Where am I? The temperature is 25 degrees C every day; there is not a rain cloud in the sky; I am running up and down a beach of golden sand on an exotic island and sitting at a beach bar watching the world go by. Here’s another clue: I am eating haggis and drinking whisky. The answer is: I am in Scotland and the paradise isle is Arran and it really was stupid hot – holiday hot – every day. And I did not see one of the fearful midges of which I’d been warned. Scared of ME, nae doubt.
About Arran, Phileas Phact Phans: it is the ninth largest island off the coast of Britain. It is in the Firth of Clyde. And it is about 50 miles to drive right round the outside of it. Also, it is not where Arran jumpers are from. They are from Ireland.
Here’s another Phact: Arran is the most interesting place I have ever been because of the SMELLS.
There are so many things that smell on Arran – mountains and trees and beaches and sheeps and the sea. There are sheeps on the beach which is mindboggling because the sea salt and the sheeps poo smells mix together in a way that almost made my brain explode. And that’s saying something as I understand smells better than almost anyone else. A Parisienne perfumer would lose to me in a smell-off. But the smells on Arran very nearly foxed even me!
Talking of which, there aren’t any foxes on Arran. And the squirrels on the island are red. Easier to spot – grrrrrr-ha!
Well, to start at the beginning, me, Jane, her dad Mick and mum Branwen caught the 6pm ferry from Ardrossan, which is an hour’s drive or an hour’s train ride from Glasgow, to Brodick, on Arran,. The ferry trip lasts 55 minutes on a ferry called a Caledonian MacBrayne and there is a special bit for us dogs to sit in and a restaurant, where people can have dinner and drink a glass of wine and watch the scenery go past. All I wanted to do, though, was get off the damned ferry and stretch my legs. And when we arrived in Brodick, I spotted exactly where I wanted to do that, because just under half a mile or so from the quay, there is a long stretch of beach leading up to a forest leading up to a castle. Beach and forest and castle – my three favourite amaze-bone things. Take me there immediately Jane!
But of course they being humans there was a lot of pfaffing first. There was checking into the self-catering Shorehouse Apartments, a minute from the quay where the ferry docked, pfaffing and then there was going out for dinner pfaffing. We went to the McLaren Hotel. It is a pub and a hotel and a Chinese restaurant and a not-Chinese restaurant. Confuse-bones. But the pub was very fine and the bar food was very fine – I can confirm this as I had a doggie bag of chips and mushy peas the next morning. The barman was from Glasgow and Jane asked him if people on Arran have a certain accent, so that she can talk it and I can bark it. But he said the locals on Arran are from all over the world – they have come on holiday and fallen in love with the island and never left – so the Arran accent might be English or it might even be Australian. Basically I did not need to change my bark and that was as well because accents are one of the (very) few things I am not good at.
Finally, I made it to the beach. I was worrying it would grow dark and I wouldn’t be able to go but on Arran, I discovered, in late-May, it does not grow dark until 10.30pm. So you have a whole day and then another whole day on top of it as well.
This beach was amaze. It was amaze lead into the forest and if you go through that forest you can walk (run in my case, obv) up a hill to Brodick Castle and behind the castle is a mountain called Goat Fell. That made me BOL – bark out loud. The Goat Fell – why didn’t it stay on its feet, silly billy? You would never find a mountain called Attlee Fell because I am very sure-footed.
Anyway we visited Brodick Castle, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and dogs are not allowed inside – they do not want our waggy tails mixing up their tails of days of yore I suppose – but we are allowed all over the grounds, on leads. The grounds are barking great because they are high up and there are views over the Firth of Clyde, so in olden days people could watch for invading armies and I could watch for invading big dogs approaching up the hill that I might need to bark at.
Brodick is not really a town – it is more a big village. But it has a museum and a chocolate factory and a library and a post office and two Co-operative shops.
I, Attlee Common aka Phileas Dogg – the best-travelled hound in the British Isles – was invited in to the offices of the Arran Banner, which is the newspaper for the whole of the island, to be interviewed by Howard and Jenny. So there it is and as it should be: on Arran I was recognised as the true celebrity and revered travel writer that I am. I felt very special and proud.
Then we went for dinner at the Ormidale Hotel and I met a dog who seemed to think she was just as special as me. Ruby, a Springer Spaniel, is Ormidale Hotel pub dog and when we arrived she greeted us as if she was the Queen. She accompanied us into the bar and helped us find a seat. Then she walked around the bar greeting other people – everyone making a huge fuss of her and giving her chips from their plates. What the Dog was going on here? I should have been the one everyone was making a fuss of – me, Attlee Common aka Phileas Dogg – not Ruby Ormidale, pub dog. Grrrrrrrr.
Then another dog came into the bar and he was treated like a celebrity as well – everybody ignoring the real celebrity, me. This dog was a Scottish bearded collie and he was huge and a regular, appaz, in the bar. His name was Sgiobair which is Gaelic – the Scottish language – for Skipper, but it is prononouced Scuba. Anyway, Jane thought he was very special and made a huge fuss over him – very annoying. So, when we left, and I was safely past this huge hound, I gave him a few of my big barks. Just to show I was not SCARED of him. Then I hurried out of the door.
Phileas Fact Box, Brodick
- The Shorehouse self-catering apartments, Shore Road, Brodick, Isle of Arran, KA27 8AJ. Tel: 01770 302377/ 07776238497 Website: www.theshorehouse.co.uk. Prices start at £45 per night per apartment; dogs are £10 for the duration of their stay.
- The McLaren Hotel, Brodick, Isle of Arran, KA27 8AJ. Tel: 01770 302226 Website: www.arran-hotels.co.uk. Good selection of bar meals – £8.50 for fish, chips and mushy peas. Dogs welcome overnight in the hotel – ring for availability and pricing.
- Brodick Castle – visit the National Trust for Scotland website at www.nts.org.uk. Admission prices: adult £11.50/ family £28. The country park and castle grounds are open all year round from 9.30am to sunset; the castle April 1 to September 30.
- Ormidale Hotel, Brodick, Isle of Arran, KA27 8BY. Tel: 01770 302293 Website: www.ormidale-hotel.co.uk. Prices start at £40pppn.
- There are five Caledonian MacBrayne ferries a day sailing from Ardrossan to Brodick and back during the summer. Prices approx. £10 per foot passenger for a five day return; £93 per car. Dogs travel free. Log on to www.calmac.co.uk.
Lamlash is the next place along from Brodick on Arran and it is a pretty little village stretched along the coastline. There is a beach but Jane wouldn’t let me off the lead, as the road is between the beach and the village and Jane was worried about me and CARS.
In Lamlash, we met a Jack Russell from Nottingham called Jim who has been to Arran six times. Jim thought he was very ferocious and barked at me a lot but I simply turned away. I was not being taunted into a bark-off with Jim in such a tranquil spot. Just across the water from Lamlash is Holy Isle and that is a Buddhist retreat, where people go to meditate. So chillax Jim – the Buddhists do not want to hear your stupid barking. In fact, maybe you should catch the ferry over there to undertake some muttley meditation yourself! (Note: it is not a proper ferry; it is a little red boat and it doesn’t have a timetable. You just ask the man to drive you to Holy Isle. Ferry for Jim!)
Also in Lamlash is the best beach bar in the world. Inside, The Drift Inn is like a pub in 1970s inner city Glasgow; outside it has a green meadow of a beer garden leading directly on to the beach with views across to Holy Isle. But The Drift Inn does not serve tequila sunrises or strawberry daiquiris – it serves pints of Tennents lager. That, really, is the only difference between it and Hawaii.
Phileas Fact Box, Lamlash
For more information on Holy Isle, log on to www.holyisland.org. The Drift Inn, dog-friendly inside and out, is at Shore Road, Lamlash, Arran, KA27 8JN. Tel: 01770 600656
Kildonan is a village right on the southern tip of Arran and everyone we met there told us it is the sunniest place in Arran and even in February it is sweltering in tropical heat. From Kilodonan you can see an island called Pladda and behind that Ailsa Craig, which sounds like a person but is a turret-shaped grey rock rising from the sea, mysterious looking. There is a sport called curling and nearly all of the curling stones in the world are made of granite from Ailsa Craig – Phact!
Phileas Fact Box Kildonan
Kildonan is totes dog-friendly – high paw – and it has a campsite with the best views evah! It is called Seal Shore because there are creatures called seals at Kildonan. None when I was there, obv. They’d heard Attlee Common was in town and had scarpered, a’feart.
Anyway Seal Shore campsite is at www.campingarran.com and its telephone number is 01770 820320. Dogs cost an extra £1 a night.
There is also Kildonan Hotel – again, dog friendly. It is at www.kildonanhotel.co.uk and 01770 820207. Prices start at £99 per room per night.
Sheeps – I see no sheeps. In fact I do, I see a whole lot of sheeps in Lochranza, at the northern end of Arran. There is sheeps next to the ruins of the castle and sheeps crossing the road and sheeps on the beach. Lochranza is a little village of about 200 people and it would be very picturesque were it not for the millions of sheeps and the bad smells they are making.
The hotel at Lochranza has a lovely garden, stretching down to the beach. However if it is raining, as, apparently, it occasionally does in Scotland, dogs are only allowed in the bar when meals aren’t being served. Given that lunch is served until 5pm, and dinner from 5pm, this doesn’t really leave a great window of opportunity for dogs. If you are reading this Lochranza Hotel, give dogs a chance. We are very well-behaved, polite and deserve shelter from the rain as much as the next man.
Lochranza Hotel, Isle of Arran, Scotland, KA27 8HL Tel: 01770 830223. Website: www.lochranzahotel.co.uk
Whiting Bay is my second favourite beach on Arran – after Brodick Bay – because there’s a wall separating it from the road, meaning Jane allowed me off the lead. There were lots of dogs scarpering around in the sun and these two Westies were very impressed to meet a London dog – and a famous one at that – on their morning walk.