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Blackpool, one November evening

LS Lowry statue, Knott-End-on-Sea

I was going to say this is a break from islands and ferries, then remembered this trip to Blackpool started with a detour to Knott End-On-Sea, where the ferry crosses over to Fleetwood. The ferry wasn’t running that day but it’s a scenic spot, with lots of wading birds and a statue of L.S. Lowry who used to paint there.

Signet Rings, Blackpool

On to Blackpool. Always an interesting mix of highs and lows. Found this up a side street.

Coral Island, Golden Mile, Blackpool

Blackpool at sunset is a beautiful thing, especially in winter.

The Mighty Boosh's entry on Blackpool's Comedy Carpet

Hours of endless fun reading the Comedy Carpet.

Seaside shelter, Blackpool

And a good spot to sit and watch the starlings fly around the pier.

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Holy Isle

Holy Isle from Lamlash, Isle of Arran

Holy Isle is a small island in the Firth of Clyde, off the Isle of Arran – not to be confused with Holy Island in Northumberland. I have looked at it so many times from Lamlash and was determined to get there, even though it’s an epic journey by public transport of two trains, two ferries and a bus each way from Glasgow. In the end, it took almost a year for weather and tide times to align and I just caught the last sailing of the year.

Lamlash cruises boat at Holy Isle, Isle of Arran

The ferry is a small boat operated by Lamlash Cruises. Check their site for sailing times, these vary according to tides and other factors. The journey from Lamlash takes around 15 minutes and the view of Arran from the boat is worth the trip alone. Grant, the skipper, is very knowledgeable and gives visitors a good introduction to the island on arrival.

The Centre for World Peace and Health on Holy Isle, Isle of Arran

The whole island is owned by the same Buddhist community as Samye Ling. The main building is a monastery which is open for retreats but closed to day visitors, apart from the garden. There are only really two paths to take – a walk to the other end of the island either easily along the shore, or more strenuously over the top. It’s about 2 miles end-to-end and there’s a lot to take in along the way.

Buddist rock paintings on Holy Isle, Isle of Arran

Getting around is simple as there are no roads and barely any people. There are some Christian sites like the cave of St Molaise, sitting alongside brightly painted rocks featuring Buddhist deities, and populations of wild Eriskay ponies, Saanen goats and Soay sheep. It took me around 3 hours to amble to the lighthouse and back. It’s not far but there’s a lot to look at.

Holy Isle, Outer or Pillar Rock lighthouse, Holy Isle, Arran, Scotland

There are also two lighthouses on the island. The Inner lighthouse is on a private part of the island, and the Outer or Pillar Rock Lighthouse is at the end of the public path where you can sit and enjoy a good view of the Firth of Clyde.

How to get to Holy Isle on public transport

  • Train from Glasgow Central to Ardrossan (Scotrail)
  • Calmac ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick on the Isle of Arran
  • Local bus from Brodick to Lamlash (Stagecoach)
  • Lamlash Cruises ferry from Lamlash old pier to Holy Isle – this runs from Spring to Autumn at various times and usually needs to be booked in advance
  • There is a toilet on Holy Isle, but no other facilities so come prepared
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Dunoon and aroon

At the start of 2022, I planned to go to as many different islands on as many different ferries as I reasonably could. By September I felt like I was underachieving somewhat, so I went for three ferries in one day (no islands though), from Gourock to Dunoon (two ways) with a side-trip to Kilcreggan.

Old building on Dunoon's Pier

The first leg, Calmac’s passenger only Gourock-Dunoon ferry gets you to the heart of Dunoon in 25 minutes. Gourock ferry terminal is close to the station so it’s an easy day trip from Glasgow on public transport.

An old triangular metal sign showing attractions in Dunoon

Dunoon is a slightly forlorn former holiday resort. I used to go there on holiday in the 1980s and forever associate it with rainy bank holidays where everything is shut. This was a better day, and I enjoyed wandering about the pier and trailing around the charity shops.

Puffin Rock in Dunoon with a Western Ferries ferry in the background

Instead of going back the same way I walked along to Hunter’s Quay to catch the car ferry to McInroy’s Point in Gourock, passing Puffin Rock on the way. This used to be called Jim Crow (it was painted like a crow) and I remember it as the highlight of any visit to Dunoon. It has been reimagined and repainted as Puffin Rock now and is part of a small but impressive bunch of brightly painted erratic boulders around this part of Scotland.

Kilcreggan Ferry Terminal on the Rosneath Peninsula

After that I was back in Gourock early enough to nip over to Kilcreggan on the Rosneath Peninsula – the passenger-only ferry leaves from the same terminal as the Gourock-Dunoon passenger ferry. This is a short and sweet ride, only 13 minutes. There is a small row of shops at Kilcreggan and a cafe where you can sit and watch the water where there are cruise ships, nuclear submarines, seabirds and dolphins.

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The last of Islay

Claire from Lussa Gin gave us a tip-off about the Islay Woollen Mill, which is just off the main road to Port Askaig.

Started in 1883 and still going strong, the mill supplies high-end tailors in Savile Row and further afield.

It is most famous for weaving the tweed used in Braveheart and other big name Hollywood productions. Their fabrics are produced on two traditional Dobcross looms and shipped all over the world.

The vibe inside is distinctly down-to-earth – an old building with lots of character filled with old looms, yarn cones, rolls of fabric and weaving paraphernalia, all higgledy-piggledy.

Lucky visitors can get an impromptu tour from the owners and try out the big scissors.

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The Library in the Forest

Eas Mor Library on the Isle of Arran

This is Eas Mor Library on the isle of Arran. It’s a little log cabin in a forest beside a waterfall.

Eas Mor Library interior, Isle of Arran, Scotland

The library is filled with books and messages left by visitors over the years.

There are drawings, messages and all kinds of wisdom, from inspirational quotes to ‘We saw a jellyfish’.

Eas Mor Library, Isle of Arran, Scotland - Drink vodka

It was created by Eas Mor Ecology who are working hard to enhance the beautiful area around the Eas Mor waterfall.

The path to Eas Mor Library, Isle of Arran, Scotland

It’s a steep (but fairly short) hike to the top on well-kept paths. There’s a circular route, which is also a steep hike down in places, depending on which route you take.

Eas Mor is 1-2 miles from Kildonan in the south of Arran. There is a car park and a bus stop near the entrance just off the A841. A cafe is planned for the summer.

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A Day on Jura: part 2 – Something To See Here

Knockrome Library, Isle of Jura

Following on from A Day on Jura: part 1 – Nothing To See Here. Once you’re out of Craighouse (the main town on Jura) there’s virtually nothing there, and what is there is often out of bounds.

Barnhill, where George Orwell wrote 1984 is beyond the end of the public road, as is Corryvreckan, the third largest whirlpool in the world. Jura is covered in private estates, so we couldn’t see where the KLF burnt a million quid (YouTube) either. Ah well!

Lussa Gin, Ardlussa, Jura

At the end of the road we did find Lussa Gin, a gin distillery run by three local women. Claire, who kindly gave us a tour first came to Jura with the KLF. There’s not much work for women on Jura, so three friends started Lussa Gin.

Locally grown botanicals for Lussa Gin

The botanicals are all grown locally (right outside the door!) and it tastes gorgeous.

Tea on the Beach sign, Inverlussa, Isle of Jura

Claire recommended Tea on the Beach at Inverlussa.

Tea on the Beach, Ardlussa, Isle of Jura

It’s a horse box converted into a tea room with a selection of freshly-made cakes and an honesty box, run by local school kids. A lovely place to stop before the ferry back to Islay.

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New book: Sign Here

Sign Here, a photobook about signs by Anne Ward

A new book, called Sign Here is now available in the shop. It’s the fourth in a series of photobooks – a collection of signs – old and new, from the hand-lettered and beautifully drawn, to the idiosyncratic and frankly falling-apart. This was the first book I started laying out, as I like signs and have been photographing them for years, but for some reason the other three books jumped the queue.

Here are some favourites:

St Boniface Kirk sign, Papa Westray, Orkney
Papa Westray, Orkney

Blue plaque: Mrs Humphrey's House - Temporary Hospital for scurvy ridden whale men who had been trapped in the ice for months
Stromness, Orkney
Gym sign, Dalmarnock
Dalmarnock, Glasgow
No Parking: Children's Play Area
Wanlockhead

Sign Here is £8 including UK P+P.

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A Day on Jura – part 1: Nothing To See Here

The main road on the isle of Jura

This the main road on Jura that runs from the west coast to Ardlussa on the east. There isn’t a lot to see, but the wilderness is part of its charm. George Orwell wrote 1984 here, calling it an ‘un-gettable’ place.

The Paps of Jura

What you can’t miss is ‘the Paps’ of Jura. These three mountains are visible for miles around, and make the island’s skyline easy to identify from any direction. Even though they are omnipresent, they are also strangely out of reach.

Red deer at Ardlussa, Isle of Jura

Jura is also famous for having more deer than people (around 7,000 deer v 200 people), so there’s always that.

The Islay-Jura ferry

To get there, there is a car ferry from Port Askaig on Islay to Feolin (a 5-10 minute crossing) or the Jura passenger ferry that runs from Tayvallich on the mainland to Craighouse, the main town on Jura.