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Arran Coastal Way Part 1: Blackwaterfoot-Lochranza

Arran Coastal Way Part 1: Blackwaterfoot-Lochranza

Postby Glynnyth » Sun Oct 21, 2018 11:02 pm

Date walked: 22/07/2018

Time taken: 7 days

Distance: 65 km

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This summer my son (8 yrs) and I spent 2 weeks on the wonderful Arran Island. We walked the Arran Coastal Way, including some detours here and there. The ACW can be done in a week, but we spent 2 as there are so many beautiful spots to visit off the ACW and we spent most of the time on building sand castles, discovering caves, visiting museums, enjoying play grounds, observing birds or simply sunbathing. Here is the first part of the trip, from Blackwaterfoot to Lochranza.

Day 1
We arrived in Brodick at noon and continued directly westwards over The String to Blackwaterfoot. The ACW starts from behind the hotel, along the beach. The path is grassy and winds just above the shoreline through low cut grass around the large bay.
Our first stop was the Preaching Cave, a short way off the ACW to the left, reachable by a path overgrown with bracken. We had our lunch in the cave before continuing on the path, which became more and more overgrown.

So we occasionally switched to the bouldery shore.

The path finally peters out on a grassy area at Aird nan Ron. There are some hedges on the left and you might find a dry spot to pitch your tent next to them, but we pitched it on the grassy outcrop with views to the sea.

Day 2

From Aird nan Ron an ACW signpost near the hedges lead us directly up the steep slope.

With the help of steps and wooden planks we reached the main road, which we followed to Corriecravie. Beyond Corriecravie we did a short detour to Torr a’Chaisteal, reachable by heading across pastures. Back on the main road, we continued to Sliddery, and then took a track towards the sea, crossing Sliddery Water by a ford and leading to a small bay at Port Mor. We spent about an hour looking for beautiful stones and observing crabs and other small animals in the rock pools that the low tide had left behind.

From Port Mor an overgrown path, hidden under nettels and thistles and quite steep, heads back to the main road. We had a short break on the bench opposite before continuing to Lagg where we had lunch and filled our water bottles at the Velo Café.
We continued to thevillage hall at Kilmory, from where a signed path leads through woodland to Torrylinn Cairn, featuring an information board and fine views over the sea with Ailsa Craig and the southern tip of Kintyre.
The ACW passes the cairn and curves around and then down towards the sea, reaching Kilmory Beach, broad, wide and sandy. We stopped here and started building our first sand castle and decided not to go further on but to pitch our tent here for the night.

Day 3
This was the toughest part of the ACW that we walked. Around Bennan Head and the Black Cave towards Kildonan. The ACW between Kilmory Beach and Bennan Head is a grassy path for most of the way. It crosses some fields and pastures with cows and sheep.
The good path finally faints more and more and there are white boulders placed on some parts to avoid the wet ground, but close to Bennan Head we switched to the bouldery shore as the path became more and more wet and muddy. Bennan Head and the Black Cave can only be reached at low tide. And even then it is a long scramble over big slippery boulders. With a trekking rucksack of 12kg on the back it’s quite tricky.

Beyond the Black Cave the boulders continue for a while and I had to look for the best way, which was over the orange-dotted boulders, guiding between the slippery dark ones close to the water and the prickly green-dotted ones on the landside until reaching the path again.

After a while the boulders made place for grass and heather and finally we reached a grassy area where we had a short break to rest from the boulder hopping, with beautiful first views of Pladda Island and Ailsa Craig.

Later on, after passing a high waterfall and crossing its burn, we reached a wonderful, sandy beach west of Kildonan, where we saw our first seals.

We spent the whole afternoon building sand castles, observing seals, wading in the water, playing, reading, and …getting sunburn! The beach was so great, we pitched the tent right on the sand.

Day 4
This would be a short day, off of the ACW. We continued along the shore towards Kildonan, but then headed up the road to the main road near Auchenhew. There is a parking area for the Eas Mor Waterfall and Loch Garbad, our destination today. A very good gravel track leads through the forest, with several view points, but the best one is the last one, just above the falls, on their opposite.

The gorge is deep and narrow and it is almost impossible to get a picture of the whole falls.

Just beyond the waterfall, at a t-junction, the left fork leads to Loch Garbad. The narrow path skirts the edge of the forest, then enters it on a broader track. The tracks winds smoothly around towards the loch, crossing two burns on stepping stones. The loch is reached quite suddenly, hidden by the trees. It is a beautiful, calm area with picknick tables and some hidden spots to rest.

After lunch we retraced our steps back down to the waterfall. At the t-junction we now took the other path, signed for The Library. I really loved this place! It’s a wooden hut with a turf roof with shelves full of books and also pencils and sheets of paper lying around, ready to be used for drawings, notes or even poems. Pins are also available to pin the works on the walls and even the ceiling. Reading these memos is a delight. I found an old drawing on which the painter has left a note when he came back 10 years later. It’s simply poetic.

From the library we continued down the path winding steeply down towards Allt Mor, with some view points and spots to contemplate the luxurious woodland and tumbling water. A metal bridge crosses the burn and leads back to the car park, information boards and donation box.
We continued down the minor road to Kildonan and walked through the village to the campsite. It is situated on a lovely spot just above the shore with seals basking on the boulders, well equipped with showers and toilets, washing machines, fridges, wifi, tv room for rainy days and a small shop. The tent pitches are close to the shore, and we had direct views to Ailsa Craig and Pladda from our tent.

Day 5
One of the best days of our trip and the most beautiful stages of the ACW.
We took the ACW inland option, which avoids the shoreline around Dippen Head,only passable at low tide. We started from the campsite by heading back through Kildonan to the Old Schoolhouse beyond which a path heads up the slopes to the main road. After a short stroll on the main road a car park is reached with a bench and wonderful views.

From the back of the car park a track winds through the clear-felled forest. After a sharp right bend Holy Isle comes into view quite suddenly, having a breathtaking effect.

Shortly afterwards there is a fantastic picknick spot where we had our lunch break.
We continued on the track to the Giant’s Graves, remains of a chambered cairn, worth a visit, if it is not for the fantastic views to Holy Isle and Whiting Bay.
The ACW winds around Torran Loisgte towards the Glenashdale Falls. The track lies high above the wooden gorge and doesn’t give any shelter from the sun. Also, since Kildonan there was no possibility to fill our water bottles, which we did finally at the waterfall. There are some view points constructed around here, and we crossed the burn to reach the top of the falls.

From here we continued searching our way through the woods to the remains of the fort on the north side of the burn. The paths are indistinct, but lead all eventually to the fort. A signpost for the ACW brings you up a very steep slope to the main track, signed left for Kilmory and right for Whiting Bay. Down to Whiting Bay, the track becoming gravelled, then surfaced, then a minor road which finally reaches the seafront just next to the The Coffee Pot. We had a break here, with milk shake and sandwich, but they also have soups, salads, cakes and very friendly staff.
After we resplenished our energy we followed the waterfront to Sandbraes.

We passed the church and the houses and headed down to the beach. After a short stroll on the beach a wooden signpost ‘Kingscross’ shows where we had to leave the beach. The ACW follows this path, which was overgrown by prickly bushes and dotted with holes, slippery stones, and fallen trees. The path goes along a fence, passing some gates and stiles, with woods on the right and pastures on the left until it eventually reaches an open grassy area at Kingscross Point. Some patches of scrub and bush have been left standing, so it was easy to find a sheltered spot to pitch the tent for the night, with direct view to the lighthouse on Holy Isle.

Day 6
From Kingscross Point the ACW passes behind a bench near the tip of the point and then follows roughly the shoreline before heading inland. It is well waymarked, which is necessary, as it turns left and right at many occasions. The views from the top of the track back to Holy Isle are fantastic. At Ardlui House the path winds back to the shore again, via a steep boggy descent through the woods. Back on the shoreline, slippery and stony, wooden boardwalks help to avoid the most difficult sections. However, the sections without boardwalks are between 40 and 400m long, and this part of the ACW is not passable at high tide.

We eventually arrived at Cordon via the pebbly shore.
We crossed the village and a bridge over to Lamlash, where we had a Fish & Chips in the Pier Head Tavern. The chippy was good, and we sat outside with views over the bay, but unfortunately the main road passes just in front of the restaurant.
In Lamlash we left the ACW. Instead of following it around Clauchland Point to Brodick we chose the inland track through the Fairy Glen. The track went parallel to the road, but completely out of sight, so you hardly hear or see the traffic, except from two points where the track enters small car parks. The red earthy track winds through forestry with fine views to Goatfell and the hills beyond, crossing some small streams.

It finally reaches the outskirts of Brodick and enters the village near the post office and the co-op shop. We took the occasion to buy some postcards and fill up our supplies before heading to the beach and having a long break.
From the beach, boardwalks over a salt marsh help to skirt around the golf course and reach the main road. We followed this and then headed into Glen Rosa to the campsite. It is not more than a field and a small concrete toilet block, no shower, just a sink, and only cold water. But that was enough for us. There’s no reception, the owner comes around in the evening and you pay in cash. As soon as we stopped walking and dropped our gear, we met the famous midges for the first time which made us hurry up to enter the tent.

Day 7
Rain, rain and rain again! It started during the night and didn’t stop until late afternoon.The plan was to take a day off the ACW, far into Glen Rosa and back via Brodick Castle, and to catch a bus there to Lochranza.
The walk into Glen Rosa is fantastic, even in this rainy, grey weather. The path is good all the way throughout, winding more or less close to and above Rosa Water. Once the campsite out of sight, you nearly immediately feel a remoteness which is quite surprising so close to Brodick.
The views are really fine and a first highlight is the waterfall on the Garbh Allt, the biggest tributary to Rosa Water.

A bridge crosses the stream and shortly afterwards the path devides. We stayed on the main path, heading deep into the glen. It rained since this morning, but now it started poring down heavily and we decided to retrace steps and press on to reach the forest in he east side of the glen. Shortly before reaching the bridge over Garbh Allt again, we crossed the river and followed a much rougher and narrower path on the eastside downstream. It was overgrown and muddy in places, but is easy to follow and leads to a gate in the fence of the Forestry Commission Land around Brodick Castle. Once through the gate there is no path any more, but we just continued straight ahead and soon reached a gap in a low stone wall, beyond which a clear wellmade path was seen. This one wind through the forest until reaching the outskirts of the castle grounds near Cnocan Burn. As Glen Rosa didn’t offer any shelter from the rain poring down since this morning, we decided to go back to Brodick and find a dry place.
At the Arran Heritage Museum, we decided to take a hot chocolate in the café to warm up a bit. It was around 2pm when we finished our mugs and rain was still pouring down. So we decided to have a look at the museum. One of the best ideas we had this week! Don’t miss this!
The friendly staff allowed me to put the big trekking bagpack and our jackets into her cupboard and provided a quiz for my son. We spent at least two hours in the museum, which offers a wonderful detailed view into country life and local history.
At some point during our visit the rain stopped and when we had finished we went back to the café and got a second hot chocolate and homemade cakes and ate them outside, this time. Later we catched a bus to Lochranza where I had previewed to stay for 2 nights.
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Re: Arran Coastal Way Part 1: Blackwaterfoot-Lochranza

Postby Gordie12 » Tue Oct 23, 2018 6:17 am

Found this really interesting - thanks for posting.

I hadn't really considered Arran before (for a long distance walk) but there seems to be a good variety of scenery with each day being a bit different.
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Re: Arran Coastal Way Part 1: Blackwaterfoot-Lochranza

Postby Glynnyth » Tue Oct 23, 2018 9:26 pm

Hi Gordie,

I just posted the second part of the walk. Hope you'll enjoy, too.
With kids it's often difficult to satisfy them and to take care that they don't get bored.
Therefore Arran was a really good choice, offering plenty of distraction, other than just walking on and on.

Next week's destination: Cowal Way.

Keep you posted
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