Goatfell and Cir Mhor - AMAZING hills and a stripey face!
by GillC » Sun Jul 07, 2013 11:29 pm
Date walked: 07/07/2013
Time taken: 9 hours
Distance: 20 km
Ascent: 1503m3 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).
Lordy, Lordy, Lordy. Todays adventure has to rank as one of the best days, on some of the finest hills we have ever been on. It’s not for me to say THE best hills in Scotland but my god, they must come close.
Goatfell has probably been on the radar for a couple of years, with previous plans to ‘cross the water’ to Arran not coming to fruition. So we had booked ourselves on a group walk with one of the Glasgow based walking clubs, scheduled for Sunday 7th July. The ferry crossing at 9:40am (I think) would have meant an 11am start to the walk, straight up Goatfell, then back down for the last ferry home at around 7:20pm.
Having discussed our options, we decided we would prefer an earlier sailing to give us a longer day and allow us to take in a bit more of the hills beyond GF. Decision made, we gave up our spaces on the now 45 strong group travelling down on Sunday, planning instead to travel on the 7am ferry from Ardrossan on Saturday 6th.
Picking Margaret up at 5:15 am, WHAAAAATT??????? I somehow managed to wake up at 2:30am, 1.5hrs before my alarm was even set to go off , it’s a curse, so just got up. Ready and headed off at 5, picking Margaret up and on the M8 just after 5:30am. Lovely morning, improving forecast and several options on the map front for our route/routes.
The ferry over wasn’t too busy but plenty golfers and walkers aboard. The sailing was great, lovely cloudy misty images of Arran as we got closer. Goatfell hiding under a shroud of cloud.
All the travel transfers worked out well,, Arriving Ardrossan around 6:30am, ferry at 7, bus in the stance when we berthed and off up the road towards Brodick Castle. We were a bit unsure of our starting point, and coupled with 2 men getting off at Rosa Bridge and another 2 asking for Goatfell staying on as we disembarked at the entrance to the Castle, hmmmmm, we pondered
Checking the map and from Margaret’s previous research, we turned back on ourselves and headed past the old Castle quay, to Cladach and the Arran Brewery. The signage for Goatfell hidden in some undergrowth lol For this route, its worth noting that you head for the Brewery, directly behind the lovely pink building , The Wineport Lodge Hotel.
Our climb started off on a rough forestry track, overtaken by a girl running, with her very timid black lab. The region is owned by the National Trust and signs of their work can been seen in the area, coppicing and tree lopping in evidence, preserving the indigenous woodland as well as the more recent pine plantations. Leaving the woodland for more open ground at around 300mtrs+ we got smashing views up into the Coire nam Meann, below the rising shoulder up to Goatfell itself. The whole of Brodick Bay and the Holy Island were looking fab too.
This place is a geologists dream with ancient volcanic rock formations wherever you turn. The granite, rough and smooth in huge moulded formations give plenty of scope to the imagination. I think we saw a ‘dolphin’ a ‘wild cat’ some grotesque faces and Im sure Jim Henson would have been inspired for some of his puppet creations here lol
As we climbed the path, which heads more or less due North, towards the Eastern end of the rising ridge. The hill runner from earlier now dropping back down mentioned she had seen one other person further up. At this point though, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, even looking back down the path below us, no signs of any company. It was great getting such an early start. Reaching the shoulder, another path comes in from the East and the rocky climb continues with the top rising straight above us now. The ridge of Mullach Buidhe, down to Am Binnean to the NNE was an impressive rocky pile and a very defined path climbed from the valley floor and Coire Lan up to the Corrie North of North GF. Just after this point we did see groups of people on both paths behind us, converging and following on up .
The last stages get steeper with good scrambling off to the West of the top. The views were fabulous, almost from leaving the tree line, and by this height, were even better. Pulling round and on up to the top with its gleaming white trig and cairn carrying a map of the island, showing hills, views etc. Great! At this point we were on our own but were quickly joined by a few other parties.
The vista that lay before us to the North was breathtaking.
We moved down off the top to find a spot for lunch, not many expanses of grass for a sunny sit down, so we made do with a smooth rock or two. A wee nibble of tablet, check the maps and get our bearings for the hills beyond. When planning the trip, weather conditions were our main issue on whether deciding to continue from GF itself. No worries there, total visibility, rain not in prospect so no excuses. The views from here over Cir Mhor, Caisteal Abhail, A’Chir and Tarsuinn were simply beyond words. Amazing.
The horseshoe is traced with a good network of paths, thanks to the National Trust so you have a lot of choices on including or bypassing any hills. We headed down to Stacach, an incredible scramble over speckled granite, gloves would have been very handy as the rock was very rough.
Plenty of scrambling down over rocks, between crevices etc, being a bit more of a struggle for Margaret and her wee legs lol There are good stretches of path here too, some taking you over the crags, while our preferred route taking us East of the higher points and round to North Goatfell.
We went on slightly further towards the cairn marked on the map, at the point the path rises up from the valley floor below.
Turning back a short way, we then followed a less defined path up the rocks and to the incredible views down to The Saddle and over to Cir Mhor /Caisteal Abhail. Could we actually do this? 2 wee burds from Weegie land? Heck, we’ll give it a go.
Looking back at this point later we were just in awe of the whole landscape, more so of the fact that we actually got down there.
There was a lot of concentration, scraped hands and stretched legs etc as we made our way down. We could clearly see a convergence of paths in The Saddle and could also now make out a zig zag path up Cir Mhor, which, from here looked impossibly steep and more akin to rock climbing than scrambling or hill walking.
The rocks on this stretch were huge, rough and at time bizarrely shaped monoliths. Stacks, long since formed, having toppled and lay just as they fell thousands of years before. Amazing.
The lower we got towards the saddle, the better the prospect of Cir Mhor looked. It appeared less steep and the short stretches of the zig zags made it look less 'impossible'. We took the angle that if we started up it, we were committed to finishing, no turning back. The National Trust have again been working on this path with some very helpful extra rocks, steps etc in place and lots of anti-erosion measures too. I’m not sure if I envy the guys working on this, for being in these locations for a ‘job’ or take my hat off for the sheer effort just to get to your place of work. Bit of both I suppose.
This was definitely the toughest ‘up’ section today, constant up, with a hot sun above us, much sweating, not much talking and no pics, no one wants to see the nick we were in by this time lol.
On the upper areas of the hill, you get a chance to cover some flatter areas, surrounded by those oh so HUGE boulders and formations. Some guys were on top of one of the pinnacles, ropes etc in hand. Our sport is getting up a hill, this is just the journey in for these guys. Got to salute the effort there. Coming round up to the top, we had some company, a German woman, living in Edinburgh and waiting for 2 colleagues coming up from A’Chir. This was our first real fuel stop so we 3 had a chat about the hills. This woman had climbed all the Munros and said that she had never experienced anything like today.
We were soon joined by her 2 fellow walkers and after a short chat, I spotted a fox, no, it was a deer, or was it a fox wearing antlers???? (ok , it was the colour of a fox, and it was far away,,or small lol , we got pretty close to this young stag on the way down, could see the velvet covering on his antlers and he was totally non plussed about us trying to get his attention so he would lift his head for a “Monarch of the Glen” picture lol)
We could see a misty greyness moving in from the West and sure enough, minutes later, the rain started. I was well protected, in my bucket hat and sunnies lol We didn't bother with waterproofs, it was a passing shower, not heavy and sure enough, stopped about 5-10 minutes later.
Heading off Cir Mhor, we took a left turn down towards Glen Rosa, this was very probably the wrong turn, should have gone slightly further on (50 yards?) but we carried on down a very loose, rubbly descent, ended up on the heather to the sides as was more stable, but still very fiddly as we had to pick our footing carefully.
We were soon overtaken by 2 of the party from the summit, with the 3rd member of their party taking the other path down and beating us all to the bottom. The bottom of this main descent takes you to a good path but you are still descending to the valley floor for a while. It was now 15:40pm, so plenty time to make it to the road for the bus just after 6pm. The path soon pairs up with Glenrosa Water and shadows it most of the way down, very clear, cool and very inviting to hot tired feet, I seriously thought about stopping and dipping my tootsies in. There’s also a lovely wee spot just before the end of the enclosure (keeping sheep and deer off the young fragile trees) with a waterfall and a deep pool. Lovely. We overtook the party of 3 here and we were now on a mission.
This is a long haul down after an arduous day on the hills, but nothing for it, picked up the pace and pushed on down. The path is clearly defined, easy to follow, only very occasionally a bit boggy. Just before the river veers off to the left, another path takes you over to the foot of Glenshant hill, we opted to carry on with the main path, a check of the map shows the left hand fork takes you round the hillside and into the woods over to Cladach again. Not a lot of point heading further up the road than we needed to be, and besides,,it involved gaining height again, Not on your life!!
The path becomes a track with a few cars parked around. Met a mountain biker there and threatened to pinch his bike , I think the line was, we’re knackered, we’re Weegies and we might just pinch your bike!! Lol thankfully he laughed, secretly, we didn’t lol
Passing the campsite on the left, we saw a few tents, a quiet wee spot consisting of a flat field area and possibly a toilet block, looked great on a sunny evening, tent, barbecue, cold beer, but no,,onwards we plodded. The bay is off to the East from here but the road now veered West, soul destroying, had we not been able to hear traffic. We met the smaller road at Glenshurig Bridge, left down the hill and we were on the main road at Rosa Bridge. We planned to get the bus back to Brodick,,due in about 20 mins but realised we were only 1mile from Brodick so we would be there by the time we waited for the bus. Our legs had a built in momentum by now, be a shame to stop moving HA!
Brodick, juice, fish and chips and an hour to kill before the ferry. Great timing.
Oh, and the stripey face reference...Note to self: don't use sun cream in the form of a push up stick,, unless you cover ALL of your face. I now have a lovely white strip across my forehead and a big curved white stripe on each cheek,,thanks to VERY effective suncream, poorly applied. Margaret has a broken bingo wing, long story but involved a rock, a loo break, a slip and a lot of tittering,,get well soon M! lol pmsl,,(quite literally)
So, to sum up today, these hills may not be Munros, but they are 2 of the most memorable hills ever, for location, views, geology, and sheer impressiveness . Can’t believe it took us so long to actually get there but this was well worth the wait. Planning a return match for Beinn Tarsuinn and Caisteale Abhail.
by grahamdrew » Mon Jul 08, 2013 11:12 am
I Must do this walk!!
great report and pics
by GillC » Mon Jul 08, 2013 1:05 pm
by shelbyandamonkey » Mon Jul 08, 2013 1:22 pm
by Fife Flyer » Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:31 pm
Not been walking in Arran for years, was quite young when I went up GF & didn't really appreciate the surroundings
Been back to Arran a few times but not walking
It really is a magical island & deserves the tag "Scotland in miniature"
by tomyboy73 » Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:59 pm
by dooterbang » Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:15 pm
These moontins are just fab and this city boy will visit again soon.
Reading this reminded me of a great day here in March.
by GillC » Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:34 pm
by old danensian » Wed Jul 10, 2013 10:07 pm
I'll watch out to avoid any wounded wings and make sure that I smother liberally
by GillC » Thu Jul 11, 2013 7:31 am