346 pm Sannox to Brodick

I’m walking through Merkland Wood. It nestles against the lower southern slopes of Goatfell, and is a popular walking area, although I don’t meet anyone up here. Plenty of signposts…

27 woodland walk, Arran Coastal Way, Ruth hiking to Brodick

…and plenty of footpaths. Most of the places mentioned do not appear on my OS map, nor on my Garmin. The Isle of Arran seems to have a whole different system of mapping, which it keeps secret!

28 forestry commission signs, Ruth hiking through Merkland Wood, Arran

As well as footpaths, there’s also a network of marked cycle routes. I think my hubby would enjoy it here, although the mountains might be a challenge compared to the flatness of Lincolnshire.

29 cyclists beware, Merkland Woods, Ruths coastal walk

I planned to climb up to the top of Goatfell today. But I abandoned the idea this morning, when I woke up to rainstorms, 40 mph winds, and saw the tip of the mountain was covered in dark cloud.

Here is the route up to the peak.  I know the top section would be a scramble across exposed rocks, but this stretch of path does look temptingly easy.

30 path up to Goat Fell, Ruth hiking on Arran

Although it’s sheltered down in the woods, I can hear the wind howling through the top branches of the trees. So, I decide to resist temptation. Getting blown off the mountain would be a sad end to my trip!

With my sense of adventure thwarted, I see a signpost to a cemetery. I’m intrigued, and decide to make a diversion.

31 path to Hamilton Cemetary, Ruth's coastal walk, Brodick, Arran

It’s not far, and I soon come to a walled burial ground surrounded by iron railings. Isolated and spooky. Would make a great location for a horror movie!

32 Gates to Hamilton Cemetary, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

Why put a graveyard in the middle of the woods? I presume it belongs to Brodick Castle, which is hidden somewhere below me. In fact, there are only three gravestones in the enclosed space. Two large ones belong to Dukes, and a third, smaller one, to a Duke’s wife.

33 three graves, three Dukes of Hamilton and one wife

From the entrance to the burial ground, you can’t see the wife’s grave. Her stone is small and situated below her husband’s and makes me reflect on how poorly women were viewed in the past. Even in death, women were given lower status then men.

34 autumn colours, Merkland Wood, Ruth hiking on Arran

I head back along the path to resume my walk. Love the warm glow of autumn leaves, although the colours are nowhere near as vivid as they were last year.

A weather-beaten information board tells me about the Goatfell range. I haven’t seen any deer today, just one very large bird gliding through the trees. Don’t know what it was.

35 information sign, Goatfell range, Ruth hiking on Arran

My path crosses over a tarmac roadway. It’s a non-public entrance to the castle, still invisible among the trees.

36 past entrance to Brodick Castle, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

Around here, I meet a couple of groups of walkers – a family, and a trio of older hikers. They’re the first people I’ve met since the two men at the beginning of the track. Shame, then, that at this moment it decides to pour with rain again.

My path continues downwards.

37 track down to road, Ruth Livingstone hiking on Arran

Luckily the rain soon passes. The path ends in a courtyard, where there’s a motley collection of craft workshops, and a pink-painted brewery which is also a pub. The brewery/pub is tempting… but I resist.

38 brewery and craft shops, Brodick, Isle of Arran

Now I’m back on the coast road. I don’t see any coastal way signs, and there is no footpath marked on my map, so I turn right and follow the road towards Brodick.

39 main coast road, Ruth walking around Arran, Scotland

[Later, I discover I probably should have crossed straight over and picked up a footpath somewhere on the other side of the road. It would have taken me down to the shore.]

I’ve not got very far, when I spot another inviting craft complex. This is Arran Aromatics, and attached is a pottery and a café too.

40 Arran Aromatics, Ruth Livingstone hiking to Brodick

I enjoy a hot meal and a pot of tea, while watching the potter at work. Actually, she’s tidying up, rather than throwing pots, but it’s a nice to sit here doing nothing while someone else is working. (Retirement is sheer joy!)

Onwards, following the road. At least there’s a pavement here.

41 road into Brodick, Ruth on the Arran Coastal Way

The views to my right are impressive. Yes, that’s Goatfell. I notice the tip of the peak is now covered with cloud, and so I feel vindicated in my earlier decision not to try to climb the mountain.

42 Goatfell, Ruth hiking on the Isle of Arran, Scotland

A lane leads off to the left, through a golf course. Oh good. It should take me down towards the shore.

‘DANGER’ says the sign ‘TAKE CARE’. Yes, I will. At least it doesn’t tell me to watch out for flying golf balls – an impractical instruction, as by the time you see a flying golf ball, it’s probably too late!

43 path down to shore, golfcourse, Brodick

Anyway, nobody is playing golf itoday.

I turn off the path, probably too early, following footpath signs. If I’d continued straight, I would have reached the shore. Instead I cross over Glenshurig Burn via a little bridge…

44 footpath to Brodick, Ruth walking the coast of Arran

…and wonder why there’s a second footbridge further downriver. Is that where the coastal path runs? Ah well. Nearly at Brodick now.

45 second footbridge to Brodick, Ruth walking aroun Arran

On the other side of the water, an enterprising householder is selling duck food at 50p a bag, with an honesty box.

46 duck food 50p a bag, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

Further along, I discover a woodchopper with a sense of humour.

47 carved tree trunks, Ruth hiking on Isle of Arran, Scotland

Now I’m back on the road again, feeling somewhat frustrated because I’m not walking closer to the shore.

Along this road, I meet a couple of tourists who ask me if there is a pub back the way I’ve come. They’re supposed to be meeting friends there. It’s a pink building, apparently. ‘No’ I say confidently.

48 road to Brodick, Ruth hiking around the coast of Arran

They turn back and, sometime later, I feel guilty because I realise they probably meant the pink brewery/pub in the craft area.

I reach the outskirts of Brodick, walking through intermittent bursts of rain, and head down to the shore, where a couple are throwing a ball for a dog.

49 beach Brodick Bay, Ruth's coastal walk, Isle of Arran

It’s a surprisingly pleasant beach. But, just look at those dark clouds over Goatfell. They’re coming this way.

50 Goatfell, from Brodick Bay, Ruth's hiking on Arran

I turn my back on the storm, and look towards the ferry port, where a ferry has just arrived. I feel a tug of sadness. Only one more day to go, and I’ll have finished the Arran Coastal Way. Shame. I love it here, and don’t want to leave.

51 Brodick Ferry Port, Ruth Livingstone on the Isle of Arran

Onwards to Brodick. A splatter of drops on my neck, and I turn to look back. The rainstorm is approaching rapidly, blown on the strong winds gusting from the north west.

52 Rain on Brodick, Arran, Ruth Livingstone

I walk, through the rain, along a nice foreshore area, where a green strip of land acts as a wide promenade, and there are plenty of parking spaces. The rain soon passes, and the day ends as it began, with a glorious rainbow above Brodick.

53 Brodick Rainbow, Ruth walking the coast of Arran

Tomorrow, assuming the winds have died down, I’m going to walk the section of the Arran Coastal Way around the north of the island, linking Lochranza with Sannox. Then, my circuit of Arran will be complete.


Miles walked today = 9 miles
Total around Arran = 65 miles
Total distance = 3,584 miles

Route:


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346 am Sannox to Brodick

It’s the beginning of October and the BBC forecast promises two clear days with no rain. Time for one last trip to Arran before the winter sets in…

…only you should never trust the Scottish weather. Overnight, the forecast changes, and on my first morning I’m greeted by 40 mph winds and stormy showers. At least the rainbow looks bright over Brodick.

01 Broddick on a stormy day, Ruth Livingstone on the Isle of Arran

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345 Imachar to Lochranza

It is my final day walking on Arran. And may be the last for some time, as I must get home for my middle daughter’s wedding, and then be around for my eldest daughter and the birth of my first grandchild.

Luckily, it’s another beautiful day. The bus is full of round-the-island sightseers, and the driver is surprised when I ask him to drop me off on a corner in the middle of nowhere.

01 bus drop off at Imachur, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

This is the point where the Arran Coastal Way leaves the road, and heads along the shore, around Imachar Point, for a few blissful miles of true coastal walking.

02 Imachar Point, Ruth hiking the Isle of Arran Coastal Way, Scotland

At first the going is easy along the grassy foreshore, with the water of Kilbrannan Sound on my left, and cliffs to my right. I walk past a series of small caves.

03 cave at Imachar Point, Ruth Livingstone, Arran

But the route soon becomes more difficult to navigate. I climb over rocks, and push my way through overgrown brambles. Sometimes, it looks impossible to get through, and I’m forced to clamber about on hands and knees…

04 rugged path, Imachar Point, Ruth hiking around the coast of Arran

… but I always find a way over or around the obstacles, somehow.

In fact, it’s wonderful walking. I know I must soon rejoin the road, so I’m determined to enjoy the wildness of this section. Great views of the Mull of Kintyre across the water.

05 rocks and Mull of Kintyre, Ruth Livingstone hiking the coast, Arran

I guess the long finger of the Mull creates a barrier, and shelters Arran’s western shore from the winds and waves of the Atlantic. In fact, today the sea is gentle and there is barely a breath of wind. But a washed-up buoy reminds me of the power of the waves, and I realise it would be a totally different kind of walk on a stormy day.

06 washed up buoy, Ruth hiking the coast, Arran

A sailing ship catches the sunlight on its sails. What a beautiful view!

07 rocky shore, west coast of Arran, Ruth hiking in Scotland

I come across another of those strange little abandoned graveyards. I love the lichen covered stones and the weathered inscriptions, many of which are unreadable. An idyllic place to rest your bones.

08 old burial ground, Ruth walking the Arran Coast to Lochranza

Onwards. The cliffs to my right give way to flat areas of grass and fields. I’ll be rejoining the road soon.

09 Whitefarland, Ruth hiking the coast of Arran

There’s a foul smell, and I nearly stumble over a decaying carcass. Not much flesh left on the bones. It’s big. Several feet in length, and with a long protruding snout at the front end. Must be a sea creature. Maybe a dolphin?

10 skeleton of a sea creature, Ruth Livingstone

The vertebrae are chunky and the creature – whatever it was – must have been powerful.

11 vertebrae of skeleton, Ruth Livingstone, Scotland

Just beyond the skeleton is a little dinghy. I’ve seen remarkably few boats on Arran, and this one is too small for serious fishing. I guess it’s probably used by locals to check on crab or lobster pots.

12 boat, Whitefarland Point, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

My coastal path ends in a little park with a set of swings. I’ve seen a handful of these grassy places along the coast road – tiny pocket-handkerchief spaces with play equipment for the local children.

13 children's playground, Whitefarland, Ruth Livingstone hiking around Arran

I join the road. From here the Arran Coastal Way follows tarmac almost all the way up to my destination, which is the ferry port of Lochranza, on the northern tip of the island.

There is nothing much along the route. The next village I will come to is called Pinmill. No… I check my map… it’s called Pirnmill. I’ve been mispronouncing it all this time! Is that it in the distance ahead?

14 road walking to Pirnmill, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Way

I soon drop down off the tarmac and follow the beach, where the receding tide has left a good stretch of sand. And here I see a few other people walking, the first I’ve seen since I got off the bus.

15 beach walking to Pirnmill, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

I reach Pirnmill, where a lone guy is sitting on a concrete slipway and is sipping a hot drink from his thermos. What a great place for a picnic. I realise I’m getting hungry.

16 picnic on beach, Ruth Livingstone, Arran

Pirnmill consists of a cluster of houses, a café, and a village shop. I feel bad about not using the café, but I didn’t know if there would be anywhere open for food along the route, and so I’ve brought my own picnic with me today.

17 Pirnmill shop, Ruth hiking in Arran

I decide to pop into the village shop for a can of coke, but the young woman manning the till is just putting up the closed sign. Oh dear! I was looking forward to a cold drink. Don’t worry, she says, she’s just popping to the loo. Will reopen in 5 minutes.

Refreshed after my picnic, and my can of coke, I set off along the road again.

18 Ruth Livingstone hiking from Pirnmill to Lochranza

On my right, I pass a little building made of corrugated metal. I notice the bell outside (to the left of the photo below) and assume it’s a school, until I see a sign and realise it’s a church.

19 Church of Scotland, Pirnmill, Arran, Ruth's coastal walk

Onwards, following the road, as it twists and turns alongside the shore. There is very little traffic and, although I usually hate road walking, I really enjoy this stretch.

20 coast road to Lochranza, Ruth hiking in Arran

The landscape seems empty, with sea to my left and high ground covered in vegetation to my right. The map names places along the way, hidden farms I presume. South Thundergay, Mid Thundergay, and then – guess what – North Thundergay.

Somewhere along here, I pass another little patch of green grass with swings…

21 play area, Arran, Ruth's coastal walk

… and further along is another small graveyard.

22 cemetary, North Thundergay, Ruth hiking around Arran

The stone wall around the cemetery makes a great place to balance my camera for a quick self-portrait.

23 self-portrait Ruth Livingstone, Isle of Arran

On the bus this morning, the lady in front of me was phoning home, and telling her elderly father what a wonderful time she was having on Arran. “It’s beautiful. We camped beside the beach. You’re allowed to camp anywhere you like in Scotland.”

So, when I come across a caravan by the side of the road, I assume it’s a family on holiday who are enjoying the freedom of parking-up wherever they want. But, as I get closer, I realise the caravan is a wreck. Smashed windows. Gutted interior.

24 trashed caravan, Ruth's coastal walk around Arran

What a shame! It looks almost brand new too. I wonder if the caravan was wrecked by bad weather, or by vandals, or if it was trashed somewhere else and simply abandoned here. A mystery.

Onwards. I’m approaching the northern tip of Arran, which is far more mountainous than the south. Love seeing the purple slopes above the bright blue of the sea.

25 Catacol Bay, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

A few cars whizz past. And a bus. A string of motorbikes. Oh, and a few cyclists. What  beautiful weather, and a great day for cycling round the island.

26 cyclists, Arran coastal road, Ruth Livingstone

The road has swung inland to cross a little river (Abhainn Mor) via a bridge. Now I’m following the shore of Catacol Bay and ahead is the hamlet of Catacol, where a row of pretty white houses lines the road. Behind the houses is an impressive hill.

27 Catacol, Ruth walking the Arran Coastal Way

The Arran Coastal Way leaves the road at Catacol and climbs over the hill, sticking to the high ground until you reach Lochranza. I’m tempted to follow the official route because the views would be amazing… but my own rule is to stick as close to the coast as is legal, safe, and reasonable. That means sticking to the road.

I dither for a few minutes. Should I take the high way, or stick to the low way?

It would be a shame to miss the views. I go up a little track to the spot where the footpath branches off, goes over a stile, and begins to climb the slope. Oh dear. The path up there looks horribly overgrown. In fact, I soon lose sight of it among the waist-high ferns. And perhaps there are cows up here… I hate cows.

I don’t want to ruin the end of a splendid walk by losing my way or by being terrorised by cattle.

So, in the end, I decide to stick with my rules and follow the coast road instead. It’s very pleasant walking, despite the occasional traffic.

27 Ruth walking to Lochranza, Isle of Arran

Only a couple of miles to Lochranza, and I make rapid progress. Soon I’m at the ferry port, where I’ve left my car in a nearby parking space. There’s the bus stop (on the right in the photo below) where I caught the bus this morning.

28 Lochranza ferry port, Ruth's coastal walk

Also to my right (but just out of the photo) is a little toilet block. A sign outside explains the council is no longer funding the public toilets on Arran, so a group of local residents have set up a scheme to keep the toilets open. They are asking for donations.

How short-sighted to close the public toilets on a tourist island like Arran! But I guess the council is horribly strapped for cash, and closing toilets must seem like an easy option. I drop a £5 note into the donations box. It’s the most I’ve ever paid to spend a penny!

There are several cars waiting for the ferry, including some foot passengers and a few cyclists too.

29 Ferry port, Lochranza, Ruth Livingstone

Here it comes. On my next visit, I expect to be taking this same ferry and going over to the Mull of Kintyre. But not today.

30 Lochranza ferry arrives, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

The ferry unloads with surprising efficiency. The last people off are the cyclists.

31 cyclists getting off ferry at Lochranza, Arran

I walk a little further on into Lochranza. It’s a beautiful place, with a sea loch (called, surprisingly enough, Loch Ranza!) surrounded by mountains, and a splendid castle on the far side.

32 Lochranza castle, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

My ferry back to the mainland is actually booked for the day after tomorrow. But the forecast tomorrow is for relentless rain, so I’ve decided to take a day off walking and visit the Arran distillery instead. I’ve worked out I can do the trip there and back from my B&B using the bus. And that means I can relax and enjoy plenty of whisky tasting! It seems an excellent way to spend a rainy day.


[Postscript: visiting the distillery was, indeed, an excellent way to spend a rainy day. I did the tour, and then the “guided tasting”, and travelled back to my B&B in a very merry mood, toting a couple of new bottles of whisky in my rucksack.]

Miles walked today = 9.5 miles
Miles around Arran Coastal Way = 56 miles
Total around coast of UK = 3,575 miles

Route:


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344 Blackwaterfoot to Imachar

On a beautiful, clear morning, I park by the shore near Machrie, and catch the bus back to Blackwaterfoot. The harbour looks very attractive.

01 Blackwaterfoot, Ruth's coastal walk around the Isle of Arran

Today is a walk of two halves. The first half is glorious, the second half… well, it will turn out to be a bit of a slog. But let’s start at the beginning… Continue reading

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343 Lagg to Blackwaterfoot

This morning I park my car at Blackwaterfoot and catch the bus back to Lagg. The first section of today’s walk follows the road. Great views over the countryside, with Ailsa Craig a constant feature on the horizon.

01 Ruth Livingstone walking from Lagg, Arran Coastal Way, Scotland

I decide not to take the first path down to the shore. The official Arran Coastal Way sticks to the road anyway, until you reach the village of Sliddery.  Continue reading

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342 Kildonan to Lagg

The Kildonan Hotel overlooks Pladda Island. In the distance (just to the left of the island) is the misty shape of Ailsa Craig. The hotel garden is dominated by a circle of sculpted stones.

01 Pladda from Kildonan, Ruth's coastal walk around the Isle of Arran

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341 Whiting Bay to Kildonan

My starting point in Whiting Bay is the path up to the Glenashdale Falls. By the track, a group of four walkers are putting on their boots and strapping on rucksacks. I hesitate, because I hate being overtaken. Should I wait and let them go first? But they spend so long sorting out their kit, I give up and set off.

01 footpath to Glenashdale Falls, Ruth hiking on the Isle of Arran

I’ve just had another bad night, with a persistent cough and muscle pains. So this morning I’ve made two decisions. Continue reading

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340 Lamlash to Whiting Bay

I drive to Kildonan, on the southeast tip of Arran, where I leave my car in an official car park, which turns out to be a strip of grass by the side of the road. From there, I catch one of the infrequent buses that travels around the coastal road in a huge loop.

Back in Lamlash, and the sky looks ominous.

01 Lamlash, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Way, Scotland

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339 Brodick to Lamlash

I take the morning ferry over to Arran, and spend the crossing standing on the deck, staring out into a grey mist whilst being blown about by a howling gale. It’s too dull for photography, and I can barely stand up against the wind, never mind hold a camera.

As we approach Arran, patches of sunlight break through the clouds and I feel a surge of excitement. The island looks beautiful, with huge mountains and a rocky shore. Below is the first photo I take once off the ferry at Brodick pier.

01 Goat Fell, Isle of Arran, Ruth arriving in Brodick ferry port

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338 Fairlie to Wemyss Bay

I return to Fairlie by bus. The sun is shining this morning, but the forecast predicts rain later. My plan is to keep today’s walk short – but now I have the extra miles to Largs to do too – the ones I failed to complete yesterday!

Onwards. Along the cycle path. Heading north.

01 footpath from Fairlie towards Largs, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

I had a restless sleep last night and I’m not feeling brilliant this morning, for a number of reasons. Continue reading

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