Route plan for the day’s walking:
Route plan for the day’s cycling:
The sunny weather continued, and by 9:30 I was off to Brodick’s Co-op to buy breakfast and food for the day. I then locked my bike securely and by 11am was starting out on the day’s hike. This would take in three Corbetts (Scottish hills between 2,500 and 3,000ft), including the summits of Beinn Nuis, Beinn Tarsuinn, the A’Chir scrambling ridge, Cir Mhor, North Goatfell and finally Arran’s highest mountain, Goatfell itself at 874m.
Following the track from the campsite I came across a large group of Geography fieldtrippers armed with ranging poles! I spoke to one of the group for a few minutes but was glad to escape up the mountain track to peace and quiet. The path ran alongside a burn with fantastic-looking plunge pools – very appealing in the sunny weather but I didn’t stop to bathe!
After a steep climb I reached an area of more gradual ascent with boggy expanses of land. I lost the path, but soon met two other walkers who had done the same. I headed for the slopes of Beinn Nuis and it was not long before I was climbing steeply again, rejoining the main path. From the summit of Beinn Nuis there were impressive views of the surrounding mountains although it was quickly becoming more overcast. At the col between Beinn Nuis and Beinn Tarsuinn, I stopped for lunch, and examined the expansive view. I spotted some distinctive looking mountains in the distance, so I enquired to a group of passing walkers and learned that they were the “Paps of Jura”, about 35 miles to the west. The walkers wished me luck and told me that if I was going over Beinn Tarsuinn I should look out for the “Old Man of Tarsuinn”, a legendary rock formation with the appearance of a “gnarly old man”!
Although I had read online about a “good area of scrambling” somewhere on the Goatfell range, A’Chir turned out to be somewhat more exhilarating that I had expected! After Beinn Tarsuinn, I found myself scrambling up sheer blocks of granite, with exposed drops all around. I did not look down and rather than turn back I decided to persist over the ridge. After the first “pinnacle” I chanced upon a group of four walkers negiotiating a tricky step. With their help I managed to get down but if I was on my own I think I would have turned back! I did not reckon on there being anything more difficult on the ridge, but later there were some very exposed moments, with 1000ft drops on each side. To make matters worse, it was difficult to find a good route with secure footholds and armholds because the bare rock did not clearly show paths. At one point we had to step over a deep gap in between two pinnacles, before climbing an awkward sheer rock face until we reached the bare grassy summit area.
Being a relative scrambling novice, I was terrified and my cycling SPD shoes were not exactly ideal footwear, having metal cleats on the soles! We were unable to find an obvious way down the penultimate “pinnacle” (which I later learned is known as “le mauvais pas”), so retraced our steps back over the deep gap, and down a precipitous grassy slope. We spotted a rope which had been used by a previous scrambler to get off the ridge in desperation, and were forced to hold on to it in order to reach a rocky groove and finally a straightforward descent off A’Chir. The leader of the group I had met guided me onto the rope, and towards the groove. There were only grassy tussocks for handholds, and no harness to keep me secure. As I was edging sideways to relative safety, I slipped, and fortunately managed to securely grip the rope, saving myself from a tremendous fall.
I hauled myself back up the rope and finally managed to reach the groove, embarking upon an awkward slide downwards until with great relief I reached the bottom. I was extremely thankful that I had survived without injury! The walkers I had met decided to divert from their planned ascent of Goatfell and after I had thanked them for getting me off the mountain safety, we parted. Not to be deterred, I set off up Cir Mhor to conquer the rest of the Goatfell ridge, now that the worst of the scrambling was over! I was planning to stay just the day on Arran, and was determined to reach its highest point before the day’s end.
The ascent of Cir Mhor was comparatively straightforward, with good views back towards the A’Chir ridge, and later I saw a mountain deer high on the hillside. There was nonetheless some minor scrambling up to the summit. At the top, there were fine views down Glen Sannox and towards North Goatfell.
The descent of Cir Mhor was very steep but nothing like as nervewracking as anything on A’Chir. Climbing the ridge to North Goatfell I bypassed any scrambling difficulties at every opportunity! From North Goatfell, I only had to walk one kilometre until I finally reached the summit of Goatfell. At the top, I felt a huge sense of satisfaction whilst taking in the impressive views. Arran’s mountain scenery really is incredible considering its small size.
Climbing down Goatfell I could not find the path at first but soon rejoined it and was quickly on the easy descent to Brodick, and had returned to my bike by 8:30. I was keen to make progress on my cycle ride, so decided to ride the 14 miles north to Lochranza. I considered a B&B after the day’s escapade, and when I arrived in the village, tried Lochranza youth hostel, but they didn’t have any rooms available. When I finally reached a campsite I was desperately hungry and by then it was 10pm. Much to my surprise, there was still a restaurant open at that time of evening, which amazed me, it being quite a remote place. I was the only customer in the restaurant, and ordered a full Scottish breakfast with extra toast. By the time I left the wind was picking up considerably and it began to rain heavily. I managed to pitch my tent in the dark, but it wasn’t much fun and I was glad to get into my tent, at least dry and having satisfied my hunger. However I was worried about the effect of the very strong winds on my tent and hoped that it would stand up to the weather! The rain and gusty wind continued all night.