This super hike across golden beaches, mountain views and adder infested glens provides for a super day out on the Isle of Arran.
Over the Easter Bank holiday i took a trip to Scotland, and in particular the beautiful island of Arran. The weather was set to be a scorcher and there was no way i was going to let my wellbeing issues get the better of me any longer. I had been unwell for a while and decided i needed to break the cycle.
The Isle of Arran had been on my mind for a while and especially Goat Fell mountain. As mountains go, this is not the biggest but it still comes in at 2867 ft (874m). The one thing to point out, is that this measurement is from sea level, so it is a true hike of 2867 ft from start to finish.
How do you get to the Isle of Arran? For most people it means a CalMac ferry from Ardrossan on the west coast of Ayrshire. For me that meant over a 6-hour journey including the ferry crossing. The prices are relatively cheap and it cost me £36.00 return with my car, i believe foot passengers can get a return journey for under £15.00, but it is best to check CalMac website for prices before your journey.
There are many ways to reach Arran and from what i know, trains and buses make good connections with the port. Glasgow being the nearest city to Ardrossan via any form of transport. On reaching Ardrossan there is a ferry terminal with facilities including toilets and food. I arrived late given my car battery had died that morning and i had to have an emergency replacement thanks to Halfords, who got me sorted withing 30 minutes. However, that still meant i missed my 2:00pm crossing and CalMac thankfully found a place for me on the 6:00pm crossing.
Now the best part about this journey is i do not like sailing! so i was apprehensive because normally i turn green and become sick. Luckily for me the waters were calm on the crossing of which takes around 50 minutes. The sun was shining at the port of Ardrossan but halfway through the crossing the weather turned to a mix of mist and haze. I decided to go on to the deck as we approached Brodick (Arran) and through the haze i got my first glimpse of Goat Fell. Due to its size it dominates the skyline and looks like a volcano and was surrounded on the lower fells by low cloud. It gave me goose bumps because of how it looked, i felt like i was travelling back in time to a prehistoric age.
Once off the ferry at Brodick my first port of call was visiting the Co-op supermarket to the right to get some supplies given i would be camping during my trip. The island seems to be monopolised by the Co-op and to be fair the prices are not cheap, but not the most expensive either. It may be a good idea to stock up before travelling to keep the cost down.
I was staying at a campsite in Lamlash which is around 5 miles away from Brodick. I might as well mention it now, that there is a Co-op in Lamlash, but much smaller. So, Brodick is the main supply chain. During my visit i noticed there were many pubs and eateries to cater for tourists so if you can afford to eat out and like a beer then you will be happy.
The next day which was Easter Sunday i decided to take a trip around the local area and see what i could find walking wise. I ended up in Sannox at the Devil’s Punch-bowl but decided carry on walking with the intention of climbing Cioch na h-Oighe. Unfortunately, there was a very difficult scramble to reach the ridge line (which is well known for its difficulty) and i slipped and broke 2 fingers on my left hand. So i decided to retreat and instead walked through the beautiful Sannox Glen.
I will write about the Devil’s Punch-bowl in a separate blog but my first day exploring the place was really enjoyable and the scenery was some of the best i have seen anywhere i have walked. On my way back to Lamlash i was informed the only hospital on the island was in fact in Lamlash. I thought it may be best to have my hand checked out which confirmed i had indeed broken two fingers. I was in an out within 1 hour which was amazing and feeling sorry for myself, i treated myself to a chicken kebab from an Indian Restaurant very close to the camp site.
Easter Monday i was up and ready to do what i had come to the island for, climb Goat Fell. The weather was sunny and warm, so off i set to park at the sea front in Brodick across from the Co-op. Many people come to Arran as foot passengers and walk straight off the ferry and up Goat Fell before returning to catch the ferry back. I would be doing the exact same route, so after a bacon sandwich i was off.
Goat Fell (Gaoda Bheinn) is the highest point on the Isle of Arran and it is one of four Corbett’s on the Island. It is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland along with nearby Brodick Castle.
From the Co-op follow the path all the way down until you come to a parade of shops on your right. Believe it or not there is a Co-op on the row so you will know exactly where it is, and at this point you will head towards the beach.
Follow the path along the beach with Goat Fell directly in front of you until you come to the end of the beach. There is a footbridge that will lead you on to a car park which is also home to mountain rescue. Walk through the car park and across the road, you will see a sign on your right for Goat Fell.
This will lead you past The Wineport public house and brewery. Follow the path around the back of the brewery until you come to a path with a sign saying Goat Fell mountain. From this point the route is way marked and very difficult to get lost.
The first part of the walk will lead you through some beautiful estate and woodland until you eventually start to come out of it and reach more rugged ground. You will pass over a bridge before the good stuff starts. From this point there is a mountain path that is made from stones and rocks and is easy to navigate until you reach the final ascent of Goat Fell.
The final ascent gets a little more demanding and winds through rock fall and the steps come and go as you navigate a route. The ascent increases dramatically but i found this not too demanding, and even the novice walker should be able to reach the summit in a reasonable time.
I reached the summit in less than 90 minutes and at times i was stopping to admire the views behind me of Brodick Harbour and Holy Island in the distance.
At the summit the views are breath taking if you have good weather and i can’t think of any other mountain i have been up with the same views, so i was in my element. The views across North Goat Fell to Cir Mhor & Caisteal Abhail blow your mind and to top it off, you get the rather impressive peaks of Ceum na Caillich (Witche’s Step).
After a short stop at the summit i was off again heading towards North Goatfell along Stacach. You will have to descend and can choose either side of the towering rock formations but both routes will eventually lead you to the base of North Goatfell. A short steep climb will get you on to the rocks which will require the use of your hands.
From the top of the stones you can see the path that leads to the saddle just underneath Cir Mhor. If you are scared of heights then maybe give this route a miss given you will ridge walk from 818 meters descending down to around 450 meters where you will finally head left down Glen Rosa. The route along the ridge is wide in places and less than a meter in others and i found this part of the route very fulfilling, and at times my nerve was going given the wind was howling through Glen Rosa and across Glen Sannox.
Eventually you will come down to the saddle where you can go right down Glen Sannox or left down Glen Rosa. Looking back on your route across the ridge is rather impressive and the perspective is always changing. The route down the ridge was filled with obstacles that required the use of hands and bums at times and i really enjoyed the route across. As i write this i have just been to Arran for the August Bank Holiday and did the same route again and it was just as exciting.
At the saddle turn left down the dirt path that will lead you down and through Glen Rosa. The glen is deceiving and much longer than it looks and by the end of it you will be tired trust me. I am informed there are Adders in the glen but on both occasions i have done this walk i have not seen any unfortunately. The path along Glen Rosa crosses a river and the path is eroded in parts and sometimes you will be knee height in heather and grass which can scratch your legs if you have shorts on.
Just before the waterfall on the right towards the end of Glen Rosa take the path to the left that will lead you across a bridge with only one side hand railed. This path will eventually lead you into a forest. Cross the forest in a straight line and you will see a stone wall. Turn left and keep to the right-hand side of the wall and this will lead you up hill for which seems an eternity. Eventually when you get to the top, head left and across the bridge with another waterfall. This path will eventually lead you back onto the main forest path and back down to the Brewery where you passed on the start of the walk.
From the Brewery you will know exactly how to get back to the beach and across to Brodick and the original starting point.
Impressions about my visit to the Isle of Arran? absolutely loved it and i would recommend that if anybody gets chance, then head for Arran. I spent four days on the isle and travelled all around it and will definitely be returning again without fail. I would love to be in those mountains during the winter months.