GREW up in Glasgow a short run and jump from Ibrox public baths but learned inadvertently to swim in a tidal pool at Seamill, Ayrshire, on a residential school holiday. The magic of this sudden accomplishment was highly enhanced by the venue, a rock-strewn sandbar with vista across the blue-green Firth of Clyde to that inscrutable Arran profile, The Sleeping Warrior.

A decade later, I'd stretch with my Sunday bike-racing mates on the Portencross machair gazing wistfully beyond the diving gannets to the same distant, enigmatic outline of Goatfell. It shredded the cloud that seldom darkened, as I recall, a golden idyll.

We'd already biked once in a fine July week around Lamlash, Pirnmill, Lochranza and palm-treed Lagg, largely courtesy of that remarkable Pollock and Dunlop minister, Jimmy Currie, whose family owned Drumadoon Farm, Blackwaterfoot, over the testing String Road from Brodick.

The long, leisurely daily tours of the isle with Charlie were a break from the fierce bunch training circuits around Glasgow with senior riders (50 miles at times after tea!). We'd won the junior national team championship but I'd been blown off the podium on the last hard climb of Soutra Hill, Dalkeith, and it still rankled.

Arran's engaging land and seascapes, other-worldly pace and bracing air set me up for a vengeful win in the ensuing Glasgow Wheelers' road race on my eighteenth birthday. A random dope test might have revealed some serious overdosing in farm fare, pastries, scones and fruit cake lavished earlier on us by the Rev J Currie's sister.

By now, you'll have a fair idea of my seduction by that other emerald isle. More enthrallment was to follow. In the 70s, having suspended biking for the safer, off-road activities of rock and ice climbing, I found more exhilarating involvement with the inner fabric of Arran, the coarse-grained core.

The island is a geological wonderland; red sandstone in the south, carboniferous limestone in the north-east and basaltic dykes in profusion elsewhere. But the obvious appeal for climbers is the predominant igneous rock, the granites of the four major sportsgrounds - the east face of A'Chir (the comb), the Rosa Pinnacle of Cir Mhor, the Bastion of Cioch-na-h-Oighe and the Rosa Slabs on Goatfell's west face.

Not far behind the leech-like gabbro of Skye, the grey granite of Arran is something you can get attached to, its grainy textures often allowing a smearing confidence where actual foot and handholds are scarce.

Also like Skye, development is desultory but a few hard, more recent routes maintain Arran's reputation. Such as Dave Cuthbertson and Ken Howett's Token Gesture, F5, 6b, 6b on the Bastion and an earlier escapade, Insertion, E4, 5c, 5b, 5c by Carrington and Fulton on Cir Mhor. But the quality of Arran is the unique island ambiance and range of lower and middle-range routes.

This fair isle, like any other, has a distinct escapist atmosphere and if good weather prevails the feel of tense, calculated movement above sweeping aretes and rivers meandering to a not-too-distant sea will not be forgotten.

Recent rain or residual damp from previous grey days add an unexpected skiddy dimension to the normally high-friction Arran granite and the typical rounded cracks and tenuous grooves can be exciting in these conditions. We went once as a celebratory Glencoe mob on an inclement weekend to camp in Glen Rosa, the complement to Glen Sannox as a popular tent site but a quicker approach from the Brodick car ferry.

The long approach to Cir Mhor and the Rosa Pinnacle on the ragged track is a delight in clear weather, but a dreich haul in low cloud and smirr. Most aborted but John and I trudged on for the classic Sou'wester Slabs which I'd inexcusably neglected in the past. The line looked fine in contrast to the bog trot, but a mild hangover, seeping cracks and light mist detracted somewhat from the auspicious occasion.

I've often meant to go again. Not necessarily for Sou'wester, but the utter nostalgia of finer days and other forays, notably an indelible memory of a 1000-foot line - South Ridge Direct - on Rosa Pinnacle that matches anything of its grade in the country.

This Very Severe route winds up the left crest of Cir Mhor's armadillo plates and can be discerned long before you reach the face on the wild rise from Glen Rosa into scenic Fionn Choire. Bob had sauntered on the long walk in. To ease the wait, I moved tentatively up the opening, sinuous S Crack to view the line.

A pair was belayed above, at the foot of the strenuous Y Crack. ''You going to solo this?'' one called. I cautiously retreated, smiling at the query. I was recent to this standard, then, and had sussed enough already. I'd sooner flap my arms and fly off the ridge.

With Bob belayed, I jammed up the S, fearful eventually that proper holds were not obligatory at this standard. Just as adhesion seemed likely to decamp, a little surprise was sprung - a device, let's say, that every ascensionist will know but is not inclined to tell and spoil the fun for those to come.

Bob followed, jittered at the crux and equally enjoyed the scam. The Y Crack, steep and bold, forced a tense choice of move at its fork. South Ridge went on like this, challenging, fascinating with adjacent panoramas. Brilliant.

The route is capped by a pile of granite accountancy ledgers. And a magnificent view to the enticing A'Chir ridge and hazy Glen Rosa melting south to Holy Island, 1030 feet at its Mullach Mor summit. We topped out on Robin Smith's testpiece, a pyramidal boulder aptly called The Rosetta Stone on account of the conundrum of its subtle little lines.