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Day 2: Hawick to the Isle of Arran via Culzean Castle

Breakfast was included in the price of the hotel we were staying at in Hawick last night, so we made the most of it this morning; both to get our money's worth and because we weren't sure when we would next find food.  We had another fairly long day of driving ahead of us today, ultimately travelling to the ferry port at Ardrossan, from where we were due to catch a ferry to the Isle of Arran in the evening. Ardrossan is just under a 3 hour drive from Hawick if you go directly, but we weren't in a hurry and decided to take the more scenic route, with a diversion to visit Culzean Castle.

The route which the SatNav ultimately took us on was very scenic indeed, initially taking us on small mountain roads through the Borders, where we had to keep our eyes out for sheep on the road. At one point a hare ran across the road in front of us and another time we saw something small that looked like a stoat. It was quite an adventure!

As we got further across Scotland the roads became bigger and we eventually arrived at Culzean Castle sometime just around 1pm, after about 3 hours of driving.


We've been to Culzean Castle twice before - once in 2010 and once in 2011 - when we were driving around Scotland, but we didn't have a blog back then.


It's a National Trust for Scotland property and so we were able to get in for free with our English membership cards.


The unique thing about Culzean is that it's right by the sea, so it wasn't long before we had some lovely views.


It was a bit hazy today, but not raining at least :) 


Culzean is set in quite a large estate and there are various signposted walks which you can follow.


We started following one known as the "Lion path", which led us past this ruined gate.


Through here is the entrance to the main castle itself.


We abandoned the trail after a while and started exploring the walled garden instead.


There were some really pretty flowers here...


...and some slightly scary-looking vegetables!


I always imagine walled gardens as being small, but this one was quite extensive.


We did a complete loop around the edges of it...


...and I was surprised to find when we reached the far corner that there were even some palm trees here :o 


Some of them were really quite big!


After the walled garden, our next stop was the Swan Pond.


There is a trail which you can follow all the way around the pond, but we were looking for the start of a different trail, called the Dolphin Trail.


The Dolphin trail was described as a coastal path, which sounded like a lot of fun.


We found the signposts for it and soon had some great views out across the sea.


There were some nice beaches in places, although at other times the smell of seaweed was quite strong!


The signs for the trail were a bit confusing and we had initially walked in the opposite direction to the one I'd expected, which meant we ultimately came round in a loop and had to try the path again, walking in the other direction.


In this direction the path was a bit more wooded.


There were still some great views though.


The path eventually brought us back around to the front of the castle.


The grounds here were lovely too.


We didn't go inside the castle; I suspect the best views are probably from the outside.


Instead we followed a continuation of the Dolphin trail, which took us right down to the sea.


As we walked along the beach we had some brilliant views back towards the castle.


From there it was quite a steep climb up, back towards the car park. We had been going to get a snack at Culzean, but it was quite busy because of Father's Day and there was a huge queue for the cafe. We decided instead to drive in the general direction of Ardrossan, in the hope of finding somewhere to get a late lunch/early dinner. When we'd been looking at the map earlier, we'd identified Kilmarnock as a fairly big town on our route which might have restaurant options.

Unfortunately, finding something to eat once again turned out to be a bit problematic. We tried stopping at what looked like a large pub/restaurant outside Kilmarnock, but were told that they had no free tables until 8pm :o When we drove into Kilmarnock itself, first impressions were that it looked rather run-down. We were greeted by a sign informing us that Kilmarnock was "Scotland's most improved town", but it looked like there might still be quite a lot of room for improvement! We ended up eating at a drive-through McDonalds, which may not have been quite what we'd planned but it was at least very filling :)

Once we'd eaten we set off towards Ardrossan, where the ferry terminal for Arran is located. We had a bit of a wait until it was time to check in for our ferry. The tickets say that the last check-in was 19.30, with the ferry due to depart at 20.00, but when we got to the ferry terminal some time after 19.00 there was no one there. The ferry itself eventually turned up shortly after 19.30 and we were waved aboard.

It's only a fairly short journey to Arran so I wasn't sure whether this was going to be one of those ferries where you're not allowed to leave your car. But it turned out that it was one where we were allowed up on deck, which was nice :) 


It was still quite bright outside and so we had some lovely views as we sailed closer to Arran.


As you can see in the pictures, the sea was lovely and calm today so it was a very smooth crossing.


The ferry pulled into Brodick, the main town on the Isle of Arran, at 20.55.


From there we had a short drive across the island to the small village of Blackwaterfoot where we are staying.


We pulled over to look at the beautiful views, then realised the hotel we're staying in is actually just across the road.


I booked the hotel at quite short notice and chose it purely on the basis that there were two hotels on Arran with vacancies and this was the only one out of the two which served breakfast.


It turns out to have been a really good pick, because this is the view from our bedroom window :) 


It's exciting to be on a new island and we're definitely looking forward to exploring more of Arran tomorrow.

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