A gale swirled through Glen Chalmadale toward its impending dissipation at Lochranza Bay. The flat tidal bay at the horn of Arran cups sailboats and the ruin of a Norseman – the twin to Skipness Castle across the water on Kintyre. The buzz from my visit to Arran’s distillery expands amidst the light pinging off water and hill and the constant thrush of fresh air. The gravel beach crackles under foot. Boats leashed to neon bobs wait patiently to ply the seas. Lochranza town is little more than white houses scattered like a child’s forgotten jacks. There are people and dogs full of silence and long looks.
I can almost see the longboats with their bestial figureheads sliding into the bay, the white sails stuffed with wind and a deck bristling with hide- and mail-clad warriors. Who were the people that fell beneath their weapons, gave up their steads to flame and their livelihoods to plunder? Were they manacled in the galley and packed off to Gotland? How loud were the roars of the eventual uprising. The past is draped over this landscape like a translucent film. Imperceptible, yet never unseen.