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Arran of the Bens, The Glens and the Brave
Chapter II. The Land between Sky and Water, The Holy Island

Merrily rocks the boat,
The Bell-buoy tosses and twirls,
And the bubbles that shoreward float
Are as full of colour as pearls.

All the hues of the prism they show—
The glitter of crimson dyes,
The orange of sunset glow,
And the purple of morning skies.

The sands are a silver sheet,
And the waves a revel of light,
Where motion and music meet,
And colour and form unite.

From the black cliffs perilous steeps,
The grass in the gale swings free;
The sea in the sunlight leaps,
And the great clouds dip to the sea.
David Gow.

Who again has not, like Mr. David Gow, felt the spell of Arran's waters, sparkling and flashing with a million white crests, breaking sharp and clear as crystals on rock and shingle, or rolling creamily like liquid amber on some smooth stretch of pink-white sand. Its seas, too, have a thousand shades of green, from fairest olive to deepest emerald; its burns a thousand tones of brown, from that of a dark cairngorm stone to the yellow of a cornelian. And just so the mists and distances vary in shades of grey and blue as delicate as that of the mantle of Queen Maev herself, famous in Keltic story. The passing shower or the passing cloud coming down from the narrow seas to northward, or up over Pladda and Ailsa Craig; or the storm-wind from the Atlantic that breaks on the shores of her old kinsman in legend and in blood, Kintyre; all these reflect jewellery of rare colours upon Arran seas and burns and hills. Lying prone between sky and water, it vibrates and reflects like a sensitive maid all the moods of nature —smiles, storms, tears. Certainly if it is monotony that kills, then one should live longest in Arran,changeful as sweet seventeen herself, least monotonous of lands. There Nature's hand never stays, is never idle. Compare it to an Italian coast, where she dawdles and languishes under a sky of perpetual blue and a blazing sun. East is not more remote from west, or north from south, or the gorgeous wardrobe of the Queen of Sheba from that of a London scullery-maid.


Another of Arran's charms is certainly cast by the Holy Island in the famous bay of Lamlash. There gathered the fleet that fought the Saxon King Athelstan at the great battle of Brunanburh, made famous in the finest of early English poems; there too, many centuries later, came Hakon of Norway with his ships, which, tempest aided, the Scottish king defeated utterly. Thus Arran was made the scene of the last act in the Norse incursions on the western coast, as it not improbably had been of the first, for it must have tempted all comers by its exposed position and the wealth of the industrious plain of Shisken and Machrie. To the Holy Island came also St. Molios, who lived in the cave associated with his name, on the walls of which have been deciphered some runic characters. These were once held to refer to Nicolas, a priest of Argyll; but a writer in The Book of Arran now states that they refer to a prosaically named Norseman, possibly a mere trader, one Uilaeikr Stallr; much as the white stone which was discovered by Mr. Pickwick was proved to bear' the words " Bill Stumps, his mark." The island, like in shape to a lion couchant, forms a most picturesque outpost to the southern end of the great bay of Brodick.

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