Isle of Arran - 2015




Isle of Arran Trip 17-22 September 2015


Day 1, Thursday 17 September


It was a bright and sunny morning for the drive up to Ardrossan, where we were booked onto the 12 50 ferry to Brodick.  The 55 minute crossing passed quickly as we anticipated the delights Arran had to offer.  As we drew closer to the shores of Arran, further details of the rugged northern part of the island were revealed and we attempted to make out the path up Goat Fell, our objective for the following day.  From the ferry Goat Fell and surrounding Corbetts appeared a daunting prospect.  To our left lay Holy Isle, with its peak, Mullach Mor, worthy of further investigation.

 Our accommodation, Shore House Apartments on the front at Brodick was just a short distance from the ferry terminal; we soon settled in and became familiar with the facilities that Brodick had to offer.  That evening from our table in the window at Fiddlers Bistro, we had a fantastic view of Goat Fell, drenched in evening sunlight and our thoughts turned to the day ahead.


Day 2, Friday 18 September



In keeping with LDWA tradition, we set off at 8.30 and headed across Brodick Bay, via the estuary and golf course towards Brodick Castle.  The water in the bay was calm as a mill pond and sparkling in the morning sunshine.  We reached the perimeter of the castle grounds from where a footpath led through woodland and out onto the flanks of Goat Fell.  In the humid conditions, the inevitable midges appeared and midge repellent was duly applied!  Once on the open fell side, calls for a coffee stop were made where we enjoyed extensive views across the Firth of Clyde; deep blue and criss-crossed by the Ardrossan-Brodick ferries.  We were able to pick out Bute, Loch Fyne and the beginning of the Kintyre peninsula.  Our path became steeper and rockier as we ascended and we met other walkers taking advantage of the fine day.  Lunch was partaken of at the summit and from our lofty perch we had fine views of Cir Mhor, Caisteal Abhail and Beinn Tarsuinn (the other three Arran Corbetts) and the stunning Glen Rosa below.  Discussion took place concerning the onward route.  Initially we considered heading north along the ridge to North Goat Fell before descending to the saddle above Glen Rosa and following Glenrosa Water back to Brodick.  The descent from Goat Fell summit and the ridge below proved to be quite rocky and scrambly in places, to the extent that five of us reviewed the initial plan and opted to take the long but gradual descent from the ridge to Corrie.  Andy continued with the original plan and headed over North Goat Fell and down to Glen Rosa.  Meanwhile the remainder of the party headed in the direction of Corrie.  Part way down, we met a girl carrying a mountain bike on her shoulder; her intention was to camp on the ridge and ‘cycle’ down Goat Fell the following day!  Having gained the main road on the coast at Corrie, we had hoped to follow the new Arran Coastal Way through the forest back to Brodick Castle.  A likely looking track proved to be a red herring and we resigned ourselves to a long road walk back.  A couple of boy-racers later, we arrived at Brodick Old Quay and were soon able to leave the main road and walk back across the bay and golf course, to a welcome shower.  Back in the window seat at Fiddlers that evening, we took in the view of the vanquished Goat Fell, illuminated by the evening sun.


Day 3, Saturday 19th September


A day of two walks, which remained overcast with some cloud.  Three of the group headed to the remaining Corbetts, Cir Mhor, Caisteal Abhail and Beinn Tarsuinn for a long day in the mountains. (see separate report on this walk below).  The remaining three took a bus to Lamlash, south of Brodick with the intention of visiting Holy Isle and taking in its hill, Mullach Mor, with perhaps a coastal walk back to Brodick.  At just after 9am, all was deserted at the Holy Isle ferry ‘office’ (a portakabin) and a sign announced that the next crossing to the island would take place at ’11 ish,’  Further investigations of the nearby café revealed that it opened at 10am.

 Fortified with scones and coffee, we returned to the ‘office’ where we discovered the reason for the vague crossing time.  An open-water swimming event ‘The Lamlash Splash- was to take place that morning and the ferry was engaged in taking the competitors over to Holy Island to begin their swim.  We made the short crossing of Lamlash Bay in a 12 person ferry.  At the jetty, we were met by a member of the Buddhist community, which now owns and occupies the island, who gave us an interesting overview of the island’s features and attributes and also some background to the resident community.  We were soon climbing towards Mullach Mor summit from where we had extensive views of Lamlash Bay but surprisingly no swimmers; the expected ’mass start’ never appeared to happen!  Mullach Mor summit was occupied by a large group of Norwegian schoolgirls on some form of exchange trip. We selected a less busy site on the other side of the summit for our lunch break.  The return route took us over to the southern side of the island, where its two lighthouses were visible.  The coastal path back to the visitor centre and jetty was full of interest, not least the colourful Buddhist rock paintings at regular intervals.  There were two caves to investigate, one of which was occupied by the hermit St Molaise, an early Irish saint, in the 6th century.  We had been told about the island’s flock of Soay sheep during the introduction but, despite hearing the odd bleating, had not seen them; as we came to the end of the walk; the flock were to be found on the pebbly foreshore foraging for seaweed.  Unfortunately, 13 people were waiting for the return ferry and it was strictly 12 only.  As we were at the back of the queue, we had to wait for the next one, which provided us with an opportunity for a cup of tea at the visitor centre.  Once back at Lamlash, the next bus to Brodick was conveniently late and there were several people gathered at the bus stop; as time was getting on, we took the opportunity to hop aboard.  The group were reunited that evening when a meal was enjoyed at the Brodick Bistro.


Andy, Jim and Ann drove to the road end in Glen Rosa to climb the three remaining Arran Corbetts there and started walking before 9 am.

The weather forecast for the day was the best of the weekend - ‘a ball of sunshine’ was the forecast but it certainly did not look that way as we set off up the glen with the tops in cloud. Trying to be optimistic we hoped it would lift as we ascended.

The first top Beinn Nuis is not a Corbett so although it exceeds the required height it does not have the height difference (500ft) between it and its higher neighbour Beinn Tarsuinn. Both tops were ascended in the cloud so no views!

Onward to the second Corbett, Caisteal Abhail, which was also ascended in the cloud. The elusive summit was established via grid reference and GPS reading, so again no panorama.

Returning to the col we began to get some views and finally by the time we got to the third top, Cir Mhor, the cloud had finally lifted. Goat Fell was well seen where the whole group had been yesterday in sunshine!

Having bagged all three Corbetts it was down to the col and a left turn down into Glen Rosa for the long walk out to the car arriving at just after 5 pm.

Although the walk had been done as planned we felt a bit cheated as the weather forecast had indicated a much better day. Statistics were over 14 miles and at least 5,100 ft. of ascent.


Day 4, Sunday 20th September


Today everyone was keen to do some coastal walking around the Cock of Arran, the most northerly point of the island.  In two cars, we headed north, on a beautiful drive through the villages of Corrie and Sannox, climbing out of North Glen Sannox  before heading down Glen Chalmadale. Our starting point was Lochranza, a small village with a ruined castle and ferry crossing to Claonaig on the Kintyre Peninsula.  It was 9.30 and Sunday morning and we had hoped to park by the church.  Understandably, parking outside the church was not permitted between 9 and 12 on Sundays!  We were able to park nearby and set off down a small lane adjacent to the golf course, where several deer were wandering and unperturbed by our presence.  A rough track took us past some small farmsteads before descending to the coast at Fairy Dell.  The way ahead was littered with boulders and rocks not making for the easiest passage.  On this stretch, we met the same intrepid mountain biker from the Goat Fell walk, again carrying her bike.  A coffee stop was enjoyed looking out to sea and it was some time before we reached Laggan Cottage, a former farmstead now a bothy.  On route to Laggan, there were some fine industrial remains, relating to coal mining activity and salt pans.  After inspecting the interior of Laggan Cottage, a steep ascent initially took us onto the flanks of Tor Meadhonach, from where we could see the remains of Cock Farm.  This area was once populated by farming families but is now remote and deserted.  Further up the fell side, we stopped  for lunch and looked down upon the some of the ground we had covered earlier, including the former industrial site, another reminder that this area had once been a centre of human activity.  After lunch we soon reached the hause between Tor Meadhonach and Creag Ghlas Laggan and began to descend towards Glen Chalmadale where the Isle of Arran Distillery could be seen.  Dark clouds were gathering but we were spared a downpour.  An easy path returned us to the golf course.  Following the walk, we took the opportunity to investigate the ruins of Lochranza Castle, which had formerly defended the inlet and observed hooded crows foraging amongst the pebbles.  A visit to the Distillery café for tea and cakes rounded off the day.  That night in our window seat at Fiddlers, we observed helicopter activity over the other side of the bay and torchlight on Goat Fell.  It transpired that two girls had got into difficulty up on the fell.  Discussion turned to the Mountain Rescue Services and the vital role that they undertake.


Day 5, Monday 21st September


With Brodick Castle and Gardens and the Arran Heritage Museum to explore, we took the opportunity to have a sightseeing day (with a lot of walking between the accommodation, castle and museum!).  Brodick Castle, a Victorian baronial-style hunting lodge in red sandstone, is set amidst woodland beneath Goat Fell and has commanding views of the Firth of Clyde.  The site has been fortified since, c. the 5th century, however the present reincarnation was designed not for the purposes of defence but pleasure.  Between the late 15th century and early 20th century, the castle was the seat of the Dukes of Hamilton.  In the early 16th century, it was rebuilt as a defensive tower house by the 2nd Duke.  During the Civil War, the family lost and won back the castle and when calm was restored, it became a sporting estate for the family. In the 19th century, it became a home for the 10th Duke.  The 11th Duke extended the castle considerably in the 1840s.  Unfortunately, the 12th Duke had no male heirs and in 1906, the castle passed out of the family’s ownership by marriage.  In 1958 it was acquired by National Trust for Scotland from Lady Jean Fforde, in lieu of death duties of her mother.  It is now open to the public in the summer months.  Once inside the castle, there is a striking display of stag heads particularly above the staircase, leaving visitors in no doubt about its former use.  Visitors are able to wander through beautifully furnished and decorated rooms, where guides are available to answer questions and provide further information.  Highlights include the dining room with its medieval early wooden panelling and exquisite tableware, the library and drawing room with beautiful plasterwork ceilings and the kitchen, with water powered spit.  The formal walled garden is well worth a visit

 The Arran Heritage Museum site occupies a former school and was opened to the public in 1979.  Its displays cover many aspects of island life and include, a schoolroom, which also covers a current project with the island’s primary school children.  Following years of neglect, local history is back in the curriculum and the project aims to give the children a better understanding of their heritage.  The former backsmith’s forge, the ‘Smiddy’ contains a wealth of old equipment and tools, including a rare example of ceiling mounted bellows.  The cottage displays parlour, kitchen and bedroom interiors, with wash house and milk house and associated equipment.  The stable block contains exhibition areas dedicated to particular topic areas, including, world wars, the clearances and emigration, farming, archaeology and geology, weights and measures.  The site also has a café where we enjoyed hearty soup and local oatcakes!


Day 6, Tuesday 22nd September


The morning of our departure was glorious and it was sad to leave.  The views of Goat Fell as we crossed the Firth of Clyde were as beautiful as the day we arrived but this time we knew something of the mountain.