347 am Lochranza to Sannox

[This was my final day of walking on Arran, and I completed this section in October. Due to various reasons – and partly due to my reluctance to ‘finish’ with Arran – I’ve only just got round to writing it up!]

The forecast predicts rain and winds, but nothing like the gales of yesterday. Just as well, because today I’m about to tackle one of the hardest stretches of the Arran Coastal Way – the north coast.

I confess to feeling nervous. This part of the Coastal Way has a reputation for being rock-scramblingly tough. Seven to eight miles of difficult walking lie ahead, and with no easy route off the path once I start. Can I really do this?

Luckily, when I arrive in Lochranza, the sea looks calm, the sun is shining – and I immediately feel optimistic. Yes, I can do this.

01 Loch Ranza, Ruth walking the Arran Coastal Way

I spend a few minutes strolling around the remains of Lochranza Castle, where I’m greeted by an overenthusiastic dog, who leaves me covered in muddy paw prints. Never mind. I love dogs and I’m already mucky from several days of walking. A bit more mud doesn’t really make much difference.

02 Lochranza castle, Ruth's coastal walk around Arran, Scotland

I look towards the mouth of Loch Ranza, where the ferry from Claonaig is arriving. Next time, I will start my walk from over there… although I’m sorry to be leaving Arran, I really am looking forward to moving on and tackling the Mull of Kintyre.

03 Lochranza ferry, Ruth hiking on Arran

I round the apex of the loch. First walking along a road…

04 north shore of Lochranza, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

… past one of those plain little Church of Scotland chapels…

05 church of scotland, Lochranza, Ruth Livingstone

… and then past a doctor’s surgery. What a place to have a practice! You would have to be good at everything – minor surgery, delivering babies – as the island could be easily cut off during winter storms.

06 Lochranza surgery, Ruth Livingstone on the Isle of Arran, Scotland

Now I’m back on the shore again, and the wind blows fierce in my face. Raindrops begin to spatter around me. Oh no. The forecast was right, it IS going to be a day of rain and wind after all.

I rarely use my waterproofs, but I know a combination of wind and rain can be lethal – as my near-brush with hypothermia taught me in Wales when I walked to the aptly named bay, Hell’s Mouth.

So, I sit on a handy bench and pull on my waterproof trousers. Can’t resist a self-portrait, although I do look a bit like the Michelin Man in my outfit!

07 full wet weather hiking gear, Ruth Livingstone

Wrapped and snug, I continue down the road. A few cottages and houses here, including one with a US Mail post box outside, which seems very incongruous in this Scottish setting.

08 most northerly road, Arran

Somebody has constructed pictures of crabs in the grass, using local pebbles.

09 crab on grass, Ruth hiking around the coast of Arran, Scotland

I’m fighting against the wind, now. Just one more house to go, and the road peters out into a track.

10 end of the road, Lochranza, Ruth hiking the Arran Coastal Patj

After leaving the last house behind, I pause and look back at Loch Ranza and the castle. I’ve got 8 miles of wild coastline ahead. There’s still time to change my mind and abandon this walk…

11 last look at Lochranza, Ruth Livingstone

No. Onwards.

The track becomes a path. I reach Newton Point, where there is one of those directional compass things on a stone plinth.

12 Newton Point, Ruth Livingstone

The quotation on the compass does little to subdue my anxiety. ‘The traveller may perhaps be somewhat fatigued with his protracted journey as, on a still summer evening, he rounds Newton Point.”

13 inscription on Newton Point, Ruth Livingstone on Arran

I don’t like the sound of “protracted journey”, nor “fatigued”. And this isn’t a “still summer evening”, but a wild and windy autumnal day… oh, dear.

Luckily the coast ahead doesn’t look too intimidating. Flat and grassy. And, now I’ve rounded the point, the wind is no longer blowing in my face, instead it’s blowing me sideways.

14 beyond Newton Point, Ruth hiking around the shore of Arran

The rain has stopped, and I sit down to take off my waterproof trousers. Hate the things.

Now the ground gets increasingly boggy, my pace slows as I negotiate pools and mud, and my new-found confidence disappears. Then, ahead, I see a group of figures. Other walkers?

No. As I get closer I realise a couple of workmen are repairing the path. Or rather, they’re laying a proper path, levering up huge slabs of stone and rearranging them to form a dry walkway.

15 working on the Arran Coastal Way, Ruth Livingstone, Scotland

It looks like hard and dirty work, and not ideal weather either. They’re also doing it manually, without diggers or lifting equipment. Arran men are a tough breed!

The wide area of grass narrows and becomes a rocky strip between hills and sea, while the ground underfoot becomes firmer. I begin to make faster progress.

I know I’m approaching the most northwesterly point of Arran, although it’s hard to tell when I reach it, as the shore curves gently round and there are no natural landmarks. But I reckon this spot (in the photo below) is possibly it.

16 north-west corner of Arran, Ruth hiking in Scotland

Turning the corner seems very significant. From now on the wind will be behind me, helping to blow me along.

I soon reach another area of flat grassland, where a few cottages and boats pulled up on the shore. Doesn’t look like anyone lives here permanently (there is no road access) but nearby fishing equipment suggests local fishermen use it as a temporary base.

17 Fairy Dell, Arran, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

I check my map. This place is called Fairy Dell. Lovely name.

Beyond the flat grassland, the shoreline changes to a steep and rocky slope. I see a white notice fixed to a rock, and it becomes a beacon as I make my way towards it. But, when I reach it… it’s blank, apart from the mysterious number “6”.

18 white sign on rock

The path along the shore has disappeared among the stones. Where is the Arran Coastal Way? Ah… there’s a fingerpost. And it’s pointing up the slope.

19 scrambling around the north coast of Arran, Ruth Livingstone in Scotland

The next section of path is beautiful, but it does involve some tortuous scrambling up and down rocks.

The official website says this is a good place to spot dolphins and basking sharks. To be honest, I’m too busy concentrating on finding somewhere safe to put my feet, and I rarely take my eyes away from the ground in front of me.

20 rough path, Ruth hiking on Arran

Really don’t want to risk spraining my ankle (of worse) in this remote spot.

I don’t stop to take many photographs either, because the light is dull and my progress is excruciatingly slow without additional photo-stops. In fact, I begin to worry about finishing the walk before dark… and then the ground flattens out somewhat, and I can speed up.

21 Arran Coastal Way, Ruth hiking in Scotland

I come across some wonderful sandstone formations. Looks like a patch of the Arizona desert washed up on the north coast of Arran!

22 Red sandstone rock, Ruth's coastal walk around the north coast of Arran

I spot a couple of women walkers, sitting in the shelter of a rock, eating their lunch. Give them a wave.

23 walkers on north coast of Arran

Check my map. I think this place is called the Cock of Arran. No idea why. (Can’t help a schoolgirl snigger when I read the name!)

Looking back along the coast, the sky is dark over Kintyre. There is definitely more rain heading my way. Onwards.

24 stormclouds over Mull of Kintyre, Ruth hiking on Arran

I pass another couple of walkers coming towards me, and we pass each other on the path with a brief greeting.

25 more walkers, Arran Coastal Way, Ruth

Interesting that all the walkers I’ve met so far have been women. Nobody else is walking alone, though.

Somewhere to my right is somebody’s cave. I can barely read the name on my map. Ossian’s cave? I take a few minutes to try to find it, but I never spot it.

The path becomes rugged again and I realise I’m tired and hungry.

26 lunch spot, Ruth Livingstone on Arran, Scotland

I hunker down with my back to a rock, sheltering from the wind, and eat my packed lunch. I never carry much with me – just some nuts, a piece of fruit, and a muesli bar. But I always feel better after a brief sit down and a snack.

[To be continued…]

About Ruth Livingstone

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

20 Responses to 347 am Lochranza to Sannox

  1. Sounds quite an eventful section – looking forward to the next instalment.
    “…minor surgery” If I was a doctor I would be terrified if I was called upon to do a tracheotomy.

    Are you resuming your walk soon?

    • Hi Conrad. The thought of doing a tracheostomy terrifies me too! I’ve done a few days walking in February, which I’m about to write up. Sadly, unlikely to get back to Scotland until May. Babysitting and other family commitments are tying up my time at the moment.

  2. Hanna says:

    Lovely to hear more from you, Ruth. Very interesting to see the coast of Scotland and learn about the surroundings. Thanks a lot for your inspiration.

  3. Jules says:

    Lovely to see your photographs this morning. I walked this route last Summer but only as far as Fairy Dell. Beautiful area. X

  4. tonyhunt2016 says:

    Don’t blame you for not having walked much this year – the weather and paths have been atrocious, even in Kent! But the weather pendulum must swing the other way soon – should be a great summer (fingers crossed…)

  5. Chris says:

    Good to see your latest instalment, and look forward to more in May.

  6. rlbwilson says:

    Good to read this instalment. I thought at first you had bitten the bullet and gone up for Easter! I have fond memories of Lochranza. We were there just after our first wedding anniversary (we spent the actual night in a guest house, not Lochranza YH) but haven’t been back since! We must!

  7. So nice to find your latest write-up in my inbox this morning! I thought with all the privacy tightening I’d done that I’d lost the connection. I always enjoy your writing, but especially on days like this here in Montana where we’ve received a spring storm of about 6″ of snow with more and more falling!

  8. Anne says:

    Lovely to find a post from you this evening. The photos are lovely to see but they probably don’t do the scenery full justice. Look forward to your next instalment.

  9. theresagreen says:

    Lovely to catch up with you again. This looks and sounds like it was a ruggedly beautiful stretch, but a nerve-wracking walk! Hope all is well with you and your family and that you’ll be striding out again soon.

    • I’m such a coward, and I worry about walking in dodgy weather, especially in remote places. But, I think that combination of hardship mixed with terror often makes for a memorable walk!

      • tonyhunt2016 says:

        I think you are quite right to be cautious walking alone – as you say, breaking a leg in a remote spot would not be pleasant experience. Do be careful walking on high ground in windy weather in your splendid new long coat – I don’t want to be a Jonah, but Ramblers Holidays specifically advise against cagoules – they make too good sails on cliff edges!

        • Yes, I’m sure you’re right about the coat, Tony. You’ll be relieved to know that on this particular walk I wore my usual anorak, mainly because I knew I wouldn’t be able to scramble up rocks very easily in my long coat 😀

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