Guy Fawkes summit camp on Arran. November 2011.

Date: Saturday-Sunday 5th-6th November 2011
Distance: 11km + 13.5km
Ascent: 1600m + 600m

Finally after a rather dreary run of weekends since mid-July the forecast was building towards a fine weekend.

Close inspection of the forecast suggested the Southern and Eastern Highlands might be best, however one wild-camp plan had been at the top of our list for a while and Guy Fawkes Night seemed an intriguing time to do it.

So – off to catch the 1800hr ferry from Ardrossan. Took the car as we were staying in Lamlash Bay and had hoped for an hour or two on Sunday for a wee explore.

A beautiful dawn at Lamlash Bay for our first visit to Arran.

Parked at the parking area near Brodick Castle NS 013 376. Set off up the Goatfell track, the hills had been a bit cloudy as we drove over from Lamlash but the day seemed to be improving.

The track for Goatfell is reasonably well sign-posted and makes light work of the 880m of ascent. We were treated to some interesting glimpses of Beinn Nuis and its cliffs to our left. The views back downhill to Brodick and Holy Island were dramatic.

We listening to raven calls for much of the ascent – commenting on our lack of pace perhaps.

The summit perspective is an eye-opener – suddenly there’s a group of spiky looking hills on view!

The sharp hills to the NW contrast to the open sea views.

Holy Island remained mist-wreathed.

We had a break on the summit, chill breezes had us donning insulation but the day was reasonable. Graffiti carved into rock is not a normal feature of Corbetts.

Carried on – heading along rocky paths to North Goatfell. A few granite blocks obstruct the ridge but are easily bypassed on tracks.

Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail from North Goatfell:

From North Goatfell we descended to the Saddle. The views to Cir Mhor give pause – that looks steep.

The descent was a bit scrambly in bits for camping packs but nothing challenging.

The geology here is very impressive – not quite like anywhere else we’ve been. Odd blocks and plates of grey granite here and there.

As we approached the Saddle there were chinks of sunlight peeking through. Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail:

Glen Sannox:

We took some sustenance at the Saddle and inspected the 400m ascent up Cir Mhor. The path reconstruction/erosion control is ongoing so a line of white rubble bags dotted the route.

Set off uphill – 4 months without the camping gear had softened us a bit and it seemed hard work.

Nice to stop to take a photo of Goatfell:

In truth the ascent of Cir Mhor from the Saddle is surprisingly straightforward – the path steeply climbs and then skirts the south of the summit to allow an easy ascent of the summit cone.

A bit blowy on this summit so we carried on towards Caisteal Abhail.

The descent to the bealach here was made a bit trickier by greasy boulders – despite being apparently grippy granite the rocks are lichen coated and very slippy – probably a consequence of moisture-laden Atlantic breezes and milder weather. Care was needed.

The lowering sun was giving nice light however – view back to Cir Mhor:

I had been a bit concerned (as usual) about water for a high camp – spotted a couple of springs marked on the 1:25000 map the night before. Low and behold the springs at 640m and 700m existed – filtered a couple of litres and made our way to the summit.

Low sunlight made for a great view of Cir Mhor and Goatfell:

It was a bit breezy from the west so we nipped round to the east of the summit tor to a flat mossy area to pitch. From there the summit tor is a simple ascent.

View to Goatfell:

Watched the sun set over the Mull of Kintyre:

Pitched the tent and cooked our meal. It was a wee bit nippy but a combination of down jackets and primaloft trousers meant we could sit out in comfort.

The views were interesting – town lights were sparse to the NW towards Lochranza and Kennacraig, but turn east and the vista was a mosaic of sodium lamps from Paisley down to Girvan. Glasgow was a big orange glow in the back.

We were also Lighthouse spotting round Stranraer, Ailsa Craig and the Mull of Kintyre with Northern Ireland behind them.

Settled in to the tent with a view of Renfrewshire, Ayrshire and Glasgow to watch the firework displays as they went off – very peacefully.

Got up at about 2100 for some night shots.


Retired for the evening. A bit breezy but never dipped into frost.

Up at 0645 to enjoy the dawn. We were at the southern edge of the inversion that was flowing up into Argyll. The inversion sank in the first hour after dawn to reveal more and more to the north.

The air was clearer than Saturday so we had decent views to Arrochar and out to Islay/Jura and even Northern Ireland for most of the day.

Pre-dawn tent:

Smudgy Sunrise over North Goatfell tors:

Hazel and tent:

North from Caisteal Abhail – most of Argyll under inversion:

We packed up the tent and set off at about 0845 – a gentle amble back to the car. Day 2 of these trips is often a joy – starting high is the way to go.

H and inversion:

We reversed route initially, dropping off Caisteal Abhail towards Cir Mhor before taking the lower bypass track under Cir Mhor to head S to A’Chir.

SW out Glen Iorsa towards Mull of Kintyre:

Ceum na Callich and Glen Sannox:

A’Chir and Beinn Tarsuinn:

As we emerged from the Chir Mhor bypass some sun was lighting A’Chir – looks interesting!

The Graham Beinn Bharrain out to the west will provide an interesting day walk at some point:

We took The A’Chir bypass track – some phenomenal slabby granite sides to this ridge.

The track is a bit rough and eroded but better than the boulder-filled heather on either side.

Once back on the ridge there was sunshine again.


Started up Beinn Tarsuinn. This ascent was punctuated by short scrambly sections, not sure if we lost the path or it was just heavy packs and tired legs.

Views were good from the summit though – back to A’Chir and Cir Mhor:

SW to Mull of Kintyre:

In the distance to the N I could just see the tall chimney of the Inverkip Power station protruding from the fog!

We spent a while on the summit of Tarsuinn – an extended lunch. The wind was still cool but in the sunshine we felt warm. Took time to soak in the distant views over the water. A few ravens were on patrol, doubtless watching for a food opportunity.

Reluctantly started the return – quickly came to the well-kent face:

The terrain on the ridge from Tarsuinn was much easier – flat grassy with few boulders. Met a couple on the way up Beinn Nuis – the first folks since Goatfell summit.

From here we picked up the track back to Glen Rosa. Some nice sea views over Brodick:

Spotted a peregrine flying the cliffs of Beinn Nuis on descent.

Our taxi was busy picking up other clients.

The descent was grassy, the track rather eroded. One of the standout features on these hills is the deep scarring on tracks, a legacy of footfall and soil which seems sensitive to being washed away. Glad to see our NTS path repair contributions in action with some of the repairs.

Autumnal descent:

Once off the hill there is a mud soup track leading back towards Glen Rosa. Took a wee while. The last descent is on constructed path. Glad to reach the glen floor. There’s a nice view back up to Cir Mhor and Ceum na Callich:

About 40mins back down the track to the mouth of the glen and autumn views back to Goatfell:

Then 30mins back to the car and a quick hop to Brodick.

Caught the 1640 ferry back to Ardrossan – with the island dropping into the gloaming western sky as we progressed.

Holy Island:

Arran from ferry:

So good to get the tent out again. The Arran camp on Guy Fawkes worked pretty well and we were very impressed with these hills.

Certainly has whet the appetites for a return.


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