Day 11 |
May 29, 2012

Brodick, Isle of Arran, Scotland 

By Chris Harbard, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: N 55º 34' 38", W 05º 08' 40"
Weather: Cloudy then Sunny
Air Temperature: 16ºC 61ºF
Wind: 11 kph
Pressure: 1011 hPa

No sunshine this morning as I woke. Instead the hills nearby were shrouded in cloud, and there was a slight mist. We were anchored just offshore from Brodick on the Isle of Arran. Local buses were waiting for us ashore to take us to Brodick Castle, about 10 minutes away. As we drove past the local golf course, the road was shaded by tall trees and suddenly a Brown Hare jumped out and across in front of us. As we reached the castle there were signs of a little sunshine breaking through. Our guide took us up to the castle, which was once the ancient home of the Dukes of Hamilton, and is now managed by the National Trust for Scotland after death duties forced its sale in the 1950s.

As I walked into the castle the collection of mounted stags’ heads and antique pistols showed that the estate had been used for hunting. As I toured around the upstairs rooms I was most impressed by the bathroom, which contained a magnificent 19th-century mahogany shower cabinet and bath. So many family portraits and photographs had remained with the house, and the combination of old and more recent items gave it an interesting atmosphere. A small side room contained a display of antique silver, ranging from late 17th century to 19th century, much of it from well know Scottish silversmiths. The kitchen was truly impressive with a fine collection of pots and pans, a huge cast iron range and various ovens.

Outside the castle there are many walks through the grounds, which are laid out as both formal gardens and as more natural woodland. I set out for a wander, listening and looking for birds, but also hoping for a glimpse of the Red Squirrel, a species that has sadly disappeared from many parts of the British Isles due to competition with the alien Grey Squirrel introduced from North America. I saw no squirrels but was delighted by the local finches, which included Siskins. Many monumental trees could be seen along the trails as well as colourful flowers.

Soon it was time to rejoin the buses to go back to the ship for lunch. Some guests took a tour to the local distillery in the afternoon, while others simply enjoyed themselves ashore in the town of Brodick. At 5pm, out photographer Ray treated us to his video of the trip, available to all as a DVD – it seemed so long ago that we joined the ship in Portsmouth and it was a great reminder of the fabulous adventure in which we had all partaken. Then it was the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party and dinner – what a great ending to a truly exciting and unforgettable cruise.