As a child we used to visit the Isle of Arran every year to see my grandmother. There was a rhythm to these trips. We’d arrive in Glasgow, stay a night or so, then drive to Ardrossan to catch the ferry. On occasion we would get something to eat in the cafeteria, depending on the time of day, but without fail we would always spend some time on deck. The approach to Arran is like no other. It seems so far away, a distant cluster of hills, then as you approach and the detail becomes richer, anticipation of the holiday ahead builds.
In the last five minutes of the trip, as we were arriving into Brodick Pier, we would look up the hill towards Strathwillan Road for the telltale sign of a bright tea towel waving back and forth – my Nanny was saying hello. She could never see us, at least I doubt it, but we could always see her.
When I was seventeen, I took my first solo trip to the island. I remember it vividly. My stomach was turning, knotted and nauseous all at the same time. What in the world was I thinking, moving halfway around the world on a whim, getting a job at a hotel I barely knew, a job I’d never done before in my life? Who thought that was a good idea? Oh… right… that would be me.
Standing on the deck, watching Arran come into focus, my hair whipped around me. I’d misplaced a hair tie, cursing the fact that I’d look like a birds’ nest by the time I arrived, but I have never missed standing on deck. Gale force winds or otherwise, it was ritual to catch a glimpse.
That trip was the one that boosted my confidence in solo travel, gave me independence and a passion to keep the Isle of Arran as my second home.
A journey on the ferry in 2010 was to be a special one, though I didn’t know it at the time. I was coming to work on the island, at that same hotel, for four months before my university exchange in France. This would be the time that I’d meet my now-husband. Watching the approach to Arran, all I knew at the time was that I was ready for a summer of fun, hard work and seeing old friends. Meeting my best friend wasn’t on my radar.
In 2012 I’d be taking the ferry with my then fiance, visiting the island one week before our wedding. We caught up with friends we’d worked with, strolled past our old staff accommodation and reminisced about many happy times we’d shared together that original summer.
This year, 2016, however, has been the most special ferry journey of all. This was the time that we brought our son, Jack, to the Isle of Arran for the first time. Were it not for this island, this ferry journey, this place… this kid wouldn’t exist. He charmed passengers left and right as we sipped our coffees, then he snuggled into the Baby Bjorn as we went out on deck for the mandatory approach to the island.
It’s hard to explain how important a moment this was for me. The thing is, it wasn’t confined to the present. I’m a thinker, a dreamer, a planner. I have dreams of what our next journey on the ferry will be like. Will there be more kids? What will their memories of Arran be like? Will one of them follow in their parents’ footsteps and come to work on this incredibly special island?
I can only wait and see what fate has in store for us.
Until then, I made sure to enjoy every last second of that journey. The salt air, the unbelievably sunny day and the three special family members that shared the moment with me.