Do you speak Arranish? Cycling around Arran
“See you on Tuesday then. We do a great Scottish breakfast,” says the man at the other end of the phone at a guest house in Arran’s Blackwaterfoot. I tell him I’m looking forward to it as I’m partial to a bit of lorne sausage. There is silence.
“We don’t do lorne sausage. We do link sausage,” he says abruptly.
“Link sausage. Great,” I laugh nervously, without knowing what he means.
I brief the kids not to mention lorne sausage in the vicinity of Blackwaterfoot. This fuels their curiosity and they roll the words around their tongue.
The crossing to Arran is calm and smooth and only as long as it takes us to do the The Guardian quick crossword.
Cycling around Arran was our first family biking adventure
Stuart and I watch the island come into focus as the ferry approaches the land. It is ten years since we last visited Arran last. Matthew was a baby and it was our first family adventure. Back then I was terrified about pulling him around in a trailer. This trip he is on his own bike and I am still terrified.
This time things start off a bit flat
We roll off the boat. Or rather we hobble with the bikes as Stuart has a flat tyre.
“How can you get a puncture between the car park and the ferry?” he exclaims as he wheels the tandem into the port of Brodick.
“I’ll take the kids to the hypermarket,” I tell him, leaving him to strip down the bike and effect a repair.
The main store in the main town is a Co-op. It has lorne sausage. The children shout the words down the isles, waving packs of it around under my nose.
“You’re not allowed to say lorne sausage within 30 miles of Blackwaterfoot,” I remind them.
They whisper it instead. Very very loudly. Other tourists wonder what the fuss is about and add it to their own baskets in case there is a bank holiday sausage rush .
Don’t they speak English here?
Finally we are ready and we cycle off down the prom. There is no other traffic on this sunny afternoon. A couple of our friends work for Arran Aromatics so we head for the company’s headquarters, a little out of town. The kids ask where we are going. I tell them Arran Aromatics, but it comes out wrong. I try it again. It’s a tongue twister.
“Why would you call your company a name no one can pronounce?” I ask Stuart as we pedal.
“Ah. That’s because it’s in Arranish.”
“Arranish? Do they speak a different language here?” asks Matthew.
“A very ancient, very special language. ‘Arran Aromatics’ is actually pronounced ‘Arra- arrow-attics in Arranish,” Stuart briefs them.
“What’s lorne sausage in Arranish then?” asks Hannah.
“You can’t say lorne sausage,” everyone reminds her.
Due to the puncture we are late getting to Arran Arromatics and it is closed. So we check into our bed and breakfast, a sprawling house just out of the town. We are accommodated in a family room with a TV which delights the children. Fortunately there are twenty eight channels. Unfortunately the set is suffering from digital dropout and every third word the presenters freeze and we miss a word or three leaving us trying to guess what they are saying.
“Are they speaking Arranish?”ask Hannah?
“No, the reception is pants,” Cameron informs her.
Any sign of lorne sausage?
The following morning the kids peer under their scrambled egg for any sign of lorne sausage?
“What does it look like? Have I got one?”
The guest house owner is oblivious to their requests as he’s busy telling us how awful most of his customers are. Particularly the ones that demand the heating on.
“But the heating was on last night and it was summer! I was boiled!” Cameron says.
Around and around at Brodick Castle
We fly down the hill and into Brodick and back to Arran Aromatics. We meet our friend Joan, who suggests the grounds of Brodick Castle would be good for a visit. We cycle a few kilometres and turn off up the hill into the vast manicured grounds which we pootle around on the bike.
Later as we head out, we realise the exit is taking us on a long sweeping ride, back to Arran Aromatics. Joan shakes her head as we sweep past the office window, realising she forgot to tell us to go back out through the gateway we came in.
“Where are we?” asks Hannah.
“Arra-arrow-attics” Stuart replies.
“Back again but still can’t pronounce the name.”
“I thought it was lorne sausage we weren’t allowed to say” says Hannah, now thoroughly confused.
Sunshine, no midges and beautiful riding
The coastline of Arran is a rocky, sandy delight. April is too early for midges, so we have a bite-free ride. We blast along flat paths by the side of the sea as it sparkles in the distance. We eat Arran ice cream and add it to our lemonades to make ice cream floats like our Scottish grannies used to. We spot loads of seals, but then realise they are birds relaxing on the tide.
Up and over the pass
The afternoon’s challenge is a 250 metre high pass over to Lochranza. We are hot and sticky and the children dunk their heads in the river at the top. We drop into Lochranza, to a glorious sight of the deer standing in the sea, and wander the grounds of our second castle of the day. Then we turn our attention to our overnight accommodation, just around the bay.
“Will there be lorne sausage,” Hannah asks playfully.
“Don’t mention lorne sausage!”
The next morning at breakfast the kids pick up their sausage on their forks.
“Is this a link sausage then?”
I tell them I don’t know what brand it is. But whatever the brand, our breakfast fuels a long walk to a volcanic lake.
All kinds of wildlife
We meet with our Cumbrian friends Anna and Jeremy and their children who are also on holiday on Arran. They tell us about all the wildlife they have seen. There are three seals living at the bottom of their garden. They have named them Wally, Molly and Dolly. An otter makes a daily morning visit. Still the only wildlife we have seen so far is birds.
“I’ve seen a caterpillar,” says Cameron, trying to compete.
“And here’s a beetle,” cries Matthew.
The children dash off together as we all attempt a walk up to an inland mountain loch, Coire Fionn Lochan. The beetle rides with them in a baseball hat, while the caterpillar travels on a stick. The lake is at the top of a strenuous climb, on a small beach, but the children aren’t interested in bathing yet. They’re keen to find the nearby geocache, which they discover under a stone in the shadow of another hill.
In the treasure box, their reward is a tiny flickerbook on hammerhead sharks. They want to put the caterpillar into the geocache box to leave for the next treasure hunter. It takes some persuasion to talk them out of this. The caterpillar celebrates his reprieve from being buried alive in a Tupperware coffin by coming to sunbathe with the adults while the kids paddle.
West Coast Ice Creams
On the way to Blackwaterfoot we stop for an ice cream at a tiny shop. Stuart buys the kids a bottle of cream soda. Cameron likes the cream soda but is particularly impressed that when he finishes it he will get 20p back. He’s so pleased by this that he decides to take the bottle with us so he has something to look forward to. Our Blackwaterfoot guest house looks posher than we are used to. We don’t mention lorne sausage. We talk about how the lawn is shaped a little like a sausage and how we’d like to have a barbequed sausage on the nice lawn. Breakfast is a delight; tiny haggis patties and potato scones. And sausage. But of course not lorne. Stuart looks up link sausage on his ipod and finds that it isn’t a brand.
“Link sausages are just sausages that are linked together.”
“But we have those at home!” says Hannah, disappointed.
Cairns and Kings caves
We abandon the bikes and take a walk across the beach to Kings Cave, where Robert the Bruce is said to have been inspired by the spider to ‘try and try again.’ We wonder if the story may have been different if Robert the Bruce had access to a beach-side geocache. Perhaps he might not have watched the spider, but swapped it for a bottle top or plastic soldier.
On the beach the children discover a large area packed with cairns. They instantly set about making their own. Soon all five of us are trying to balance small stones on top of bigger ones and create the biggest tower. Cameron dances around them, careful not to knock any of them down.
“What’s a cairn?” asks Hannah.
“It’s Arranish for pile of stones,” Matthew tells her.
Coming full circle
The Blackwaterfoot post office doesn’t do cream soda bottle refunds. So we are stuck with the empty bottle as we make our way back around the island, past deserted bay and sheltered outcrop. There are no seals. The children are desperate to see a seal. So we stop in Lamlash and head down to the place our friends stayed.
“How come there are seals at the bottom of their garden but nowhere else on the island?” I say.
“Do you think the seals and otter really visited them every morning?”
“I think so. There’s Wally, over there.”
Never mind the seal, what about Lorne sausage?
Wally stretches out from his position in the shallow waters, as though he’s been waiting for us for all morning. Hannah is happy to have found a seal, although she’s very unsure what a seal actually is.
“It’s like a big blubbery fish,” the boys tell her.
Satisfied that we’ve now seen both the wildlife and some of the highlights of the island, we head back to the port, looking for a place to claim money back on the cream soda bottle. At the Co-op I buy some lorne sausage to take home. No one mentions it.