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.
During the crossing, the only other people outside were a group of European tourists, who hung onto each other to stay upright. And a woman huddled on a bench with her teenage daughter, both with their hair streaming out sideways, and their arms wrapped around a terrified greyhound.
The tourists asked me if I was going to climb Goat Fell. It’s the largest mountain on the island at 874 metres. Not huge as mountains go, but they tell me the views from the top are wonderful on a fine day.
No, I’m walking the Arran Coastal Way and have no intention of climbing mountains. (In any case, during my stay on Arran the peak of Goat Fell will remain firmly stuck among the clouds.)
Leaving Brodick, I follow the main A841, heading southwards, and soon turn off left along a minor road, through a village called Strathwhillan.
The lane climbs, and I stop to take photographs of Brodick Bay and Goat Fell. The mountain looks dark and magnificent, even with its head stuck in the clouds.
The Arran Coastal Way isn’t marked on my 2015 Ordnance Survey map, and the map I got from the tourist office wasn’t detailed enough to be of much use, so I was expecting to have to muddle along. It comes as a pleasant surprise, therefore, to find excellent footpath signposts in place.
And a nifty logo featuring a gannet. (Although, when I first saw the white shape I thought it was an angel diving down to the ground!)
The footpath leaves the lane and I walk along the edge of sheep fields, climbing higher above the water. I take a photo of my ferry as it pulls out of Brodick Bay and heads back towards Ardrossan.
The path joins a lane and there’s a choice of routes. Either I can go down to the shore – although the sign warns me it may be difficult to get through at high tide – or I can follow an alternative and inland route.
Check my watch. A couple of hours until high tide. I decide to head down to the shore.
As I get closer to the sea, I’m surprised to come across a few houses. I didn’t realise anybody lived down this track. What a wonderful place to have a home.
And then I’m on the shore, and standing on the edge of a lovely bay. A couple of little boats float in a placid pool. Beautiful – like a picture postcard. Only one small niggle… looking ahead I notice the tide is high, and just look at those cliffs rising up from the sea…
Oh dear. I hope I can make it through. Better not hang about.
I walk along the top of the beach. The water is startlingly clear. It’s hard to believe this is the same sea I crossed over earlier this morning – when it was grey and choppy, with the wind trying to bowl me over. Now it looks almost tropical!
At the end of the bay, I turn and look back. Take some more photographs. The clouds are dark and dramatic around Goat Fell. It’s stormy over there.
I walk across rough grassland. It looks easy going, but in fact the path is rather difficult. The ground is full of hidden waterways and tussocks of firm-looking ground turn out to be not-so-firm. Stones and rocks lie half buried in the grass, waiting to trip me up.
And so, I’m constantly having to watch my feet, keep my eyes on the ground, concentrate on each step. It’s surprisingly tiring and takes me a long time to cross the flat land and reach the cliffs.
I’ve had another bad night, kept awake by coughing, aching muscles and with an intermittent fever. Now my aches return and I realise my morning paracetamol must be wearing off.
The slope becomes steeper and the path rises. Here, the ground is firmer, but I have to pick my way carefully over uneven stones and rocky obstructions, while below me the sea glows an incredibly vivid blue. Oh, look, there’s a little seat down there.
It’s not a thing of beauty, but cobbled together from rough planks of driftwood. Doesn’t matter. It looks inviting. (You can just see the seat in the photo above. Bottom left.) I decide the seat is a sign. Time to have a rest.
I feel much better after a drink and a snack… and another couple of paracetamol.
I balance my camera on the seat and take a self-portrait. It’s still windy – I look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge – and those clouds behind me are getting darker.
I climb higher up the path before looking back again. Yes. Rain is definitely falling over Goat Fell and I’m lucky to be down here on the coast, where the sun hasn’t stopped shining.
Onwards. The path is narrow and I’m glad I have my walking poles, but it’s a splendid walk. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.
As I near the point – Clauchlands Point – I see a fisherman on the rocks. When I get nearer, I see it’s a young lad. It looks a precarious perch. Does he know what he’s doing?
A few yards further along and I see more people clambering on the rocks. Fishing too. They don’t look like proper fishermen either.
The sun disappears as I round the corner, although the sky is still bright ahead of me. There’s a huge headland in front… no, wait… I check my map. That’s Holy Island. Below, along the path through the ferns, a couple of walkers come towards me. The first I’ve seen since I set off.
A short while later the sky turns dark, and rain starts falling in huge drops. I pack away my camera and cover my rucksack. This is usually a signal for the rain to stop, but not this time. It spits and drizzles.
The path joins a track leading along the side of Lamlash bay, and here the drizzle stops and the heavens open!
My waterproof jacket keeps my body dry, but my trousers soon become 100% saturated. They are slightly water resistant, but can’t stand up to this wind-driven rain. Never mind. At least I’m warm.
No photographs, then, for the next mile. I walk past a car park and a few residential houses, and come to an information board, where I shelter. The rain finally eases off, and I pull out my camera again.
Ah, this area of Lamlash Bay is a “No Take Zone”. Fishing is prohibited. That is why people were perched on the rocks fishing just round the point, and just outside of the zone.
Rain clouds still gather over the bay, but between are patches of blue sky. I take a photograph of Holy Island, now looking definitely like a proper island from this angle.
Onwards, towards Lamlash. I get the feeling that Arran is fairly affluent in comparison to the mainland. Probably due to a thriving tourist trade. (I had difficulty finding a B&B to stay because everywhere was booked up.) Some expensive-looking houses line the track.
I reach Lamlash. After walking down the road for a while – more houses, a café, shop, restaurants – I come to a long, broad expanse of green grass. Ahead is the church and above, on the hills, remnants of rain clouds drift slowly upwards.
I turn and take a photograph looking back along the shore. Oh dear. The sky back there is still black.
Here, in Lamlash Bay, I decide to end my walk. I was half=thinking I might continue on to the next village – Whiting Bay. But I promised myself I would stop here unless I felt full of energy. I feel OK, but I’m still coughing and sneezing. It’s time to stop.
One last photograph of Holy Island…
…and then it’s time to go and find my B&B. This turns out to be perched half way up a mountain. Beautiful views, but I’m glad I have my car!
Further Information: The Arran Coastal Path is 60 miles long. Although the path was originally created in the 1990s by two local men, it has recently been updated and improved. Hence the new signposts. Only a few weeks ago (June 2017) the path was declared one of Scotland’s Great Trails. No doubt it will appear on the next version of the OS map.
Miles walked today = 6 miles
Total around coast of UK = 3,515 miles