The Arran Coastal Way
The Arran Coastal Way circumnavigates the beautiful Isle of Arran off the West Coast of Scotland. The 65mile (108km) circular walk takes in stunning scenery from beautiful villages, mountains, white sandy beaches to the remote north of the island.
In June this year, my friend Victoria and I decided to walk the long distance trail, but with only 3 days leave from work we chose to undertake the northern section from Brodick to Pirnmill. We are planning to return in 2017 to complete the southern section.
What we didn’t bank upon was the scorching heat and no wind. This is the West Coast of Scotland after all. But burn, dehydrate and send every midge our way, it did. It also created a stunning view for the whole trip, with hazy horizons, the mountains constantly in sight and the water stunningly clear and blue.
We left Brodick and walked north along the coast before heading inland through the Merkland Woods. The alternative was to climb Goatfell (874m) but the temperatures were too hot and we had backpacks full of food, water and camping equipment so we chose the low route. Which was by no means flat. We climbed up and down through the woodlands before joining the coastline and white beaches of Sannox. We found a lovely flat spot in North Sannox to wild camp with ocean views, only half a million midges and close enough to the path to re-join it the next day with ease. This section was 8 miles (13km) and had lovely off road sections and a little bit along the tarmac. That was no concern to us as the roads aren’t that busy, it has a wide verge and we managed to spot an otter fishing.
The 2nd day we walked the 9 miles (14.5km) Sannox along the remote coast path to Lochranza. A remote and rocky section following cliffs and hugging tight to the shoreline with surprising green flat meadows of wildflowers enticing us to stop for breaks. A particular favourite was the An Scriodan boulder field (in hindsight) and the crystal clear waters at Fairy Dell. We scrambled down the steep path talking about jumping in and cooling off. In fact I was all ready and had dropped my bag and started to take my clothes off when I spotted a few jelly fish some meters out. We opted for sitting on the sandstone rocks and dipping our feet in the water until we had cooled down enough.
We stayed at Lochranza campsite and had a fantastic supper in the Lochranza Hotel Bar before sleeping with about 2.5 million midges who snuck into the tents.
Our final day we walked from Lochranza to Pirnmill (7 miles / 11km). We had stopped for a camp breakfast at the castle where there was a slight breeze before heading up, up and up the old postman’s path to Catacol. Worth every second of hiking this way rather than along the road as the descent into Catacol with the Glen on your left and sea to the right is perfect. Arran has a great bus service, which meant we hiked as far as our weary legs would take us on the final day before hopping on the bus in Pirnmill and heading back to Brodick for the ferry.
The Isle of Arran is known as ‘Scotland in Miniature’ and is worth visiting again and again. I’ve only lived in Scotland 3 years but have already had 4 trips to the island, including cycling solo around the coast. If you are a Geography or Geology enthusiast, as I am, Arran is a world-class geological location with so much varied and accessible features. A must visit is Hutton’s Unconformity.
Although you could walk the coast path in fewer days, covering more miles, this ratio worked for us. We had the luxury of time and could therefore stop and dip our feet, keep our eye out for Basking Sharks (sadly they were keeping away from us), and get into camp early enough to do more than fall straight to sleep. We ambled around Arran.
There are two good online sources of information on the Coastal Path: http://www.coastalway.co.uk/
We carried an OS Explorer Map (361) and a hard copy of the guide book as well.
Lochranza Campsite: http://www.arran-campsite.com/
Arran Tourist Board: http://www.visitarran.com/
How to get to Arran:
Train: £15 return from Glasgow to Ardrossan Harbour (this drops you moments from the ferry).
Alternatively you can park at Ardrossan Harbour for a small fee per day and its in a secure compound.
Ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick (foot passenger around £7.50 return) on CalMac Ferries: https://www.calmac.co.uk/