Sagas of the Inner Hebrides: Glasgow to Isle of Arran

This journey took me farther abroad from my Dunoon home, and I was craving another seagoing exploration. Southwest of my last isle hopping adventure in Bute, the bower of Arran awaited my virgin steps. My itinerary being somewhat compromised by the length of these Scottish autumn days, I made haste in the early hours to cover the miles. A ferry, two trains, and another ferry, and arriving by high noon. Taking a gander at the map and scoping out the general area of Blackwaterfoot. If I cut west across the Isle I could pilfer around the beach, then tramp on to King’s Cave, and if the light permitted, walk the perimeter road toward Moss Farm and cut inland to find the Machrie Moor standing stones. In the end I became disorientated on the back roads and sought out a farmer to point me back to my leaving point but I shall relate my wanderings for while they lasted at the cave and the shore.
I firstly noticed the similarities of the flora and pastureland that cloaked the beins and flatlands like a shaggy rug. Not much different from Argyll I thought, and looked forward to the coast. The lingering smell of rotting vegetation, salty brine, and fog filled the ether, actually a strangely romantic and pleasant aroma. At the shores I followed lines of black rock, here a hunting sandpiper, there a silver crested crow, the very sands iridescent from the slime of the seaweed residue coated over them, reflected the rays of light as it set undisturbed by hills or houses. At any pace faster than a walk seemed rush, I drank in the panorama and the character of the waves, they seemed to possess their own mannerism and tumult. Sinking vanishing footsteps into the salty desert I followed towards where sand met heath. Ascending a little and passing over a manicured golf course, then walking a muddy rut until reaching a stony area of modern cairns, I added a few small boulders to the pile and made my way back to the trench. Soon I was privy to the sights of a small Scottish wildcat traversing the negotiable side of a crag, black in drapement, of purportedly less than a hundred left. I took it as Freyjas fetch opening the way into the alcoves and caves I sought. As I navigated around and over seaweed covered stones of different pale hues, one could imagine the wrecks of many a vessel meeting their doom here. No lighthouse to mark their stoney tomb ‘afore the intimidating cliff wall above.

Finding the caverns and the Kings Cave, I came to state of where I now stood. Robert the Bruce, who fought aside Scotlands hero William Wallace, took shelter in the caves, and they were once refuge to Scottish monks, and Celts. Carvings of a cross in the center of the cave brings images of a torchlit mass held in its hollow. Other ristings and scratchings of Ogham, and deer or stag populated the dank walls. Inside one concave flank, the stone walls were leeched over with which crystalline armor, the hollow heights of the inner cave evoking images of an inner sanctum of dwarves. One could fit a small cathedral inside. After some grounding gealdors in the mouth of the cave, I explored the rest with the aid of a small light, tracing over the carvings, captivated by another semblance, a man-warrior, perhaps the Bruce himself, with arms bent at the shoulder displaying his strength, wearing some kind of horns or headdress. Other Latin letters were inscribed near the stylistic cross. For a few moments, I observed and listened to the purity of the stillness and hushed ambiance of the cave. The moistened insides emitted only a faint murmur, and the waves some ways outside the opening were barely audible in their near ‘not thereness’. I was arrested on my way out of the cave by a small orange truffle chested bird, who flitted around as I crouched to watch, or perhaps it was watching. We spent countenance like this for several minutes, but I could not tell of the time, as the space itself seemed to emit a different temporal law. I had entered at sunset, and left what felt like an hour later still to the setting.

I thought I would be able to make it to the stones, and decided to take a rising path back to the circumnavigating island road, alternate from the beach way I had walked to get there. It meant cutting through a spruce plantation and the skies shifted gloomily to the familiar greys of the moors. The presentation of the trees seemed to create a claustrophobic feeling. In the last remnants of light, a cluster of fly agarics caught my eye, their unmistakable reds against the forest green. I tossed a few of them in my cap, and continued down the trail, finally returning to the road. Heading north, looking for the side road towards the stones. It was too late, I didn’t really know where I was, this is when I met the farmer, or at least the shadow of a farmer, and his horses. ‘You seem to be fixated on something boy’ he said as I stared towards his horses, he himself seeing me only as a strange shadow, nonspeaking at first. Finding my way back to the the beach by darkness, and heading to the ferry port on the other side of the island, I made the night journey across the waves, two trains, a ferry and a bottle of Irish meadow later I made it back to the crumbling Victorian hotel I live in, eager for my warm bed, and dreams of the isle.

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