Like a roadside fruit stand, the tangle of bushes offered delectable freshness: blackberries as big as bumblebees, as dark as night and as sweet as days on this island.
Locals call it brambling: stopping to pick the berries beside Arran's narrow roads. And we stopped, too, filling a napkin with juicy goodness.
Never miss a local story.
It was just one small pleasure on a small island well-stocked with them.
This chip off the Scottish mainland is barely 20 miles long and 10 miles wide. Though pocket-size, it offers much that its parent does: highlands and lowlands, rocky shores and sandy beaches, golf and hiking, wildlife and prehistoric stone circles, an elegant castle and good food, moors and heather-painted mountains.
“Arran's got everything,” says Jean Blair, a Blue Badge guide and my companion in exploring the island off Scotland's southwest coast. Still, she says, it would be possible to circle Arran by car in about two hours.
We have no plan to speed-tour. We'll allot nearly two days, and, in the end, we'll leave sights unseen.
There's no getting lost on Arran (ARE-un). One road rings the island, rising and dipping across the land like a theme-park kiddie coaster. Two cross-island roads connect the east and west coasts. All are narrow and flower-flanked.
But not everyone drives, as we do. Some visitors with strong legs rent bicycles and pedal the perimeter. Others with even tougher thighs hike to the summit of 2,900-foot Goatfell for a view stretching to the Irish coast, or trek numerous marked trails on the island's mountainous northern end and its pastoral southern side.
From the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry dock in Brodick, we motor south to Whiting Bay and settle into the art deco Invermay B&B before treating ourselves to dinner at the all-but-next-door Trafalgar Restaurant, an Arran favorite.
Owner Wolfi Kroner is as much Trafalgar's entertainment as he is the host and waiter. Aproned and witty, he joshes with guests, his lightheartedness belying the serious goodness of the dishes prepared by wife and co-owner Ge-Ge Kroner. The vegetable soup is satiny with cream, garlic butter perfumes meaty prawns, and scallops are as tender as I've ever eaten.
Morning comes gently, pinking the sky before the sun glides upward into low clouds. The tide has come and gone while the village slept.
Invermay's breakfast is a heaping plate of eggs, two kinds of sausage, bacon (British-style slabs), sauteed mushrooms and tomatoes, and toast. Afterward, I waddle to the post office to mail a parcel, and Lucy, the mutt on duty, watches benignly from behind the counter.
Even an island can have its islands, and Arran is no different. From Whiting Bay, we see the humps of Holy Island, lately a Buddhist retreat partly accessible to the public via ferry. Farther down the coast, a pretty white lighthouse identifies low-riding Pladda Island.
I spot craft shops, and, if time allowed, I'd nose among the ceramics, jewelry and art created on Arran – these in addition to the cheeses, chocolates, whisky, leather goods, ice cream, beer and bath products that island entrepreneurs offer.
Journey to another time
But we're headed away from the lowlands toward the mountains and a step back in time.
More than five millennia ago, Bronze Age settlers came to the coast, fished the waters and somehow lugged massive granite boulders and pillars to the high meadows to create ceremonial circles. Why remains a mystery that we ponder as we hike a half-hour off the ring road to the Machrie Moor sites.
Along the way, a white-painted farm gleams in a sunbeam, its sheep like fat polka dots on the pastures. I stop among the gorse bushes, tufts of sheep's wool tangled in their spikes, and listen to the wind. It's a soothing sound those prehistoric people surely heard, too, and I wonder whether they chose this highland for its serenity, beauty and cupping mountains splashed with heather's purple.
The walk justifies a snack, and we stop in the tearoom of Shiskine Golf Club for fragrant, crusty scones. Shiskine is one of seven courses on Arran, and it's unusual because it has only 12 holes. Its perch above the coast makes it scenic and challenging.
Fortified, we make the short trip to Balmichael Visitor Centre, a working farm where shops, a coffeehouse and a potter occupy some of its stone buildings, and outdoor activities include picnicking, archery, golf and an opportunity for a look at hairy, rusty-red Highland cattle.
We take the cross-island String Road back eastward to Brodick and its extraordinary castle. While the 13th-century portion is barely visible, the elegant Victorian tower and other additions are open for guided tours. The rooms' furnishings are intact, down to family photos and other touchingly personal items. All are as they were at the death of the Duchess of Montrose in 1957, and all were taken by the government in lieu of death taxes. As sad as that might seem for the family, it's rare that such a time capsule is available to the public.
The castle's walled and woodland gardens and 10 miles of walking paths, including the Goatfell trailhead, frame this singular look into nobility's lifestyle.
To reach Arran, yachtless vacationers cross the sheltered waters of the Firth of Clyde or Kilbrannan Sound aboard car ferries that link the island to Ardrossan 55 minutes east or the Kintyre peninsula a half-hour north.
We're on the road by 8 the next day to catch a morning ferry from Lochranza. We early birds catch not worms, but wildlife: red deer grazing serenely at the edge of the ferry terminal's parking lot. Sheep toddle down the road to see what's for breakfast, and as the ferry takes us to Kintyre's hilly finger, I consider that Arran has infused these creatures with calm – and has done the same for me.