Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Romance and History on Arran

Lamlash on Arran
We've just returned from our son's wonderful wedding on the romantic island of Arran, a mere hour away by ferry from the west of Scotland mainland. It was a perfect setting, a beautiful wedding and a much needed retreat from everyday life for a few days. I've posted some photos and a fuller description of the day on my reading and writing blog.

Arran is one of those places that gets into the soul and calls you back now and then. We saw a warning to visitors about being careful we didn't catch 'Arranitis' and now I know what it means! Although it's a relatively small island, it is so diverse with its rugged mountains, lush green hills and glens, and a delightful coastline of sandy beaches, quiet coves and interesting birdlife. It is also a haven for yachts and water sports, yet it is nearly always peaceful, allowing visitors to release the cares and concerns of normal life. With its own whisky distillery and the famous 'Arran Gold' (a type of liqueur), fresh dairy ice cream, some of the best cheese in Scotland and definitely some of the most delicious chocolate, most gifts are edible or drinkable!

Lochranza Castle
The island has a long history and there are even standing stones - at Machrie Moor there are six stone circles. One of the most interesting facts I discovered, however, was that the Highland Clearances of the 1700s and 1800s also reached Arran. We were staying at Lamlash, the second biggest village after Brodick. As we walked along near the shore, I noticed a kind of stone memorial arrangement and went to read the plaque. It seems that Arran landowners also recognised the profit in using the land for sheep and many of the tenant families had to move from their settlements. In common with many other displaced Highlanders, many of the Arran people took the chance to travel to a new world in Canada, some settling in Nova Scotia.

Clearance Commemoration

The plaque at Lamlash commemorates the hundreds of Arran Scots who left the island during the clearances between 1829 and 1840. The first '86 souls' left Lamlash on April 25th 1829, on the brig Caledonia and arrived in Quebec City in the June. Over the years, hundreds more left the island and settled in New Brunswick as pioneers in the Restigouche-Bay Chaleur District. The very poignant line at the bottom of the plaque is translated from the gaelic to read: "Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is highland."

On our travels in Canada, we've often remarked about how Scottish some of the areas are and how the people celebrate their Scottishness more than we do sometimes. Now I understand why it is so important, even though many of those Scots had such a positive and lasting influence on their new country. Who would have thought that a romantic weekend celebration on our Scottish island of Arran would lead me to think of our close connections across the Atlantic to Canada. And for a writer, it proves that inspiration and romance is everywhere!



Paula Martin said...

I love 'discoveries' like this, Rosemary. There are so many examples of it in Ireland too, but in their case due mainly to the Potato Famine, of course.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Rosemary, you and your histories have done it again. This is a charming place to hear about. I'm sorry we missed it in or travels. You are a great ambassador for your country.

Thanks for bringing it to our attention,

Linda Kage said...

Such history. Thanks for sharing.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Paula - thanks for commenting! The Highland Clearances are well known but I don't think many knew about Arran being afected.

Hello Julie - thanks for your lovely comment! It's one island we're aiming to revisit later in the year.

Hi Linda - thanks for coming over to read about it!

Francine Howarth said...


Our diverse country and climate makes for much more interesting exploration than Spain, our history too more exciting! I live in Wales, our county of Pembrokeshire sporting more castles per square mile than the whole of England & Wales put together, and history to die for. Who would have thought Charles II's mistress lived here, or that Henry Tudor was born here. As for ancient history, blue stones from the Presceli Hills at Stonehenge: just amazing. Com rain come shine the best islands in the world! ;)


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Francine - thanks for visiting! We really do have amazing history in the UK - there are so many places I still want to explore!