Pirnmill Hills are a place of solitude compared to their eastern neighbours on the Isle of Arran. Unfrequented most of the time, this range provides for an exceptional day of fell walking.
Over the Easter Bank Holiday i spent some time on the Isle of Arran exploring the mountain ranges this beautiful place has to offer. I have already written and published my walk of Goat Fell & Glen Rosa, but i wanted to do another walk, and after some research i read about the Pirnmill Hills.
To make sense of the name of the range, let me explain. Pirnmill is the area and Beinn Bharrain is the name of the whole hill, whilst Mullach Buidhe is the highest of its summits.
Pirnmill is on the western side of the island and has nothing more than a few houses, shop and cafe called the lighthouse. There is parking adjacent the shop and cafe but it is very limited and very few places to park before or after. I managed to park right outside which was Easter Monday so i am assuming most people will be ok given this walk is seldom chosen by walker heading for the bigger peak of Goat Fell.
Pirmill is right on the coast and very picturesque with seals sunbathing on the rocks, well they were during my visit. This place is picture postcard material and it’s a case of beach to fell with amazing views from the summits.
Beinn Bharrain is the highest peak in the north west of the Isle of Arran.
To start the walk, follow the footpath past the side of the cottages, then follow the path uphill as it meanders left then right. Continue uphill to a bend and then take the path to the right into the woodland. This area can be muddy and you will cross over a few stiles but crossing possibly the biggest stile i have ever seen. Once over the stile keep to the left and follow the path until it comes close to a river with a waterfall.
You will be now heading out of the woodland and onto open moorland. The path will eventually lead to a hydro works. Cross over the river just below the hydro works where you will see the end of a works path of some kind. From this point you will have a good view of two ridges which lead to Beinn Bharrain with Coire Roinn separating them.
The left-hand ridge will involve a scramble whilst the right and side will provide a more gradual ascent to the summit. It is up to you which you prefer given they both lead to the summit. After my long walk the day before i chose to take the easier right and side ridge. i have to admit i made a hash of finding the path to the ridge and ended up going off track and it was rather wet and boggy to say the least. I was too busy taking in the scenery.
I eventually corrected myself and got to the bottom of the ridge, the path up the ridge come in and out of view which can be confusing at times, but as long as you keep to the centre you should be ok. If you look to your right on the ridge, on a good day you will have grate views of the Kilbrannan Sound Kintyre. The ridge is a mixture of boulders and grass until your reach the impressive sight of Casteal na h lolaire the child summit of Beinn Bharrain (711 m)
Once past this point carry on walking which will take you slightly downhill before rising again until you reach the highest point of this walk the summit of Beinn Bharrain, Mullach Buidhe (721 m) with its rather eroded trig point. You will now have amazing views of the Goat Fell range over to the east which include Beinn Tarsuinn, Beinn Bhreac & Cir Mhor. Below you to the east you will have good views of Loch Tanna also.
From the summit Mullach Buidhe the ridge curves round to the left above Glas Choirein, which is easy walking although the path comes in and out of view at times but none the less easy to follow. Eventually you will come to the summit of Beinn Bhreac (711 m) After this continue northwards until you reach another summit above Coirrein Lochan.
From the summit of Mullach Buidhe head downwards to the plateau below Meall Bhig. I found this part the most difficult to follow and ended up freestyling it down. There are a few paths with one close to Coirein Lochain but i kept a more right-handed descent to the plateau.
From the plateau there are cairns which will lead you down to Coire Fhionn Lochan. I took the path that traverses the side of the fell heading straight for the loch below. Once i reached the northern shore of the loch, it became clear just how magnificent this place is. Sandy beaches and crystal blue water, and there were people swimming in the water. The first people i had seen all day on my walk.
I rested at the side of the loch and had something to eat whilst paddling my bare feet in the water, i was half tempted to jump in and have a swim myself but i just admired the views instead and had a mindful moment. Coire Fhionn Lochan is 350 m above sea level and if Carlsberg did mountain lakes, this would be it for me. The perspective of this place is amazing and if i lived on the island, every time there was a warm summer day i know where i would be spending it.
With time getting on i eventually packed up and headed along the path to the east side of the loch where i joined the path that traverses back down to the beach road some 350 metres below. I found the path eroded and difficult at times and there was a small burn that follows it and eventually a few waterfalls, before reaching the cottages at Thundergay. There was building works going on during my visit but the path is easy to follow to the beach road.
On the beach road head left and it is around 2K back to the car park. I found this part of the walk bizarre given i have never walked off mountain and straight onto a beach, it was a great experience though and the road is not very busy and you pass some lovey views on the way back. It was on the beach road i first noticed the seals sunbathing on the rocks. How often can you say you have walked a mountain and paddled in crystal blue water before sharing your return journey with seals?
This walk was not the most difficult i have ever done, but i must mention i never saw another person on the fells and had them all to myself on an Easter Bank Holiday which is possibly unheard of. Total solitude and only once i reach the loch did i see another sole.