the loch of Arran's isle
On fair Lochranza steamed the early day,
Thin wreaths of cottage smoke are upward curl'd
From the lone hamlet, which her inland bay
And circling mountains sever from the world. Sir Walter Scott
The mountains, landslips along the northern shore and the presence of the Craw brae meant that communications by road was impossible until fairly recent times. Roads other than tracks between farms and crofts did not exist during the 18th and well into the 19th century. These tracks followed around the 100ft to 200ft level above the raised beach. Most communication was by sea to the west and even after the appearance of steamers the most important link was to Campbeltown via Lochranza from Gourock or the Broomielaw. One of the saddest days for Lochranza was when the Post Office contract was withdrawn from the Campbeltown Steam Packet Co., so that steamers no longer went from Gourock to Campbeltown via Lochranza.The road across the Boguille from Sannox to Lochranza opened in 1843 (but only 9ft wide!). There were no bridges for river crossings except for some footbridges there was only crossings by fords. The Craw still prevented wheeled transport from Lochranza and Catacol southwards.
There was a fertile area between Laggan and the two Cock farms which at one time had a population of around 100 people. poor quality coal was available which was used for heating local salt pans, as well as limestone and millstone, used for grindstones and forms for wheelwrights.
The castle is said to have been built by one of the Stewart kings as a hunting seat, and is mentioned by Fordum in AD 1400 as one of the two royal castles in Arran.
The Norwegian Vikings were one of the early visitors and gave it the name Ranza: thus Lochranza.
The area produced a hardy breed of crofter fishermen sailing out for days on end to catch the herring. Going as far as Ireland, Islay and Skye in their small boats. The fishing industry brought wealth to the village, new houses were built, croft land improved. But when the herring disappeared there was no more work for the men and some found work with the Merchant navy whilst others had to move to the shipyards or the building industry. At one time there were more Master Mariners belonging to Lochranza than from any other village on the West Coast of Scotland. Some of this may be contributed to the local school which taught navigation as one of its subjects. Their descendants have settled in many areas of the world.
Tourism came with the arrival of the summer visitor holiday-maker and the village opened up boarding houses and let their own homes over the summer months. The villagers financed a golf course and a village hall and a new water supply and many other services.
Mary Campbell (Burns Highland Mary - see also Failford) spent some of her youthful years in the service of Rev. David Campbell of Lochranza.
The Sailor's Grave (picture below) is just north of Achnamara about halfway between Lochranza and Catacol. Inscribed John McLean, 12 August, 1854 who had died from Cholera and was isolated even in death.
The building of the Lochranza Pier was authorised in 1888 by the 12th Duke of Hamilton. It had a low berth to accommodate the fishing fleet. This ended the period when passengers had the hazardous trip from the steamer to the Ferry Rock and back. In 1900 the first turbine steamers, The King Edward and Queen Alexandria did round trips from and to Gourock (or Greenock) via Campbeltown
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