught a bus which, traveling on a narrow road through a countryside of dense woods, up and down hills, and past Lamlash, Kingcross and Knockenkelly, brought us to Whiting Bay: a charming tourist village that stretch on the east coast of the island.
We began our walk at Ashdale bridge, along a narrow lane that entered into a broadleaved woodland where, upon reaching an intersection, we turned left and headed uphill.
The earth was unusually scorched by the heat of the sun. A deep furrow, shorn by the flowing waters from many persistent rainfalls, ran through the irregular path.
On the trackside, clumps of flowers shot up among the grass and thorny bramble bushes: golden saint-john wort, tormentils and creeping buttercups, roseate heather, white and red clover. Higher and higher we went and, soon, the panorama expanded as the path upon which we trod laced its way up the steep hill, above the canopy of the forest. We could now see Whiting bay entire beach and the holy island.
We reached the Giant’s grave, several large stone slabs that formed burial cairns from the Neolithic period, about 4,000 years old. Men come and go, civilizations crumble and vanish, but vestiges remain, defying the tides of time.
We retraced our steps down the track and then plunged into the depth of the forest. Ashes, alders and birches soon gave place to towering conifers and the narrow alley between them, blanketed with pine needles laced up the sheet slope of the hill.
Our walk became at that point, as far as I was concerned, a strenuous affair since I had not yet mastered the art of hiking and was sweating profusely. But I finally covered the distance to Glenashdale Falls.
The site was spectacular.
I could not help but stand in awe as I beheld the raw power of nature in this torrent of foaming water that tumbled down in a deafening roar and went crashing on the glistening rocks feet below.
There was another waterfall that we encountered further ahead, in a darker region of the pine forest; a smaller one to be sure but no less spectacular, its tumultuous roar a stark contrast to the peace of the woods.
Our exploration led us to a glade that bore the marks and vestiges of an Iron age fortifications almost erased by the grass and wild flowers that had overtaken the site, among which I noticed rubus and mint plants.
From there the path dipped and brought us in a section of broad leaved woods. The sunlight was dimmed by the thick canopy. Forget me nots and bedstraw dotted the edges of the path.
The woods gradually dwindled up to a point when trees became sparse. When the track gave way to a narrow country road and habitations came to sight, it became evident that we had set foot on a residential area, an extended part of Whiting bay, bathed in the afternoon sunlight.
We followed the road downhill until we reached the main road of the village which hugs the coastline, not far from where we had started our walk that very morning.
Waves lapped idly on the beach that was strewn with pebbles, green and brown algae and pebbles of various size and colors. The shape of the Holy Isle etched against the clouds that rolled through the sky, propelled by the gentle breeze.