So my friend Ian went outside to check- "Nothing" he reported. I was slightly disappointed. How cool would it have been to stargaze by a loch and a castle? I couldn't resist checking for myself- so out I went into the night (in socks, I might add) and I took a few steps farther away from the hostel lights. Stars.
I quickly called my friend back. we could only see a few a first, but the longer we stood there, more kept appearing. Eventually we called out the whole crew and stood against the bus, gazing upward. Thousands of stars! As our eyes adjusted, we started to pick our more than just the big dipper. We even wandered down to the castle to get a better view, away from the lights of the hostel.
It was probably one of the most amazing experiences I've had in Scotland so far. Standing with friends, next to a castle in the middle of a loch, cloaked by darkness. Stars really do twinkle, believe it or not. Sparkling like diamonds, or pricks of light in a dark velvet fabric, I began to wonder if there was any black in between. More and more stars kept showing up- and there was no moon to over-power them. I could have stayed there for ages. There's something about the infinite majesty of stars that makes people start thinking deeper questions, without fail, simply because you feel so small next to all that.
But eventually the cold and wind and fact that getting some sleep might be wise led us to turn back and warm up. The next morning, I got up ridiculously early in an attempt to catch the sunrise. Well, I caught it alright! ...I just couldn't actually see the sun because of all the clouds... It was still an amazingly peace walk to the castle- and there were sheep everywhere! I walked right through the middle of them on my way, and they all just kinda stared at me, as if waiting for me to make a move. But as soon as I stopped looking at them or moved on, they gave up interest and went back to munching.
We toured around the rest of the Isle that day, driving a bus where buses were never meant to go and should never go! But this made it loads of fun! Going up and down these hills and windy roads, we literally felt like we were on a roller-coaster. Some of us even got into the spirit and put our hands up in the air as we drove. The people in the very back of the bus weren't as happy...after the first flying jolt there were quite a few groans and sore behinds.
The mountains were incredible. Soaring cliffs right next to us on the left, and the rocky coast to our right, sometimes dispersing to become a sandy shoal. Fields were everywhere, as were their main inhabitants- sheep, go figure. And quite a few highlan' coos as well (highland cows for those unacquainted with the Scottish accent!).
Our stop was at these famous Machrie Moor's standing stones. It was quite a trek through farmlands and roads to actually get there, taking us about 45 minutes. We kept coming across really small stone circles and thinking... this is it? Pretty pathetic. But it would always turn out to be a stone cairn, an old roundhouse, or quite simply, a rock. The really interesting thing about this for me was its connection to my Archaeology course! We looked at the techniques for identifying and preserving such site, and these were maintained by Historic Scotland, a group I've done research on! So it was pretty neat to be able to see some actually sites were ancient burials and houses had been built.
Finally we reached....the Standing Stones!! Which are basically... really tall stones that are standing upright. But they have a unique sort of majesty about them. Tall and solemn, and backed by an impressive landscape of moorland and mountains the stones were in a group of three, and one farther away standing alone.
We were feeling pretty goofy and windswept by this point, and somewhat childish. And so we (or should I just say I?) proceed to run to all the upcoming monuments! We even got a sheep running with us at one point... A cold walk and bus ride down the coast later, we were back in the port of Brodick.
Time for lunch take two in a little Italian place and then a walk to Brodick Castle! We went all along the beach, finding some sea glass along the way, over the 'Dead Marshes' (a swamp-like area which was weirdly similar to the marshes in Lord of the Rings... thus our new name for it), through a golf course and up mountain. On our way up the stairs and paths to the Castle, we basically went through a tropical forest. There were blooming rhododendrons, palm trees and ferns everywhere. Pretty incredible for Scotland. The Castle grounds were essentially one big garden, and the plants were from all over- we even think there might have been a redwood!
The hike through the tropical forest definitely made the expedition worth it- and especially the fact that the sun was starting to come out! Once we made it back to Brodick, the sun broke out gloriously over the town, although just across the bay the Castle and mountains were still shrouded in clouds and darkness. I also convinced the guys I was with to quest for ice cream, because apparently the Isle of Arran is famous for it... and finally we found some! It ended up being at the last possible moment- on the ferry, but we still got some! And it was delicious!
|The sun finally came out!|
Back in Glasgow now, with another essay deadline fast approaching. On the plus side, I managed to get a ticket for the Isle of Skye trip this weekend! My original class trip was postponed because the bus driver couldn't make it. So Skye it is!