Wild camping & hiking in Scotland: Isle of Arran

Tuesday, 09. 23. 2008  –  Category: Outdoors

I took a trip a week or two ago up to Scotland, hiking and camping with 4 friends. The concept was simple: walk round the coast of Arran from Brodick to Lochranza via the Goat Fell peak, cross the Kintyre peninsula to Islay, wild camping each night.

I’ll split this over two posts, as there’s lots to cover. So on with part one: the Isle of Arran.

Heading up from London on a Wednesday night, we got the sleeper train at around 11pm, tucked into a few beers in the bar before hitting the sack, arriving into Glasgow at about 7:30am the next morning. Really easy way to travel.

From Glasgow, train to Ardrossan where we took the ferry to Brodick, Arran. From the ferry we could see sunshine to the south of Arran, and a massive cloud hanging over the top half of Goat Fell – our chosen route, a nice mountain to walk up to get us properly warmed up for 5 days of hiking.
Isle of Arran
We set off from Brodick, spirits high, and it wasn’t long before we started ascending the Goat Fell path. I think it must have been around half way up where the weather started to get worse. The closer we got to the top, the heavier the wind and rain. Waterproofs went on, hats and hoods up when the hail started.

With a history of knee trouble from running and snowboarding, I treated myself to a set of trekking poles and I was feeling the benefits already.

When we reached the top, visibility was terrible. We had earmarked a nice route down via the Glenn of Sannox, but despite our compass and OS map, we failed to find the right path. We must have spent a couple of hours not dropping any vertical as we walked along a ridge – mostly with a path, but with poor vis’ so you were never too sure. We were going roughly in the right direction, but eventually decided to veer off the path and head down the mountain in a more direct route.

I wouldn’t say I regret the decision (though I’m sure its not to be encouraged), but we managed to decend down a fairly steep slope into Sannox Glenn. Must have taken 90 minutes or so, using a combination of grabbing onto heather bushes and using the tekking poles for support, and innevitably slipping on your arse every now and then, but we eventally got to the bottom.
Goat Fell
There had been plenty of rainfall at the top of Goat Fell that day, and lots of little streams had worked their way down the mountain, rendering the glenn too wet to set up camp in. The only choice was to cross the main river and find somewhere further from the mountain. By this stage we were all pretty soaked anyway. It was also pouring down with rain.

I made a pointless gesture by taking off my walking shoes and socks and rolling my trousers up above my knees as I crossed the river at a point about 2-3 feet deep. A soggy 15 minutes walk later we found a bit of land raised well above the riverside path, rocky but dry enough for us to pitch up.

Cooked up some food, drank some wine and hit the sack after a good start to the trip. Hadn’t gone 100% according to plan but we were happy and had earnt a good drink and a good sleep.

Day two: nothing much doing for breakfast, so we packed up and headed into Sannox, stopping at the golf club cafe to refuel heartily before heading onto the coastal walk up to Lochranza, from where we were due to get the ferry over to the Kintyre peninsula the next morning.

The walk today was much less taxing in the main and the weather far more favourable with some great sights along the way. I’ll let the photos do most of the talking here I think.

Arran coast path

Finding a camp spot outside of Lochranza

Lochranza sailing


We were very lucky with the weather right into the evening. We found a great spot for camping a couple of miles outside of Lochranza, with a nice spot just on the edge of a beach with awesome views of the sun setting over to the mainland


More photos on Flickr

Next up: camping and walking in Islay

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7 Responses to “Wild camping & hiking in Scotland: Isle of Arran”

  1. Armin Says:

    Wow, those last pictures look promising, I hope the weather lasted for your time on Islay. Looking forward to read about it and what you actually did on Islay in the end…

  2. Adam Says:

    Thanks for the comment Armin. Will try to get the rest of the trip posted up soon.

  3. Islay walking, whisky and wild camping | Hitting Kickers Says:

    [...] Lochranza, Arran we took the ferry over to Claonaig, bus to Kennacraig, and a second ferry to Port Ellen, Islay, [...]

  4. Frank Whittaker Says:

    Hi Adam,
    Just returned from touring Scotland for 12 days in my campervan. I called in to the Isle of Bute, and the Isle of Arran, I was thinking like you, to do it (Arran) next year in 5 days wild camping I’ve been on another trip this year but not backpacking, so I will have to get my gear out of the loft, and get ready for next spring. The photos look good, I look forward to seeing more of “phase 2″
    Cheers Frank

  5. Adam Says:

    Hi Frank

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve posted up the second part now, which you can read here:


    Your website looks interesting – http://landsendtojohnogroats.com/. I’ve been thinking about doing Lands End to John O’Groats by bike at some point in the next couple of years. Will read with interest.


  6. Frank Says:

    Hi Adam,
    I completely missed the link when I read your story the first time, that’s the trouble with getting older! Now I’m “with it”, I did basically the same trip 3 years ago. Islay was a little too flat for me, but a lovely place nonetheless. Reading yout report, it seems you had a good time, but when there are few guys on holiday together, it seems a foregone conclusion. I hope your attempt to cycle from LE. to JOG. is successful. Remember you need to be 3 things. Physically fit, mentally fit, and financially fit, 2 will get your there, all 3 and you will have a good time.
    Good luck Frank

  7. Adam Says:

    Sounds like sound advice Frank, thanks. And don’t worry about missing the link first time round – it wasn’t there! I added it after your first comment, and realised I should have tied the two posts together.

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