Scotland Travel Blog August 2021

Walks on Arran


If you go back through the last 14 years of our Blogs, you’ll notice that we visit Arran quite a lot.

From our Home on the Clyde Coast, a ferry to Arran is the quickest way to get into the Highlands and we highly recommend it as a destination if you’ve only got a few days in Scotland.

Isle of Arran viewed from Ayrshire coast

One of the great draws that Arran has for us is the variety of walking routes that it offers. In fact, we’re such strong advocates of hiking on Arran that we’ve become official sponsors of the Arran Mountain Festival.

The great thing with walking on Arran is that so many of the walks have some sort of interesting objective to see. For example, you can puzzle over strange rock carvings, go swimming in a mountain loch with a fine gravel beach, or see the tragic wreckage of a crashed WW2 bomber.

We’ve listed some of our favourite Arran walks below and have grouped them as Easy, Moderate and Strenous climbs.

EASY WALKS

These are walks that are either short and sharp ascents, or gently undulating paths that take a bit longer to walk but which don’t demand too much of your legs.

Stronach Wood -

I’ve been visiting Arran almost every year of my life since I was 3 or 4 years old. So that adds up to a lot of time on the island. Despite this, it was only during my last trip in June 2021 that I discovered this hidden gem in the Stronach Woods above Brodick.

Cup and ring marks at Stronach Woods  on Arran

One of the reasons that I’d never previously been here is that the path isn’t signposted and there was nothing on my old and very tattered Ordnance Survey map to suggest that I should bother going.

But during my research for my last visit I bought a new OS Map which indicated that the woods concealed a cup and ring marked stone similar to the ones found around Kilmartin Glen.

Unusual neolithic stone artwork at Stronach Wood on Arran

Even with a map, this isn't the easiest place to find. You need to walk up the “String Road”, past the cemetery and, after ~150 metres, you turn left to go through a gate onto a forestry track. Follow this track as it doubles back to climb uphill through a forest of conifers. After a steep ascent the path levels out and soon arrives at a clearing where you will find a large exposed stone surface with the curious cup and ring markings.

The place has a timeless atmosphere as you are surrounded by dense woodland and the modern world is hidden from sight. 

Cup and Ring marked stone in a clearing at Stronach Wood

 

Glen Rosa “Blue Pool” -

We’ve written about this place before in a Blog that we did about our best wild swimming pools in Scotland.

Blue Pool in Glen Rosa

The Blue Pool isn’t quite as dramatically blue as the so-called “Fairy Pools” on Skye, but it does have a distinct blue-ish / green tint and isn’t spoiled by the huge numbers of visitors that trample all over the banks of the “Fairy Pool”.

From Brodick, it takes about 90 minutes to walk up through Glen Rosa on a well defined and relatively flat path to the Blue Pool. The pool is well known to the locals so if it’s a warm day you can expect to find someone else will be there looking for a place to have a dip. But if you head a bit up or downstream, you will find other places to take a plunge.

 

King's Cave -

There’s a famous story about King Robert the Bruce that has him hiding in a cave pondering his future whilst watching a spider trying again and again to spin its web. Through sheer determination, the spider succeeds and this inspired Bruce that he too must continue his fight for Scottish Independence. The spider incident is also said to have been the prompt when Robert the Bruce addressed his army before the Battle of Bannockburn and urged them “If at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again.”

Entrance of the King's Cave on Arran

It’s a stirring story that captured my imagination as a child. So much so that I can recall my first visit to the “King’s Cave” and how awestruck I felt to stand where Bruce had stood. Well, to be honest, he may not have been here at all. But it’s a good story and it’s endorsed by the locals who have mounted a large spider on the gate that protects the cave entrance.

Bruce's Spider at the King's Cave on Arran

The walk starts from a Forestry Commission car park a few miles north of Blackwaterfoot and is an easy route that passes through mature woodland so you have some shelter from the wind and rain. As you near the cave, the path drops down a grassy slope to a rocky shoreline and you have a short section of coastline to walk before the Iron gated entrance to the main cave appears. It’s quite a deep cave, large enough to hide quite a few people, so you might wish to bring a torch to explore its deeper recesses.

Interior of the King's Cave on Arran

MODERATE WALKS

We grade these walks as moderate because they start with a steady and sometimes quite steep ascent before leveling out.

Eas Mor & Loch Garbad -

We are categorizing this as Moderate, but the hike can be divided into 2 stages and the first stage is relatively easy. In saying that, the walk starts with a steep ascent but the path is well maintained by local volunteers and there are a few benches where you can catch your breath.

Eas Mor Waterfall

The main attraction here is the Eas Mor waterfall which drops 103 feet over a cliff edge into a deep and narrow gorge. The gorge is overlooked from several viewpoints but the best is near the top. It’s a hard place to do justice to with a photograph as the gorge is too narrow and deep for you to get everything into the picture, but we hope these pictures give you some idea. If you feel the need for more exercise after the ascent to the waterfall, you can continue uphill, crossing a rather barren area of recently felled trees, to get to little Loch Garbad which is surrounded by trees that hide it from view until you are right at the water’s edge.

Loch Garbad

On the return leg, we recommend that you descend the path on the east side of the gorge. This path brings you to the Eas Mor Community “Ecology Library”, a log cabin with a collection of books that you are welcome to enjoy in the tranquility of this woodland setting.

Eas For Ecology Library

Giant’s Cave and Glenashdale Falls -

The walk to Glenashdale Falls is a popular and well-known hike that starts from Whiting Bay on the east coast of Arran. The waterfall is the most spectacular on the island and there is a very good viewing platform that projects out over the Glen so you can take in the full drop of the cascade.

Glenashdale Waterfall from viewing platform

If you start the path on the southside of Glenashdale Burn, you can combine the ascent to the waterfall with a visit to the “Giant’s Graves”. It is all clearly signposted so you won’t get lost and adding the “graves” into the route will only extend the walking time by another 30 mins or so.

Giant's Grave on Arran

The graves are neolithic burial cairns of a style typical to the Clyde coastal area. There’s not a great deal of the original burial cairns left other than the central burial chamber. Sadly, the majority of the outer stonework has been removed over the years, presumably as a source of building materials for later inhabitants of Arran.

Giant's Grave Burial Chamber

Coire Fhionn Lochan -

The attraction of this hike is the opportunity to celebrate your ascent with a cooling paddle (maybe even a swim) in the little Fhionn Lochan that is found some 320 metres. The really cool thing about this loch is its beach of fine white gravel.

Coire Fhionn Lochan

It is the beach that gives rise to the name “Fhionn Lochan”, which translates from Gaelic as the “Small White Lake”. The beach isn’t fine grained like sand, but the gravel is small enough that it is quite comfortable to stand on barefoot.

The path up to the loch is well defined and easy to follow, but there are quite a few “false summits” so you find yourself disappointed a few times when you start to think “it must be just over the next rise”. Allow at least 90 minutes for this hike as it is a steady ascent but you can come down quite fast.

STRENUOUS WALKS

These are walks that will get you breathing heavily and they’ll leave you with some aching muscles.They’re not demanding in terms of skill, but you will need to be reasonably fit.

Three Beinns -

This is quite a full day of hiking (6 - 7 hours) that starts from Glen Rosa and takes you around the 3 peaks of Beinn Nuis, Beinn Tarsuinn and Beinn a'Chliabhain. These small mountains form a horseshoe shaped path that takes you along a ridge with great views that encompass almost all of Arran.

The ridge of the Three Beinns on Arran

On the southeast approach to Beinn Nuis, you need to keep a lookout for the shattered remains of a B24 Liberator bomber that crashed here in August 1943 with the loss of all crew. There is a distinct scar near the top of the slope where the impact presumably happened, and a few hundred metres down the slope you can see the scattered remains of the aircraft. Not much is left, but you can recognise undercarriage components, small fuselage sections, and pieces of electrical wiring looms.

B24 Liberator wreckage on Beinn Nuis, Arran

Continuing around the ridge, you approach the peak of Beinn Tarsuinn which, at 825 metres, is the highest point of this hike but not quite high enough to be classified as a Munro.

The rock formations on Beinn Tarsuinn are unusually “knobbly”. Sorry, we can’t think of a better adjective. It seems like the mountain is made from rounded boulders piled neatly on top of each other. The best example of this is “The Old Man” of Beinn Tarsuinn, a stack of boulders that resembles the craggy face of an old man with a crooked nose.

Old Man of Beinn Tarsuinn

The Geology of the mountain has also created a convenient little rain shelter on the path that descends from Beinn Tarsuinn to Beinn a'Chliabhain. You have to wonder what were the odds of such a suitably shaped rock breaking off and falling so neatly into place.

Weird rock formation on Beinn Tarsuinn

Goatfell -

The highest peak on Arran and an obvious walk, but we really couldn’t miss it out. For many people, Goatfell is their first experience of climbing anything that resembles a mountain and it is easy to understand the appeal:

  • From the ferry terminal at Brodick, you can jump on a bus for the 10 minute ride that takes you to Brodick castle and the start of the path.
  • The path is maintained to a very high standard by the National Trust for Scotland so you don’t need a map or any orienteering skills to find your way.
  • The 360 view from the summit is great and, on a clear day, you can easily see the peaks of The Paps of Jura, Ben Lomond, Ben Nevis and even the northern tip of Ireland.
  • At the bottom of the descent from the mountain there is a brewery and pub / restaurant.

Looking North from Goatfell

The final section of the climb to the summit involves a bit of a scramble over some large boulders, but the majority of the path is comfortable walking and a fit person could do the hike up and down in 3 - 3.5 hours.

Paps of Jura visible from the summit of Goatfell

 

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