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Cir Mhor and the Castles

Cir Mhor and the Castles

Postby nxmjm » Tue Aug 07, 2012 3:14 pm

Corbetts included on this walk: Caisteal Abhail, Cìr Mhòr

Date walked: 20/05/2012

Time taken: 8 hours

Distance: 13.6 km

Ascent: 1013m

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8.5 miles 7h 50m ascent 1013m

Sannox-Cir Mhor-Caisteal Abhail-Sail an Im-North Sannox

Day 2 of our Arran Weekend.

Judging by the sunlight coming through the curtains when I woke up we were in for a scorcher. I made a mental note to take extra water and decided against lugging a flask of hot coffee with me. We started the day with another full breakfast. I say full breakfast since the plate was full, but there was no black pudding (you can take the lad out of Lancashire etc). Perhaps they are frowned upon on the Isles? This time we had managed to negotiate an earlier start and had bought a box of chocolates for the cook since she had come in early on a Sunday morning to make our breakfast.

Suitably fed we set off for our rendezvous. This time we were wise and applied some factor 50 to our exposed parts. The wisdom was in short measure though since I failed to take it along for reapplication later in the day. My elbows and neck were to pay the price.

Sannox Burn

After a brief ride we arrived in Sannox and set off along a good quality path up Glen Sannox. Steep hills stood either side of this glacial valley, the Bastion with the Devil’s Corrie to our left and Fergus’s Seat with the Witch’s Step to the right. Soon enough Cir Mhor came into sight which with its mountainous shape looked imposing, perhaps even intimidating, as we approached it. Sannox Burn runs close by the path, the water running over slabs of granite. Since the water level was low many of these slabs were exposed and had dried into a whitish grey giving the appearance of a bright white road. I now realised what the white strip running in Glen Catacol the previous day had been.

This area had been used in the past to excavate barytes (barium) and the remnants of the works were still visible. Apparently there was once a small railway serving the mines here. Anyway, what with me gawping instead of concentrating, I took a tumble here. It is strange how the mind works at times such as this. I somehow lost equilibrium and in a fraction of a second I was aware that remaining standing was no longer an option, yet I was able to choose where to fall (path or grass). No physical harm done.

Cir Mhor

We stopped by the burn below the 200m contour for rehydration and snacks before the steeper section to the saddle. From here Cir Mhor looked even more of a challenge. The Castles and Witch’s Step were now clearly visible, but looked decidedly less impressive than Cir Mhor. But this was because they were so far away.

The path then took us to the foot of Cir Mhor and a steady climb up rocky steps and short easy scrambles to the Saddle. Someone suggested at the beginning that we should be keeping a “reasonable pace”, something I had interpreted as “pretty quick”. During this section I was happy to realise my mistake. We took it at a comfortable pace with enough rests even for me. I think we took about 40 minutes from the burn crossing to the Saddle.

On the saddle we had time for rest, rehydration and tough bananas. From here we had great views back down Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa. There was time to consider Coire na h-Uaimh and its possible pronunciation (weave?) and the remaining climb to Cir Mhor’s summit. The sun was now really putting some effort into shining, so I broke out the sunhat. Luckily it was not the daftest headwear on show (by a long way). Yes I do mean that tartan hat.

on Cir Mhor

The remaining 350m was much of the same, steps and very short scrambles. We passed a spade (or was it a shovel?) stuck by the path, which had apparently been left by the guys who had been up here repairing the eroded paths. I would have taken a photo but I was probably in “OMG-when-are-we-going-to-take-a-rest-stop” mode during which I can only concentrate on walking/climbing.

Closer to the summit there were a number of grassy ledges and it was just a brief scramble to the top. It was a little crowded on top so we soon came down to one of the sun trap ledges for lunch and a post-prandial nap, watched over by a raven (the Devil’s spies I'm told, but I don't believe it). I ate my sandwich gazing over the corrie of the caves (Coire na h-Uaimh) to the forked castle (Caisteal Abhail) and the Witch’s Step. What a vista.

A' Chir

The views here also take in Goatfell, the A’chir ridge leading to Beinn Tarsuinn, and the Beinn Bharrain hills (from the previous day). We were even able to watch (through binoculars) some brave souls making their way along the A’Chir .

After a good dose of UV, we shouldered our packs and headed down the ridge sweeping above Coire na h-Uaimh to Caisteal Abhail, our highest point for the day. This was a long slog in the summer heat but the distant granite pillars slowly grew closer and soon enough we were clambering up to the top to be greeted by fantastic views. Up close the castles are far more impressive than they had appeared from Sannox Glen.

Cir Mhor from the Castles

We had short break on the Castles to rest our legs and exercise our cameras. The views back over Cir Mhor, in particular, were wonderful.

Being ahead of time, there was some question as to whether we might attempt the Witch’s Step, but the prevailing view was against this. I admit that I was among the “no” votes since I require a period of working myself up for challenges such as that.

Caisteal Abhail

From the Castles we headed off down the long spur that sweeps around Garbh Choire to Sail an Im (the heel of butter? That can’t be right). This was a pleasant way to end a walk, a gentle gradient, easy footings, and nice views over Lochranza and back to the Castles.

This ridge is a good walk in its own right, though perhaps under-rated because of comparison with its neighbours. The path winds its way around mini versions of the castles, the Creag Dhubh, and eventually changes from a gentle rocky ridge, to a steeper grassy slope.

Sail an Im

The steeper gradient placed a little more strain on older knees. I was tempted to break out the walking pole, as others had, but decided I was young enough to do without (I was born in the space age after all).

We descended into an area of wetland, with several small lochans glistening on the shoulder of a small hill (An Tunna) and made our way across some boggy ground to reach a path at the start of some forestry.

The path had been visible from the ridge, and had looked yellow, prompting me to point it out as the yellow brick road. Unfotunately, George was still as sharp as ever, even this late in the day. Quick as a flash he told me that I might get a brain if I got to the end of the road. Cheeky B….r. Had I mocked his hat? A temptation that St Anthony would have been hard pressed to resist. No, I had held my tongue. Admittedly, that was because I couldn’t think of anything funny to say, but that’s not the point.

North Sannox Burn

The yellow brick road was actually a light grey gravel path, which would once have been guarded by a gate in the deer fence. The tall stile was still there but the gate itself looked to have been destroyed, as had another further along the path. We actually saw a deer below the deer fences.

This path ran alongside, or at least close to, North Sannox Burn which had a couple of small waterfalls. After the day amongst granite strewn hills it was a pleasant change to walk by waterfalls through the greenery of woodland, with a cuckoo calling out (or was it a dove cooing?).

This was a great day’s walk in ideal walking weather. The hills were enough of a challenge to leave me with a sense of achievement. The views were great. And all this in good company.

RK_gpx _2012-05-20_0851.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

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Re: Cir Mhor and the Castles

Postby Stretch » Tue Aug 07, 2012 5:41 pm

Some beautiful shots here, thanks for sharing!
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Re: Cir Mhor and the Castles

Postby foggieclimber » Wed Aug 08, 2012 7:28 pm

Nice photos from two really good Corbetts.
I've only been to Arran once previously, I definitely need to re-visit.
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Re: Cir Mhor and the Castles

Postby tomyboy73 » Wed Aug 08, 2012 8:59 pm

cool, nice report, i`ll use this for when i go back to Arran, hopefully soon
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Re: Cir Mhor and the Castles

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Fri Aug 10, 2012 3:52 pm

A really nice report this :clap: - it reminds me what great hills these two are. I've done this route on a cloudy day several years ago, and also did Cir Mhor with Beinn Tarsuinn as a west Glen Rosa circuit earlier this year in better weather. It would be great in theory to do all three of them as a linear route but I suppose transport would be the issue :? . Cir Mhor is a wee cracker :D ! I'd love to have a look at the Witch's Step some day before I get altogether too old / fat / decrepit :lol: ...
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