Arran Coastal Way with a child

Date walked: 22/08/2021

Time taken: 6 days

Distance: 110km

We did the walk around Arran at the end of August and were fortunate to have a spell of unseasonal weather – warm and sunny, but not baking hot. The plan was to walk the route in advertised, counter-clockwise, direction over six days. Normally, we would allow five days for 110k route, but we wanted to allow time for paddling on the beach and short diversions. We planned to camp every night and carried six days worth of supplies. This was our fourth 100k trail as a family (two adults and 5yr old child) so we knew what kit we need, how to find good camping spot on a map, but most importantly, we knew our abilities.

After we completed the trip and checked into a wonderful hotel in Brodick we reflected on the experience. It was fun, but if we were to do it again, we’d change a few things. The coastal walking, particularly the northern part of the island, has great views, a treasure trove of geology, but also great deal of road walking and some badly overgrown footpaths. The camping spots for our small three person tent were also few and far between. But the greatest problem was water. Because we had a long spell of sunny weather, many of the streams on OS map has completely dried up. As a result, we frequently carried 3L of water and rarely had more than half litter left when we found the next place to refill. Yet despite this, we all thought that Arran’s coastal trail was marvellous and we are planning to come back in a few years.

Day 0:


We arrived in Brodick by ferry in the afternoon. A tip – because we didn’t have a car, the ferry staff twice told us they don’t care if we took a sailing different from the one we booked which helped us on both legs. The plan was to walk for an hour or two till the first good camp spot, pitch the tent and relax. And that’s exactly how it worked out. About an hour in Brodick enjoying the playground and having ice cream and about an hour walking till we found an acceptable place immediately after bridge over Merkland Burn.

Day 1:

Because our schedule was very relaxed, we didn’t set a target for the day. A short stretch in the morning went through plantation, but this was much improved by thick mist which gave the whole place a spooky feeling – dew on vast cobwebs, ship horns blowing far in the distance and dark understory of the conifers.

When we got to Corrie the mist has mostly gave way to cheerful sun which stayed with us for the rest of the day. In Corrie, we discovered for the first time the quality of public toilets on Arran – they are excellent. While this could be due to COVID, I suspect they are always kept in excellent conditions. The maintenance here and throughout the island is down to local community and we frequently saw a notice with bank details in case people wanted to make a donation; it was great to be able to contribute.

Past Corrie is the first road stretch, but it was short with good visibility and traffic was light in the morning. After passing a small village of Sannox with it’s lovely sandy beach, we set our sights at picnic site at the mouth of North Sannox Burn which proved to be a good idea; though the beach was rocky and covered in seaweeds. A nice lunch in the shade and a splash in the river were enjoyed by all.

Soon the easy part ends, and the rocks and boulder hopping begin. On the map the route past Sannox looks little different from what came before, but some section were overgrown with bracken and were boulder galore! Our guess is that most people go from picnic site for a short stroll through the little woodland to the north. Few seem to venture to Lochranza and we only saw 4 people during several hours it took us to reach Newton Point just before the town. This was also a stretch with very limited water – we only found water at Fairy Dell at the Northern tip of the route. But the views were excellent and walking fun despite terrain.


The child really loved climbing up and down the boulders – less so the parents with their backpacks. We also spotted our first otter, this one seemed to breathe out underwater, so even when submerged we could follow it’s movement.

As the time was getting late we started looking for a place to camp, but nothing came up until we reached Fairy Dell. We briefly considered it, but decided not to spoil the view for a coupe who were staying there and pressed on. Fortunately, Newton Point had ample space for camping with two tents some distance away from us. It was also there that we spotted a stone announcing Hutton’s Unconformity.


We’ve heard of Siccar Point one, but didn’t know of one on Arran. This later led us to spend almost an hour an Lochranza’s geology information centre which the child enjoyed immensely with the parents equally fascinated. Before we turned it, Arran gave us a picture perfect sunset.


Day 2:

Having had a relaxed morning and spent a very enjoyable hour at Lochranza geology information centre – seriously, you have to visit it – we had a council. Based on the map, most of the route all the way to Machrie was on the road. Not fun for one person to walk, for a family it’s really awful. So we considered two options: one, to go up to Loch Tanna and then to Coire Fhionn Lochan and down to the road; two, to take a bus to Machrie. The buses on Arran are good given only 5,000 people live on the island. When you go, take note of the bus timetables and tide times. As the weather was hot and we still had a lot of food in the packs, we decided against going into the hills and due to excellent timing hopped on a bus after 10min wait. Based only on the view I had from the bus, I think much of seashore can be walked if one has a stomach for boulders and is very careful with tide times. The driver kindly dropped us off at the parking lot for the Machrie standing stones. These are definitely worth a visit especially as the walk is very easy. The child loved climbing on the stones and was very taken with idea of giant’s cauldron sitting on the stones.


After a short road stretch with some picturesque highland cattle on the way, we deposited ourselves on the benches at Torr Righ Beag and had lunch. The route then leads down to the sea and passes a series King’s cave – it’s ok, but we had more fun going to see the ancient footprints on the vertical sandstone just off the path. There is a sign for it. At this point we were running low on water, but the only source we found between our lunch and Blackwaterfoot and was a small stream dripping off the tree roots hanging down the cliffs just after we descended to the beach. Getting water there was bit like being in a commercial for shampoo infused with tropical flower (with slightly less water). The Doon was a highlight of this section.


We admired the basalt columns, hopped over a boulders, and spotted a kestrel.


After the Doon the route is skirting between the golf course and the shore. There is space to pitch a tent and to paddle in the sea, but the main issue as elsewhere on Arran in water. However, we had sufficient reserves for dinner and brushing teeth and refilled in Blackwaterfoot next morning.

Day 3:

After Blackwateroot, which again has community maintained public bathrooms, we had yet another boulder and bracken stretch but first, we spotted our second otter that was contemplating something directly on the trail. However, before we could take a photo, it dashed into the bushes. After a while the path forks with one option to go on the road and another continue along the boulders. We chose the former. The road isn’t great due to many right corners and as a result poor visibility, but about half way to Sliddery we found a picking site with swings. Lunch was quickly arranged.

We carried on for sometime along the road which had persistent poor visibility either due to steep hills or sharp corners so when we spotted a bus we tried our luck to hail it. As I said, busses on Arran are good and though we were nowhere near a bus stop, the driver picked us up and soon we got to Auchenhew. As we had time, we went up to Eas Mor waterfall which is charming as are the pools at the bottom of the waterfall.


Usually, we don’t stay at organized campsites because that would mean setting specific milage target and like the peace of wild camping. However, as we were looking for a place to camp and chanced to be near Seal Shore campsite we dropped by to have a look at it. It was great. The site is quite small, well maintained and about 50/50 tents and RVs. There were quite a few families and the child enjoyed the company of other children. If you ask the staff, they’ll tell you the best place to spot otters. The beach at the campsite is stony, but about 5 minutes walk away is lovely sandy beach which even has swings. There is also a pub next to the campsite which does food.

Day 4:

In the morning as we were packing we noticed the excess of food. After some reflection we realized that the busses have saved us about a day of road walking. To compensate, we stayed for another day at the campsite and pottered around on the beach.

Day 5:

In Kildonan, the route has two options: inland and seashore. Because we had been following the coast for a while, we went inland. After nice morning climb, we reached the young woodland overflowing with blooming heather; though soon this gave way to plantation. However, just before the plantation we came across five buzzards doing aerobatic display. I would like to think that the sixth bird much higher up was an eagle, but it
was probably buzzard.

One notable thing that OS map doesn’t say is the nature of the woodland between Kildonan and Lamlash. On the map, it’s all uniform conifers, but on the ground some of the plantation was cut down some years ago and replaced with varied new growth which is much more appealing. Which gives some great views.


On one of the woodland stretches we spotted an eagle and were lucky to see it dive after its lunch. As it didn’t come back we assumed it was successful. Just before Glenashdale we made a very brief detour to Giant’s Graves which the child pondered thoughtfully.

The waterfall had a picnic table and excellent views. There is a viewing platform, but you can’t see it from the trail and you have to go 10 meters down the path running down the river. The picnic table is at the top of the waterfall, just behind the trees. It was very easy to access the stream here for water.


After lunch and yet more aerobatics by the local buzzards team, the long and unexciting plantation stretch takes you to Lamash. Just before reaching Lamash, the forestry track ends at a picnic site which we judged to be excellent place to camp. There is a river, plenty of grass and few people. However, just before sunset started seeing teenagers tuning up. Initially we though it was a couple of them out for a walk, but as their numbers increased and some were clearly coming by taxi, we concluded they were gathering for an all night party. So, we rapidly packed everything back into the backpacks. As we were leaving it seemed that every teenager in Arran was arriving so we thought this was a wise call. As it was getting dark, we decided that nearby campsite, Middleton’s C&C park, was the least difficult option. Unlike the Seal Sands, this is a large, predominantly RV and caravan campsite, but it was fine and noise wasn’t an issue.

Day 6:

We left the campsite very early in the morning after finishing the last of our breakfast bagels. Lamash had a number of places to get coffee, but none were open as we passed through. After admiring some seals who laying about on the shore (there is a marine protection zone by Lamash), we once again entered a sea of boulders and bracken. At one point the path seemed worse then the shore, but after quick try we decided the slippery stones weren’t great and returned to the path. Despite this, the trail was fun. It clearly wasn’t used much and at times the trail was more an idea than reality as we were walking through chest high bracken (and the child was invisible beneath it).


Around lunch time we reached the end of coastal section and went uphill for a brief walk through sheep paddocks – four, we counted, to reach Brodick. Trail complete. All that remained was lunch on the beach; The Parlour next to mini Co-Op do nice pizza and ice cream. After which it was time to check-in to Auchrannie and enjoy showers and swimming pools or, if you are a small child, the playbarn.

It was a short trip, but it felt like Arran packs a diverse range of scenery into a small space. The coastal path deserves many more visitors than it gets.

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Activity: Backpacker

Long Distance routes: Three Lochs Way    Loch Lomond and Cowal Way    Affric Kintail Way    Arran Coastal Way   

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