By Ferry & Bike across the Kilbrannan Sound!

Route Map

After several long days of hiking on Arran it was high time to try something a bit different! We still wanted a bit of adventure and so decided to hire a couple of Mountain Bikes from the conveniently placed ‘The Sandwich Station’ next to the small pier where the ferry across to Claonaig docked.

Our hired Mountain Bikes for the day

The plan was to catch the ferry across ‘The Sound’ to mainland Scotland and then cycle along the coast to Skipness (2 miles away) looking across at Arran’s wonderful mountainous skyline from a distance. At Skipness there’s a medieval castle and remote windswept chapel, a seafood restaurant, a village post office selling refreshments and a sandy beach. In other words ‘a perfect day’ was in the offing and a nice little adventure all rolled into one.

The Caledonain MacBrayne Ferry to Kintyre

Cyclists doing the Scottish Islands circuit catching the same ferry across

About to depart from Lochranza

Bikes hired we sat being bitten to death by the now obligatory midges as we waited for the ferry as it chugged across the still waters towards the island. In addition to amateurs like us there were also many professional looking cyclists all waiting to catch the ferry across. Many were cycling on to catch ferries to yet further and far-flung islands along the west coast of Scotland.

So this merry band of bikers embarked the ferry with an hour or so sea crossing ahead to Kintrye.

Cycles and cyclists feet!

After a pleasant journey across taking in the fresh sea-air the disembarkation sirens started to sound and a mass panic ensued as all manner of passengers engaged in the scramble to get kitted up in time and find their bike ready to speed off down the gangway ashore. The ferry turnaround time is very quick and you really do have to be very nimble on your toes to escape an unscheduled return trip.

Like a plum it was at this point that my undersized saddle decided to detach itself from my bike frame, much to my embarrassment and causing me much anxiety as I struggled to both replace the offending saddle and wiggle my arse off the ferry in tandem.

Landfall successfully made we headed straight off along the coast on the bikes.

The village of Skipness

Cycling along the deserted coastal road with Arran in the distance

The countryside was beautiful, the country lane completely free of cars and the sun had even decided to pay us a visit. We weaved along the undulating coastal road towards Skipness blissfully happy. Soon enough we arrived in Skipness which overlooks the Isle of Arran and is situated on the north westerly most point of Kintyre. Skipness is about as far from urban living as you can get!

We headed through the village and straight for Skipness Castle which is a stunning 13th Century enclosure castle built in around the 12th Century but modified and added to at later dates.  The castle, originally built by the MacSweens was soon claimed by the Lords of the Isles. Shortly after the castle was placed in the hands of the Earl of Argyll.

Skipness Castle and the commanding view it had out across The Sound of Kilbrannan

We wandered around the ruins and up the wooden stairs out onto the roof for some terrific views back across the sound toward Arran. The castle itself does not have a huge embankment or defensive moat but the sheer scope of view meant that it would be possible to see incoming vessels from long distances. It would be possible to see small ships for many miles and no doubt ones that would leave the coast of Arran.

The lonely and isolated St Bendan's Chapel with Arran in the background

Celtic crosses in the isolated graveyard at The lonely and isolated St Bendan's Chapel

The furthest point along the peninsular of our little bike trip to Kintyre

Located a short distance from the foot of Skipness Castle and along towards the stunning coast line and beach is the well maintained historical St Bendan’s Chapel that overlooks Arran and has views both northwards and southwards, the view of the castle from here is also stunning. The chapel is thought to have been built roughly at the same time as the castle itself, in around the early 1300’s.

There were many interesting headstones and ancient burial stones to wander between in this wonderfuly tranquil and also stunning location. So stunning in fact that we were loath to leave.

The plan had been to get lunch in the famed fish restaurant within the castle grounds, but luckily for me (no lover of fish) on this particular day it was closed. No worries though as the post office in Skipness rustles up a mean menu of homemade sandwiches, cakes and liquid refreshment all served on the finest bone china plates!

Refreshments at Skipness Post Office and Tea Room

With a view to literally die for from the village bench, just in front the post office, no finer dining could be bought anywhere in the world! We sat happily looking out to sea stuffing our faces contentedly.

But the ferry could be seen on the horizon beginning its slow chugging journey back to Claonaig so the decision was made to make a dash for it and add some spice into the days proceedings. Fine china returned we remounted our trusty steeds and sped out of the village and back along the gorgeous coastline.

With no motorised vehicles to worry about we felt like young kids again, riding our bikes freely and gayly in the afternoon sun, zigzagging and slaloming along the tarmac, not a care in the world (well apart from catching the imminent ferry).

More cyclists waiting for the return ferry to Arran

The ferry docks at Claonaig

The Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry with Arran in the distance

The mountains of Arran looked resplendent in the afternoon sun, the sea sparkled from afar and we made the return ferry with consummate ease. The day had been a resounding success and our little adventure had been well worth the effort of getting off our backsides and doing something a bit different for the day.

To round things off I could not resist an ascent of Torr Nead an Eoin in the evening sunshine, this stately looking mountain overlooking the campsite and had been nagging me for days now to have a crack at it and the 336m summit with great views across to The Paps of Jura finished the day off in grand style.

Find all the Interactive Route Maps from my trip to Arran here:

See more photos from my Isle of Arran Adventure on flickr by clicking on this linkflickr
Next post about Arran coming soon – The Famous Saddle!


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