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

According to my rules, I should really restart my walk in Lochranza, but I decide it’s too dangerous to tackle Arran’s isolated northwest coast today, and so I jump that section and catch the bus to Sannox instead.

I’m wearing a new, long, absolutely guaranteed-waterproof coat. Even so, I’m reluctant to leave the bus shelter. Somebody has even provided a couple of handy chairs… tempting just to sit here and wait for the next bus back!

02 Bus stop at Sannox. Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

The only good thing about strong winds is they create constantly changing skies. A few minutes later, there are patches of blue between the clouds and I can risk getting my camera out.

That dark peak looks ominous. I’m not sure what it’s called, but somewhere close by is Goatfell, the highest mountain on Arran. My walk today will take me along its lower slopes.

03 Goat Fell, Ruth walking the Arran Coastal Way, Scotland

I was hoping to climb to the peak of Goatfell before I leave the island… but not today. Not in these winds.

Onwards. I start off walking along the shore. The tide is high and I’m hiking southwards, back to Brodick. The wind is behind my back, but the sun is bright in my eyes and my photographs are disappointingly poor…

04 rocky shore, Arran, Ruth Livingstone

… until I turn around. The photograph looking back gives a much better impression of lovely Sannox Bay.

05 looking back at Sannox Bay, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

The sand comes to an end, and I must climb up onto the coast road. There is little traffic, and intermittent views of the sea, but I always find road walking rather tedious.

I do, however, spot a seal in the water. No decent photos I’m afraid, because it was too far out. Here’s a photo of a seal-spotting bench instead.

06 seals off Sannox, Ruth Livingstone walking the coast of Scotland

The showers of rain are a constant problem too. My camera goes into my rucksack, out again, in again, out again… ah, here’s a handy shelter. It’s set about 50 feet away from the road, and too far back to be a bus shelter. What is it for? A mystery.

07 shelter on the way to Corrie. Ruth's coastal walk, Isle of Arran

After a couple of miles, I reach the village of Corrie. First come some rather expensive looking houses, with gardens overlooking the sea, and then a row of more traditional cottages.

08 Corrie, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

There’s a little harbour too with a couple of motor boats and – I blink – a Viking ship! It’s a miniature one, but rather a surprise. This part of Scotland certainly seems proud of its Viking heritage.

09 viking ship, Corrie harbour, Ruth on the Arran Coastal Way

I walk past a sculptor’s workshop. Can’t resist photographing some of the work in progress. I particularly like the seal’s head, emerging from the wood, bottom left of the photo below.

10 wood sculptor and carver, Ruth walking through Corrie, Isle of Arran

The road take me past the Corrie Hotel. I presume they are doing good business because I had difficulty finding anywhere to stay for this trip – Arran always seems full! – and I had to resort to booking somewhere on the other side of the island, through Airbnb.

11 Corrie Hotel, Ruth walking Arran's coast, Scotland

On the way out here on the bus this morning, I noticed a seal sunning itself on a rock just off the shore by the Corrie Hotel. Look, there it is now. How wonderful.

But, on closer inspection, there’s something a bit odd about the seal. It’s keeping very still and striking an unusual pose. Oh, it’s not a real seal after all. Just a wooden carving.

12 carved seal, Corrie, Ruth's coastal walk around the Isle of Arran

I’m disappointed, but amused too. Was it the work of the local sculptor? I hope so.

The rocks along the next stretch of shore are fabulous. The sun brings out the red colour of the sandstone, which contrasts well with the deep hue of the sea. Full of flowing lines, these rocks look as if they formed just yesterday from the sediments of a muddy river bed.

13 red sandstone rocks, Corrie, Ruth's coastal walk Arran

(When I first started walking the coast I knew nothing about geology. I still know very little, but at least I can now identify sedimentary rocks.)

I come across a second harbour, and walk out along the harbour wall. That mountain must be Goatfell. With the sun lighting its slopes, it looks quite inviting. Maybe I will get to climb up there today, after all?

14 Harbour near Corrie, Ruth hiking the coast of Arran, Scotland

There are sheep on the harbour wall. Sheep? No. Mooring bollards. Painted to look like black-headed sheep. I love them.

15 sheep on harbour wall, Corrie, Ruth hiking the coastal path around Arran

Time to leave Corrie behind and continue along the road towards Brodick. This road is also a “Core Path Route”, according to the signposts. I’d forgotten about Scotland’s Core Paths.

16 core path route, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Way

[Funnily enough, although this part of the Arran Coastal Way is obviously a Core Path, not all the sections are. That’s rather strange, because the Arran Coastal Way is one of Scotland’s Great Trails and so you’d think it automatically qualified as a Core Path. Neither does the Arran Coastal Way show up on my OS maps – neither my paper map, nor the online maps. Maybe it will one day. Until then, the only clues to the route are on the website at www.coastalway.co.uk]

I’ve just left Corrie behind, when I come across a forestry track. The website suggested the Arran Coastal Path leaves the coastal road and heads inland at some point. This must be it. Ah, yes, there’s the little round sign with the logo, on the leg of the Forestry Commission’s notice board.

17 Maol Donn, Markland Trail, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

Now I face a familiar dilemma. Do I go up the track, or do I stick to the road? The road is closer to the coast and easy walking. But, the traffic is becoming increasingly busy, and I’m really bored of road walking.

Two men are just coming down the track. They’re the first walkers I’ve met since I set out. ‘Is it very muddy up there?’ I ask them. ‘A little,’ they tell me, but you can navigate through the muddy patches and should be fine if wearing boots.

OK. I’ll take the track. I’m wearing boots, but how I wish I’d brought my walking poles.

18 path up into the woods, Ruth Livingstone

It starts raining almost as soon as I set off up the track. Despite the rain, this section turns out to be a lovely walk. Up and down, but not too steep. Some mud, but no cow dung. (Yay!) Woods on either side. Little waterfalls. Sadly, very little view of the sea…

19 woodland walk, Ruth on the Isle of Arran

…until I get to the top. Here there has been recent logging, so the land opens up and gives me a bright, misty view across Brodick Bay. The rain has stopped, and there’s the ferry steaming in from the mainland. Ahead is the peak of Holy Island.

20 view over the Firth of Clyde, Ruth Livingstone hiking on Arran

I stop on a bench and eat my lunch snacks. Unfortunately, in this exposed area, the wind howls around my back, gusting so strongly at times it threatens to push me off the bench.

21 logging spot, Merkland Wood, Ruth Livingstone on the Isle of Arran

And then, suddenly, the wind will drop for a few minutes, until the next gust catches me by surprise. Anyway, in a sunny lull between the gales, I manage to take a self-portrait. Note my long, waterproof coat. Very cosy and, yes, it has indeed kept the rain out.

22 self-portrait, Merkland Wood, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

I continue along the track, which begins to descend. Here’s a signpost. Corrie is only 2.5 miles away?! Crikey. I thought I’d walked much further than that. Never mind. Only 3 miles to Brodick. Nearly there.

23 signpost to Brodick, Ruth's coastal walk, Arran

At the signpost, my track joins a new forestry road. As wide and featureless as a motorway. My heart sinks. These are boring roads to walk along and the sharp gravel is painful underfoot, despite the thick soles of my boots.

24 logging track through Merkland Wood, Ruth hiking on Arran

But I needn’t have worried. The gravel road soon ends, just above a roaring waterfall. I climb down a little path to try to get a better view of the falls, but only manage to capture part of it.

25 waterfall, Merkland Woods, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

There’s a bridge across the stream above the waterfall. The bridge looks very new… oh, there’s the remains of the old footbridge, just to the right hand side in the photo below. It’s been washed away.

26 new bridge, Ruth hiking Arran Coastal Way, Merkland Wood

Thank goodness they’ve replaced it and I don’t have to wade. Not far to go now. Onwards.


[to be continued…]

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.
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16 Responses to 346 am Sannox to Brodick

  1. Eunice says:

    What wonderful views! Corrie looks like a lovely little place, and I love the sheep and the seal 🙂

  2. jcombe says:

    Nice to see you back again. Arran does look lovely.

    I’ve just finished my new coast walks for this year after a few days in the far north of Scotland. I’ve now reached the banks of Loch Eriboll not far from Durness and Cape Wrath, which I’ll leave to next year. I have a plan for Cape Wrath, but time will tell if it works out as I planned it. Like you I’ve found finding hotels in Scotland a struggle. I planned to go earlier in the year than October, but October was the first time I could find a hotel room for more than a single night (and I booked back in May!). I ended up in what Trip Advisor rated as the worst hotel in the town, but thankfully it was better than the reviews suggested it would be.

    I had a similar experience to you with the weather, the forecasts seemed to change by the day. It was only my last day I had to cut the walk short. Rounding the corner at Loch Eriboll it was a bit windy. But then I went around another bend and the wind hit me. It was so strong I could barely move forwards. I tried to continue but then a shower arrived and the wind was so strong it made the rain drops painful as they hit me. I waited for that shower to pass, but it was followed by another a couple of minutes later. And then another, and I decided to call it a day, as I wasn’t enjoying it any longer (the forecast had been for heavy rain all day, so at least it was better than forecast). As it was Sunday there was no bus (there is in fact only 1 bus on a Saturday and 2 on Tuesdays, and none for the rest of the week) so I was doing an “up and back” walk instead and at least on the way back the wind and rain was behind me not blowing in my face!

    I like those sheep painted things for tying boats too, rather fun. It sounds like the Scottish footpaths are up to their usual tricks, paths that aren’t marked on maps so you’ve no idea which way to go. But at least they replaced that footbridge, there is one washed away near me a over 3 years ago the Council still hasn’t replaced. I like the chair in the bus shelter. On my recent trip to Scotland, one of the bus shelters I used had a (very clean) pair of wellies left in it. Another one someone seemed to have turned into a green house, it was full of plants growing in pots. I know they say taking the bus is greener, but I couldn’t help thinking that was taking things a bit far!

    • Hi Jon. I’ll be very interested to hear how you tackle Cape Wrath. Wise to leave it until the spring! Wind plus rain makes for horrible walking, doesn’t it. And a prolonged bout of horizontal rain seems to get through most “waterproof” clothing too.
      Disappointing to hear there is a shortage of accommodation right across Scotland. I was hoping it was just an Arran problem.
      They do seem to look after their bus shelters in rural Scotland, perhaps because there are so few of them 😄

    • Hi Jon – I got back from Tongue myself yesterday. I walked from the Kyle of Durness to Tongue although I too skipped Cape Wrath until April 2018. I did however meet two girls who were completing the Cape Wrath trail the day after I met them. So they are tougher / hardier than me as I couldn’t face Cape Wrath in mid October. I also skipped Hope to Whiten Head until next year as I felt daylight hours were too short to do it comfortably although I did walk back from Talmine to Whiten Head in the other direction. Like you I was doing there and back walks all week so I walked 75 miles in total but sadly only 43 miles counted towards my actual coastal path mileage. Maybe we will meet up in Cape Wrath next year! (I’m doing it from the Old School House B&B on 16 April and will complete it on 19 April when I will have to walk around the Kyle of Durness as it is before the ferry starts running). All the best.

  3. Anabel Marsh says:

    Wonderful, all of it.

  4. Jacquie says:

    Welcome back. Arran does look and sound gorgeous. The ‘blackface bollards’ are great fun. with accomodation so sparse, am I misremembering or was a campervan was hinted at in an earlier post?

    • My husband wasn’t keen on a camper van – once he found out how much they cost. And I do like my cosy B&Bs, with luxuries like hot showers and cooked breakfasts! But, yes, I’m now beginning to think it might be the best way to tackle the north of Scotland.

      • Jacquie says:

        My dilemma too – ‘you can have lots of B&Bs for the cost of a camper’ has been said to me. But ‘it’s the independance and convenience’ or maybe I’m just a frustrated surf/beach bum/oldest hippie in the west ;(

      • Jo says:

        Hi Ruth, B&B’s for me too. Have returned today from walking from Maidencombe to Brixham with my son. Last one of the year I think. I thought my tummy might firm up with all the walking but found quite the opposite when you start the day with a lavish spread and end it with a pub meal!

        • Im always amazed because I don’t lose weight on my walking trips either. It’s probably the huge breakfasts and the chips-with-everything pub meals. In Scotland the portions seem bigger too 😄

  5. Neil Anderson says:

    Hi Ruth, how did the wedding go and what is the make of your new coat? Off to Iceland end Jan, looking for a new top layer!
    Regards
    Neil, Rosegarth

  6. babsandnancy says:

    What an amazing rainbow caught in its entirety

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