Palm trees left out in Arran’s cold

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I’m just back from an enjoyable week on Arran and I can confirm that it was no warmer over there! It was weird photographing the island’s many palm trees with a backdrop of fresh snow on Goat Fell.

The sun did shine on occasion, enough to allow me to get out and about and do a bit of bird-watching. Unlike the Borders, there seems to be no shortage of cuckoos. I encountered at least six in different locations.

Being so used to seeing buzzards back at home, the sight of a golden eagle simply cannot be mistaken for its commoner cousin and I was lucky enough to see at least three of these magnificent birds in the remoter glens of the island. Other birds we don’t get here, which I managed to spot included great northern diver and red-throated diver. Twite is another northern species – a sort of linnet – and I caught up with a small flock feeding on the golf course at Lochranza, where I was based.

One evening, after the sun had gone down, I was taking the dog out for her last outing round the castle, when a particularly nice sunset began to unfold. I sat down to enjoy the ever changing pinks and purples reflected off the calm waters of the bay. The sound of the lapping waves and tinkling ropes slapping against the metal masts of the moored yachts had a soporific effect and I started to drift off.

I was suddenly brought back to full alert by a pungent musty animal smell and a heavy snorting. Snapping my head round, I was stunned to discover that I was almost surrounded by about a dozen red deer. This was the village herd, immortalised on postcards and calendars everywhere, grazing on the golf course and around the castle at sunset. They had been attracted to my seat by the dog. Some were becoming quite aggressive towards her so I beat a hasty retreat, leaving them to merge back into the darkness.

We had red squirrels visiting feeders at our cottage daily, which was such a pleasure, being used to nothing but greys here. Other highlights included glimpses of otter, seals and almost 60 species of bird.

Yes it was a most enjoyable week, but it was unfortunate that the temperature struggled to reach double figures for the duration. Things can only get better!