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


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
This entry was posted in 20 Ayrshire and Arran and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to 345 Imachar to Lochranza

  1. Eunice says:

    What a lovely walk, and lovely weather too. Pirnmill looks like a nice little place, as does Lochranza 🙂

  2. Pam Ley says:

    Will miss seeing your posts while other events take over, and I have a feeling with a first grandchild on the way it could be longer than you think! Grandchildren are much nicer than your own children! 😉 Hope all goes well for both events and look forward to your return!

  3. Two years ago I managed to visit the distillery with family on a whistlestop tour of the island..my father was driving so I could partake of a ‘wee dram’ – not a whisky drinker normally but it felt right on this beautiful Scottish island. I never got to do any walking on Arran, and have really enjoyed your blogs.
    Anyway enjoy your time off with family – I am also shortly stopping my walking holidays until next spring (day walks only till then) and look forward to 2018’s adventures…

    Best wishes, Gemma.

    • The distillery was wonderful. And I love whisky, so it was the perfect end to the trip. You should really go back and explore Arran, Gemma. It’s a beautiful place with lots of interesting standing stones, old cairns, etc.

  4. Anabel Marsh says:

    Best wishes for the big family events coming up.

  5. Rita Cotter says:

    Lovely view over Arran, certainly has inspired me to visit. Really enjoy the experience of a “real” person on the walk of a lifetime. Enjoy the hiatus, both event worth taking a break for. Will look forward to next instalment.

  6. Jane Hewland says:

    Hi Ruth,

    I would like to buy another copy of your book Walking the English Coast for my friend and former colleague, Ellen Taylor. Do I need to go through Amazon or can I come direct to you? I assume a direct approach will leave a little more in your pocket. If I can do this direct please let me have your bank details and I will make the transfer and email you Ellen’s address. Otherwise expect the order via Amazon.

  7. Margaret Oliver says:

    I loved this section of the coastal path, however I took the higher route up the hill instead of the coast walk into Lochranza. It was a beautiful section though care had to be taken as the narrow path was rocky, muddy and quite a few tree roots. Fortunately no cows. However, I was only able to hear the sea not see it as the trees were very dense but the views were beautiful. Next time I’ll do the route you took. Enjoy your exciting family events Ruth.

  8. gillianrance says:

    Congratulations on the arrival of your Grandchild! I’m glad to hear you’ve been back to the island already, look forward to reading all about it.

  9. patriz2012 says:

    Congratulations on getting so far on your walk and on the birth of your grandchild! I became a granny a year and a half ago and have been loving it ever since. Ruth, my partner and I are getting married in Gretna in November and were thinking of combining it with a few walks in the Lake District – can you recommend any on the coast?
    Loving the Scottish walks

    Warm wishes


    • Hi Tricia, and congratulations on you upcoming wedding. Hope all goes well. The Cumbrian Coast is huge, but the places I thought the prettiest places were the area between St Bees Head and Whitehaven, the area around Ravenglass, and the area around Grange-over-Sands including Arnside. Hope you have a wonderful time! Best wishes.

  10. Karen White says:

    Arran is very beautiful. The skeleton is interesting but doesn’t look quite right in the skull for a dolphin. However I can’t offer an alternative suggestion!
    Very belated congratulations on the birth of your grandchild and your daughter’s marriage.

  11. margaret craig says:

    Hi Ruth I enjoyed reading your account of your walk around the coast of north Arran

    I live at Imachar and walk along that shore a lot Sometimes I go as far as the graveyard and back down the main road Quite often on a summers day I will walk back along the shore The peace and quiet and the views over to Kintyre are to die for We had quite a storm today and I was just thinking we are lucky that Kintyre shelters us from the worst of the atlantic storms I do enjoy a good storm though. I hope you are enjoying being a gran My grandkids love Imachar shore and the freedom of the place

    • Hello Margaret. What a lovely place to live and I’m sure your grandchildren love visiting. I’m currently walking in the Canary Islands, so it’s very sunny and warm here, but my children have keep sending me updates on the storm. Best wishes.

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