The Isle of Arran is a mountainous island off the west coast of Scotland, near Glasgow. This island is a mountain climbers paradise, it offers adventure, day hikes, rock climbing, scrambling and so much more. On the weekend we went to climb it the weather was perfect. The sun was shining and the Scottish summer was flourishing. We couldn’t wait to see our first glimpse of this magnificent island and start our hiking weekend over Arrans mighty jagged peaks.
The train from Glasgow to Ardrossan takes around an hour and from there its a short walk to the ferry to Arran. The ferry journey is comfortable and just as we got out to sea Dolphins and Jellyfish started to appear. It was a breathtaking sight, especially for someone like me who loves the ocean! It didn’t take long before the jagged peaks of Arran started to appear, we both got really excited.
Our route around the Isle of Arran took us the whole weekend. We set off early on the Saturday morning and got back to Glasgow late Sunday evening. From the terminal our first summit was the well known peak of Goatfell.
Climbing Goatfell on the Isle of Arran
A great mountain for day trippers, first time climbers and those chasing scenic views. Starting from the harbour we followed the signs for the Arran Coastal Way until we came off at Brodick Castle. It’s here the incline starts and basically, doesn’t stop until you reach the top! Standing at 874mtrs tall from Brodick Castle is a round trip of roughly 5 – 6 hours depending on your fitness.
The first section of up hill will take you through beautiful forest which surrounds the nearby Brodick Castle. A nice relaxed climb you’ll slowly make your way through the trees and into the shrub land and long grass of the hills above. Before you leave the trees, layer your Smidge on! This next section of the climb is what we called, horsefly hell! This walk is lovely but with the unusually hot summer the horseflies have bread on a huge scale and they are relentless, blood thirsty dive bombers. We made the mistake of walking through here not knowing, without any Smidge on. Safe to say it felt like a test of the gods!
Once out of the long grass and into the boulder dotted fields of the slope to Goatfell’s summit the horseflies thankfully subsided! With the breeze, the walk suddenly slowed to a natural pace and the views really opened up. The sea surrounding Arran was a beautiful bright blue and against the beaches you could see right through. It would be a perfect day for a dive under there! The summit of Goatfell was looming above us and we made the final hard push to the summit.
The route to the summit becomes less like a trail and more guess work as you hop over boulders and slide between rocks. Once at the top the views of the further peaks are sensational. On clear days you can see back to the mainland, onto further islands and on some occasions, the Ireland! Relaxing at the summit with some hot juice and some chocolate, we took in the views, checked our map and tried to spot a good campsite for the night.
If you’re climbing Goatfell as a day trip, the way down is just the same way you came up. The mountains further ahead are a lot more challenging and will require more time and in summer, you don’t want to miss the last ferry!
Where did we Camp on the Isle of Arran?
Our friends recommended we camp on the saddle between North Goatfell and Cir Mhor as there is a water source down there. However once we got to the top of Goatfell we decided that looked boring and we wanted mountain views! So we reached the summit of North Goatfell and walked towards Mullach Buidhe and found a perfect spot to pitch the tent for the evening. Off the beaten track and surrounded by mountain and ocean views. We had a five star campsite all to ourselves!
There is no water source up here or close by. We carried a lot of water with us in preparation as we had heard many rivers were dry. So we had enough to sustain us, cook food and supply the first half of the morning the next day.
Dinner made and hot chocolate drank, we hoped for a sunset but instead got cloud cover. So we retreated to the warmth of the tent and relaxed, the next day was going to be a big one.
Making New Plans..
Originally our plan for Sunday was to wake early, climb North Goatfell again, head down the the saddle, up Cir Mhor and towards the witches step. However, waking up on Sunday with full cloud coverage and a better view of the step. We decided that giant backpacks and neither of us carrying ropes, it probably wasn’t the best of ideas.
Instead our route was the same up to the summit of Cir Mhor. From there we would follow the ridge line around to the east. Summitting, Rosa Pinnacle, A’Chir and Beinn A’ Chliabhain before dropping down along Coire Beag and Cnoc Breac. Thus would take us into the valley below. From the valley it was an easy walk past Glenrosa campsite to get back to town.
We were disappointed to miss out on the witches step, but at the same time relieved. Coming out at Sannox would mean hitchhiking back to town. On a Sunday night missing the ferry isn’t looked greatly upon as a reason not to be going to work on the Monday.
The route we took was awesome! There was a lot of scrambling involved, absolutely no one else around and beautifully picturesque! The views opened up and the cloud lifted once we made it down towards the saddle. The views of the two valleys, the Goatfell peaks we had just come from and the peaks yet to do, excited us. The Isle of Arran really is an adventures paradise! There’s so much to conqure, so many routes to climb and for those who live on the island. I envied them.
Sitting on rock on our way up the steep scramble of Cir Mhor we enjoyed an apple and listened to the bark of a stag somewhere up the mountain above us. Sadly, we didn’t catch a glimpse of him, our footsteps were not nearly quiet enough on the sliding stones!
The highlight of the day were the views, the different rock formations and just being alone in the mountains. For such a popular island, there aren’t many people around in the hills! For me, makes it extra special. On top of A’Chir there are fun rocks to hop over, window holes to climb through and perfect summit seats! Made for a peanut butter sandwich stop.
Dropping down into the valley below was a nice drop. We made our way back into the long grass and springy heather towards a roaring river with stunning selections of waterfalls. It wasn’t long before the horsefly attack happened again. But this time, we were prepared!
No day is finished without Fish and Chips!
Especially on the Isle of Arran! After spending a solid two days hiking, we made it back into the town of Brodick just before the shops closed and the late afternoon ferry left. But that just meant we had plenty of time to re-hydrate and munch down on Fish and Chips in the shade.
The town of Brodick is very small and busy with tourists, hikers and day trippers. The beach is nice place to relax and wait for the ferry. If like us you caught a little too much sun, sitting on a bench under an umbrella with an ice cold coke was perfect.
The Isle of Arran is an easy day trip or weekend trip from the mainland and in my opinion, super underrated! We will be heading back soon to take on the Witches Step and explore more of the mountains we missed! For anyone looking to go hiking in the outdoors and don’t have access to a car, hop over to the Isle of Arran!