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Issue 32 - Arran – walk this way

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 32
April 2007


This article is 11 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Arran – walk this way

The Isle of Arran is best experienced on foot. Dominic Roskrow reports

Of all Scotland’s islands the Isle of Arran is the most clement, the most varied, and arguably the most interesting. But to fully appreciate it you need to get around it on foot.

The description of Arran as Scotland in miniature may be over-used but it is no less valid for all that. To the south its geography is gentle and undemanding, to the north it is mountainous and challenging. Its rugged shorelines reflect Scotland’s seascapes in general. Its glens are reminiscent of Highland passes on the mainland.

But its location right in the heart of the Gulf Stream means that there are quirks to the landscape, too. The Isle of Arran distillery in the north towards Lochranza, for instance, seems to be benefiting from a sun trap that is helping the whisky to mature quickly and with a rich creaminess. The brewery folk, too, speak of ideal conditions for making quality beer. The islands lay claim to flora and fauna normally associated with much warmer climes.

But to experience this properly you need to take time out to walk the island, and there is plenty of help on offer should you decide to go down that route.

Let’s get the big stuff out the way first. The Isle of Arran Coastal Way was opened some four years ago and is a lengthy walk that hugs the island’s coast whenever possible.

The walking distance is between 98 and 120 kilometres in all – 60 to 75 miles – and the route has been designed so that you can dip into parts of it for one day walks or attempt it as a whole over a period of a week or so.

A booklet with accompanying map breaks the walk up into 12 to 20 kilometre chunks – that’s roughly eight to 12 miles a day, and the route takes in castles, standing stones, caves and old forts, and because it also takes you through most of the island’s villages, it’s a great way to fully appreciate Arran.

Starting off and finishing in the capital of Brodick, the route also offers the option of cutting inland to take in extra sites. It requires a degree of dedication, but it’s a walk that is definitely worthwhile.

If a more strenuous walking test is required, or climbing is your thing, then you need to head north. The most popular destination is Goatfell, just a few miles north of Brodick. The track towards the summit is clearly marked and even the relatively inexperienced walker can ascend the hill paths here to access some stunning views across Arran and out to the sea. The broad sweep of a view towards Brodick Bay is particularly impressive.

Another recommended walking route is from the northern end of the village of Sannox, which can be reached by bus. Follow the cart track from here up past the stream and you journey through Glen Sannox and towards Glen Rosa. This route has been described by some walking experts as one of the finest in Scotland, and it makes for an exhilarating and enjoyable day out.

Finally, take a ferry from Lamlash to Arran’s own Holy Isle. Here there is a Buddhist monastery with attractive gardens, an easy to follow shore path and a more challenging walk up the isle’s Mullach Mor.

If you’re a climber then the northern and western peaks present a number of challenges, too many to mention here. But whatever your ability level, there will be something for you on Arran. And if you’ve only got a few days and want to experience a broad range of Scotland’s many and varied terrains, this is the place to go to.

Getting there by public transport
Rail: Glasgow to Ardrossan
Scotrail, tel: +44 (0)8457 484 950 or Strathclyde Passenger Transport, tel: +44 (0)141 332 7133
Ferry: Ardrossan to Brodick (Caledonian MacBrayne), Ardrossan, tel: +44 (0)1294 463 470 or Brodick, tel: +44 (0)1770 302 166
Bus: Services on Arran contact Traveline, tel: +44 (0)8706 082 608
Area Transport Guide for Arran published by North Ayrshire Council and Strathclyde Passenger Transport is available on the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry – this includes all services including those operated as Postbus Services.
Useful map in centrefold

Lamlash – Holy Isle Ferry: Holy Isle Ferry, Old Pier, Lamlash Tel: +44 (0)1770 600 349/600 998

Accommodation and information services Ayrshire and Arran Tourist Board Customer Information Centre 15 Skye Road, Prestwick KA9 2TA Tel: +44 (0)1292 678 100 TIC, The Pier, Brodick, Isle of Arran KA27 8AU TIC, 22 Sandgate, Ayr KA7 1BW

Arran Hideaways Invercloy House, Brodick, Isle of Arran KA27 8AJ Tel: +44 (0)1770 302 303/302 310 Booking service for all types of self-catering establishments in Arran

Information on walking in Scotland

Scottish Youth Hostels at:

Lochranza Lonchranza, Isle of Arran KA27 8HL Tel: +44 (0)1770 830 631 (March-October)
Whiting Bay Shore Road, Whiting Bay, Isle of Arran KA27 8QW Tel: +44 (0)1770 700 339 (April-October)
Ayr 5 Craigwell Road, Ayr KA7 2XJ Tel: +44 (0)1292262 322 (April-October)
Camping and Caravan Club Site Culzean Castle, Maybole, Ayrshire KA19 8JX Tel: +44 (0)1655 760 627
Glen Rosa (book at White House on road to foot of Glen Rosa – sign outside)
North Sannox (at end of narrow road beside the sea)