Read other users walk reports for the long distance trails - and add your own.

NB. This board is for reports on multi-day long distance routes - reports on simply long walks should be added to the standard boards.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Spring on the Arran Coastal Way May 2022

Spring on the Arran Coastal Way May 2022

Postby DevonRambler » Mon May 23, 2022 4:42 pm

Route description: Arran Coastal Way

Date walked: 07/05/2022

Time taken: 6 days

Distance: 109 km

Ascent: 600m

8 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Arran Coastal Way.
Day 1. Brodick – Sannox, 10 miles.

At 10.40am on a bright Sunday morning in May, I disembarked from the MV Caledonian Isles onto the Isle of Arran under a blue sky spotted with big fluffy clouds topped with the icy anvils. The air was fresh, the waters around Brodick Bay gently nibbled the sandy shoreline.

Train, bus, and ferry were my methods of transport from my home in Devon to Arran. It was an auspicious start: the train terminated early at Ardrossan South Beach following a points failure.

I had 10 minutes to get to the ferry terminal for the 0945 ferry.

There was no other option. I had to run for it.

Bemused Sunday strollers stared as I sprinted towards the boat clad in stout walking boots and carrying a full backpack.

Why the hurry? Well, I had assiduously planned my walk and initially decided Sunday would be a day for wandering Brodick and getting settled before starting the path proper on Monday.

But that all changed when I saw the weather forecast. The forecast for Monday - the ascent of Goatfell, Arran’s highest peak - was diabolical. Rain, high winds, very low visibility. Definitely not a day for hill walking.

A change of plan was needed. If I wanted to make the most of the day and climb Goatfell it was imperative to catch the 0945 ferry.

The ferry gods (if they exist) were on my side. I flung myself forward, chasing a Co-op van into the vehicle loading entrance and frantically waving my ticket to the staff. I was puce red, gasping, but glad to be on board. People who’d meandered towards the ferry with little sense of urgency were not so lucky.

I collapsed into an outside seat and let out a burst of hysterical laughter. A grey-haired man hunched over a cigarette eyed me curiously and edged away. For the next 55 minutes I watched as mainland Scotland grew smaller and the east coast of Arran beckoned. What a beautiful sight it is; sandy beaches, sparkling waters and canopied forests all dominated by the towering peaks of the Goatfell mountain range.

I couldn’t wait to get started.

Upon leaving the ferry, I popped into the Co-op at Brodick to stock up on food for the day ahead then strolled along the Fisherman’s Walk, a flat leisurely walk around Brodick Bay. I passed a few other walkers who all smiled and asked if I was walking the hill too. Bees’ drones in the air, lambs ran towards their woolly mums, birds chirruped and the spring flowers were a riot of purple and yellow. This is the life, I thought happily. I’m in Scotland, the sun is shining and I’m about to climb my first big hill. Lovely.

Being relatively new to hill walking in Scotland I took the ‘tourist route’ up to Goatfell. I’m not usually snobbish about how routes are referred to, but I do object to the term ‘tourist route’ because it implies an easiness that is within reach of even the most inexperienced of walkers. I suspect this relaxed attitude to language leads a few people into believing they can stroll up in only a cotton t-shirt and trainers and armed with a small bottle of water. I reckon we should ban calling any path up a hill a ‘tourist route.’ It’s a route, it has risks and everyone should prepare for it.

I passed Arran Brewery where a sign warned me Goatfell’s summit was a 4-6 hour round trip. I ascended open birch woodland where I heard my first cuckoo of the year until I crossed a bridge over the Mill Burn. Here, I looked back. The views are impressive. I paused to chat to another hiker, and we agreed it was a perfect day for walking: not too hot, not too cold; not too cloudy, not too hazy.

After passing through a gate in the deer fence, the path worked its way through a stony landscape towards the eastern shoulder of Goatfell, then turned left to climb steeply through granite boulders. Tourist route indeed, I huffed. I glanced up to see tiny stick figures in the distance slowly making their way towards the rocky summit.

It looked miles away.

Behind me, Brodick shimmered in the distance and, beyond that, Holy Island. Challenging work is always rewarded, I reminded myself as I plugged on upwards.

As I settled into my climbing pattern, occasionally stepping aside for people on the descent, I found my mind wandering. It’s a funny old thing really. Thoughts flow like shallow water over pebbles. It never feels deep or meaningful but a solution or an answer pops up unexpectedly or when I am not consciously deliberating a particular matter. Slow thinking, I call it.

Goatfell is a cheeky hill because the final ascent is the steepest, just when your legs are really burning, and the summit seems so tantalisingly close.

And then I was there. The summit. Clouds scudded across the sky like busy mother hens rounding up their chicks and shadows danced on surrounding peaks and ridges. I grinned and grinned as I drank in the views and congratulated myself. This was my first Corbett and I think I picked a good one!

I loved the bouldery descent to Sannox via a crossing of the Corrie Burn and a beautiful birch woodland. It's a quieter descent but still a toughie, made even harder wearing a full backpack. Why did I not leave my stuff where I was staying in Brodick, I wondered. In my keenness to get in the hills I must have taken leave of my senses. I’ll know next time.

The view from Goatfell summit

Day 2. Sannox – Lochranza, 10 miles.

Although my legs were still sore from my ascent of Goatfell, I felt smug. My change of plan was a good one. Monday was a complete wash-out – even the ferries were cancelled.

Now it was Tuesday. Rain drizzled petulantly and thick fog shrouded the hills. But my day would be spent walking 10 miles along the north-east side of Arran which was sheltered from the worst of the passing weather. Ye gods!

The previous day, I’d moved on from Brodick and would be spending the next three nights in Lochranza Youth Hostel.

That morning, I hopped on the bus to Sannox and the plan was to walk back to Lochranza. That way, I could carry a lighter pack and did not have to worry about timing my walk to coincide with buses.

One thing: the bus service on Arran is excellent. Services are not as frequent as you’d like but they are reliable and the bus drivers are friendly. If you miss your bus, you might need to wait three hours until the next. Also, it’s worth buying a seven-day rider ticket as you can save quite a few quid.

Today’s section followed the coast north-east coast through a quiet forest section before sticking closely to the shore with stupendous views to Ayrshire. Off I went with a spring in my step, stopping often to peer through my binoculars at birds of prey swirling high on the thermals. Seeing eagles is something I'll never forget. The bouldery section of Fallen Rocks made for a nice coffee break before pressing on along a narrow and waterlogged path.

I felt a real sense of peace and remoteness in this section. Modern life felt far away from here. I passed navigation masts, oddly shaped rocks, and kept my eyes open for seals or dolphins or porpoises. Alas! It was not my day to see them but the variety of birdlife more than made up for it.

Soon the forlorn Laggan Cottage came into view. With its tumbling down outbuildings, flaking whitewash walls and cracked blue door, it cuts a woebegone figure; the Norma Desmond of the bothy world.

I pushed the unlocked door open. Inside was a rickety bedframe, a pushbike, empty jars of coffee and broken beer bottles. I could not help but feel sad. What a waste of a beautiful building in a stunning location! It was not my first encounter with sorry-looking buildings in gorgeous locations on Arran. In Brodick, an abandoned seafront hotel is crumbling away. After doing a little research, I learned planning permission has been given for a massive hotel. I wondered whether they’d deliberately designed the new building to be a carbuncle. Perhaps it’s just modern development for you.

I shook myself. Don't let the poor management development decisions of others ruin a good walk! I chided.

I left lonely little Laggan Cottage behind and weaved my way around the Cock of Arran (no sniggering at the back) past Ossian’s Cave and Fairy Dell. If you’re into geology, this section is fascinating because it passes one of the most historically important geological outcrops on the world. Yes, the world. It was here in 1787 Scottish geologist James Hutton made observations in the rock formations that showed our mortal coil was older than previously thought.

By now the shining sun was throwing glitter paths onto the sea. I whipped out my sunhat and rubbed SPF50 onto my nose. The previous evening, during a short break in the weather, I’d spied a sign for The Whins Craft Workshop which sells hand decorated stone characters and quirky woodwork. I brought myself a pebble bumblebee, an ice cream and settled on a bench to take in the views over Lochranza. Then, I enjoyed a nice descent into the village and spent the remainder of the day relaxing in the hostel chatting to other people staying there.

It really is a gorgeous part of Arran, Lochranza. If you do go, spring is great. The birdsong is a symphony of sound, the sunsets are gorgeous and red deer lazily wander the village as if they own the place.

Looking back towards Sannox from Fallen Rocks

Day 3. Lochranza – Machrie, 14 miles.

This was the day I was least looking forward to. Much of the Coastal Way runs along the road and I was apprehensive to say the least. Unless it’s a rural country lane I avoid walking on roads.

The saving grace is that the road is very quiet, and it affords excellent views of the Kintyre peninsula. The first section on the old postie’s route to the tiny hamlet of Catacol is gorgeous; I climbed high into birch woodland and walked on a good but muddy path carpeted either side in thick rugs of bluebells while blackbirds and cuckoos sang from their perches in the trees.

I popped out in Catacol and plodded along the road to Pirnmill passing a quirky prefabricated church until I reached the well-provisioned shop where I brought oat cakes, crisps and chatted to the friendly shop owner. She wished me luck as I began the second half of my walk to Machrie.

She must have known I needed it. Maybe I was tired, maybe the road walking was taking its toll but I struggled. The soles of my feet burned with every step. Even a brief section off-road failed to lift my spirits. ‘What are you staring at?’ I said accusingly to a field of sheep as I slogged past. They looked away disinterestedly.

I perked up when I reached Machrie Bay and enjoyed a coffee and a coronation chicken sourdough roll in the golf club’s tearoom. After a pleasant hour’s rest watching the changing tide, it was time to catch the bus back to Lochranza. That evening I was treated to a beautiful sunset, the likes of which you only experience in Scotland. Swallows darted across the loch and wading oystercatchers peep-peeped from the shore as the sun spread fiery orange fingers across the sky.

A blazing Lochranza sunset

Day 4. Machrie – Lagg, 15 miles (including diversion to Machrie Moor)

The cuckoos and dusty pink sky woke me well before 5am. I enjoyed listening to the dawn chorus for a while then got myself ready for another day. I was excited for today because I planned to visit Machrie Moor’s standing stones, a Neolithic site about a mile inland from the route. My usual stomping ground is Dartmoor National Park, an archeologically rich environment of neolithic and Bronze Age artefacts and I was intrigued by what stood on Machrie Moor, and how it compared to my local landscape.

The sky was topaz blue and the cloud-topped mountains formed a dramatic backdrop as the bus driver dropped me off at the Machrie Moor car park. I followed a good farm track with waymarkers and got to the stones within half-an-hour.
It was deserted and my visit was all the better for it. I was able to meander around ring cairns, stone circles, massive standing stones, hut circles and field systems. Evidence suggests activity was recorded here in 3,500BC and the stone circles seen today were preceded by timber circles on the same site. Excellent information boards help you understand what you can see and why they are so significant.

Places like this blow my mind. Never mind it’s hundreds of miles from sites on Dartmoor; such were their similarities it may as well have been a few yards. I sat for a while pondering about those early settlers and why they chose that site.

Sometimes I wish I could time travel.

Anyway, back to the car park I went. I picked up the Coastal Way through for another brief section on road before turning right into the King’s Cave forestry car park. The views over to the Pirnmill hills and Kilbrannon Sound were astonishing. I stopped and took it all in, trying to commit to memory, before skidding my way down a rocky gully to continue along the coast, visiting King’s Cave along the way. I was thrilled to learn this was the place where King Robert the Bruce had his encounter with a spider here but felt a little deflated when, later, I heard other locations claim the honour too. It’s a bit like castles I suppose; they all seem to have a ghost called the Grey Lady or Headless Horseman.

On I marched over pebbly ground towards the magnificent basalt columns below The Doon and around Drumadoon Point where gannets darted into the water like arrows. It was a special sight, seeing them pinwheel and plunge for food. Speaking of food, I was getting hungry myself so I swung off the path and into Shiskine Golf Club’s Tee Room for a cheese and ham toastie and coffee. For extra energy, I brought myself a pot of Isle of Arran Scottish Tablet flavour ice cream.

Full of food and positivity, I skipped onwards through Blackwaterfoot, past Preaching Cave which used as a church in the mid-1800s during the Clearances, and on towards Corriecravie.

I mused on the great many injustices in the world and the Clearances must rank as one of the worst in history. ‘Shameful’ is how a Glaswegian once described them to me. It’s depressing that we still see examples of money being prioritised over people. Look! There I go again, getting all serious. That’s walking for you, makes your thoughts go all over.

At Corriecravie the route rejoins the road. From here it was a long trudge to Lagg. Ordinarily, it would be fine but the weather had turned. Cold rain blew in from the west and by the time I reached Lagg, my stop for the night, I was drenched.

My feet hurt and I was tired. I didn’t want to walk anymore.

The lovely owners of the Lagg Hotel made a huge fuss of me. Within an hour I was warm, dry, and enjoying a jolly good chat with them. Soon enough I was thinking about how much I loved walking. Such is the way of it sometimes.

As I gazed out my bedroom window in the fading evening light, a bushy tailed red squirrel scurried along the gravel path.

Machrie Moor standing stones with Goatfell in the distance

Day 5. Lagg – Whiting Bay, 13 miles (alternative inland route via South End forest)

A wonderful breakfast set me up for my penultimate stage from Lagg to Whiting Bay. This section takes you along the coast and across boulder fields around Bennan Head and Dippen Head, some of which is impassable at high tide.

As it happens time was not on my side and nor was the weather; it remained rainy and cold. Not ideal for climbing over rocks at the best of times.

When the conditions are not in your favour there is an alternative route inland, a lot of it on road. The prospect of this did not appeal to me. I fancied a change so took a third way. I headed inland at Kilbride Hill and picked up well laid forestry tracks in the vast South End Forest past Torr Dubh Mòr and onto the dramatic Glenashdale Falls and Whiting Bay. I reasoned that it would shelter me from the weather and would offer a pleasant change of scenery.

The fragrant pine air filled my nose and the tracks climbed steadily until I felt like I was walking among the treetops. I hummed to myself but nearly toppled over in surprise when a delivery van rumbled past. The driver waved cheerily and a little way along I stumbled upon him again, parked in front of a house in cleared agricultural land smack bang in the centre of the forest. What a place to live, I thought.

The path dropped a little, curved this way and that, and took me past a viewing platform for a waterfall complete with picnic table. I snacked on salty crisps and swigged some coffee. The rain blew in, then it blew out again, covering me in a sheen of sticky mizzle.

The isolation was almost disconcerting – apart from the delivery van I’d not encountered another person. It was a theme for this walk; never have I done a long-distance path that is so uninterrupted by other people

Full disclosure: I started to miss people. That’s one of things I like about multi-day walking; the meeting people. On every other walk, I’ve met people doing the same route or people doing circular walks but I’ve been lucky to see one, two other walkers per day if you discount the ascent of Goatfell.

That said, I also found the solitude in nature blissful. Eagles, seals, red squirrels, sparrowhawks and red deer were my company. Oh, and fields of sheep and lambs.

I pressed on towards Glenashdale Falls, a 45-metre double cascade which you can see from a platform. I realised I’m no good with jutty-outty viewpoints. My vision tips and reels and my knees inadvertently press together as I cling to the railings. This is annoying given I’d like to walk higher hills, maybe even a Munro or two. I glanced at the tumbling falls before shuffling back onto the packed earth track.

I loved the walk into Whiting Bay; you follow the Glenashdale Burn through bluebell-and-garlic-filled woodland. What a day I’ve had, I thought, exploring a little more of Arran and taking in wonderful sights along the way.

Whiting Bay has a genteel quality to it, redolent of Victorian Britain. Huge villas sit on the seafront near a putting green and bowling green and a golf course is tucked around the back. It has a small but good selection of shops and eateries and has a lovely long beach with crystal clear water. I liked Whiting Bay a lot.

I’d booked into a B&B for two nights and I wandered up to the guesthouse happy to be there. I filled a bath with hot water and bubbles, got in and lay there until my skin wrinkled.

Day 6. Whiting Bay – Brodick, 11.5miles

The final descent into Brodick with the Calmac ferry heading to the mainland

After a breakfast of eggs royale I pulled on my hiking boots and set off along the beach towards Kingscross Point, stopping to watch some basking seals. It was a beautiful morning; the sun was climbing into a bluebird sky and the sea shimmered in a silvery gown. Holy Island was in full view as I rounded the headland amid singing birds and grassy floors coloured with bluebells.

A stiff little climb to a road took me a little by surprise but the path soon returned to the coast, following boardwalks for a while (be careful in wet weather) eventually reaching the houses at Cordon and Lamlash where I stopped for a rest. The sea was beautifully calm and I was sore tempted to stay longer. But my legs were ready to go so on I went past a row of beautiful sea-facing houses where I spent a while deciding which one I’d live in, if it were an option and if price were no object. That one! No, that one! Ooo, that one! Definitely that one! And so on.

I swung around Clauchlands Point and followed the path which became more rugged. It was a fantastic section and soon enough the Goatfell mountain range came into view. Everything was colourful and new in the spring sunshine and although I had nearly 70 miles in my legs I felt fresh as a daisy. What a fantastic adventure!

On the final push into Brodick I passed a field full of baa-ing lambs and ewes. I took a moment to absorb the view of Brodick Bay, the pinnacles and peaks of the mountains, the lush farmed fields, the brooding forests and the wide-open skies above.

I sighed happily and made my way to the bus stop, back to Whiting Bay. Later that evening, following a wonderful dinner at the Burlington Guest House, the most incredible ethereal light was thrown around by a setting sun and rising moon. The sea was as soft and smooth as mermaid silk, making it impossible to discern the line where the earth’s surface met the sky. It was only when a seal splashed playfully that I was able to see the ramrod blue seam. I took photo after photo but they’ll never compare to the magic of that evening.

My long-distance walk around Arran was at an end. Suddenly, I did not want it to be. There is so much more to explore! This is the thing with conquering long-distance paths; you set out with your intention but you discover other things to do too.

Wildflowers, birds, mountains, lochs, seals, full moons, calm seas, great food, hospitable people – it is as if everything had come out today to give me a good send-off.

I fell in love with Scotland on my first visit more than twenty years ago and I always leave with the happiest of memories.

So farewell Scotland – I’ll see you again very soon!
Posts: 12
Joined: Oct 22, 2021

8 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Can you help support Walkhighlands?

Our forum is free from adverts - your generosity keeps it running.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and this community by donating by direct debit?

Return to Walk reports - Long Distance routes

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest