Arran – Catacol to Brodick with a summit camp. June 2014.

Date: Saturday-Sunday 28th-29th June 2014
Participants: Us
Weather: Mixed bag.
Distance: 17.5 + 12.8km
Ascent: 1660 + 250m

A rather reasonable weekend forecast had us packing the bags for a camping trip – the forecast details were a bit difficult to pin down but the SW looked a good bet… off we went to Ardrossan.

On the 0700 ferry to Arran, and identifying the hills to the north. Beinn Ime and Arrochar:

Off the ferry to catch the Service 324 around the north of the island to Catacol.

The plan was to head up over Meall nan Damh and on towards Beinn Bharrain, then head cross country to ascend the Corbett ridge and a summit camp.

The floral clock is ever ticking – bog asphodel flowering indicates we’re on the downslope to autumn already:

….and our first cleg bites of the year mean it must be nearly July. 😦

Glen Catacol is an attractive glen:

A decent quality path means easy foot placement….but not for all. 😉

Headed a few km up the glen before easily fording the stream at NR 921 473.

Relatively decent terrain on the pull up to first Lochan a Mhill and then Meall nan Damh – a cooling breeze was welcome after the lochan.

View back to Catacol:

Jura came into view reasonably quickly – the promised clear air gave excellent clarity.

To the east the Corbett ridge rears spikily – Cir Mhor and A’Chir:

Dropped off Meall nan Damh and bypassed Meall Bhig to ascend Beinn Bhreac, a top of Beinn Bharrain. Fionn Lochan above Thundergay looks a nice place to visit:

View back to Meall nan Damh:

The summit of Beinn Bhreac is spacious – nice view out to Jura:

The ridge lines of Beinn Bharrain are seen well from here:

The Corbetts are a bit more of a jumble:

Had lunch on Beinn Bhreac before descending to the bealach with Mullach Buidhe (the Graham summit of Beinn Bharrain). On this occasion we didn’t visit the summit – boulder-hopped SE from the bealach towards Dubh Loch (we would have been better to ascend about 70m as a path heads up a grassy rake to the ridge).

Picked up the path and headed down to Loch Tanna:

Another Adder:

Loch Tanna is an attractive spot – stopping and pitching was discussed. 😉

From here we headed over Beinn Tarsuinn towards Beinn Bhreac, the sunshine faded with high cloud, as some forecasts had predicted.

The Corbetts creep ever closer:

I had planned on ascending from Loch na Davie up to the NW ridge of Caisteal however the descent to the 700m spring on the S ridge followed by the 170m reascent didn’t appeal to my unfit legs so we instead took what proved to be a fairly easy traverse from NR 950 454 across Leac an Tobair to the 700m mark of the S ridge.

Very pleased to see running water here to collect 2L for cooking overnight.

The coast of Northern Ireland was fairly clearly seen out past Sanda Island and Mull of Kintyre.

Cir Mhor is a rather Mordorish peak:

As we neared the summit we were rather deflated to see rain and cloud edging in from the east….not in the plan.

The cloudbase dropped onto Goatfell and started to lower onto Caisteal Abhail.

It is a superb camping summit though – I reckon there are upwards of 6 flat grassy pitches around. On our

*********Guy Fawkes night camp we’d pitched on the east of the summit castle to watch the fireworks in the Central Belt. This time we pitched just west of the summit to see if we could get a seaward view.

The clag built up quickly and we just had the tent up before the rain started. Sat and cooked tea from in the tent.

Jumped out every now and again in breaks between showers.

We could see sunlight reflecting off something on Rathlin Island off Ballycastle. The N Irish coast out to Giant’s Causeway and beyond was clearly visible.

With the cloud coming and going we were still hopeful we might get a local gap and a sunset off to the west. As 2200 came along we were rewarded.


Cir Mhor and A’Chir:

Caisteal Abhail summit sunset north of Islay and Jura:

The showers closed back in soon after and persisted overnight. Got up in a lull to look out and could see the odd lighthouse in a still rather bright night.

Up at 0415 to look out into grey mist.

Up at 0530 to look out into grey mist.

Up at 0630 to look out into grey mist. 🙄

Up at 0830… see a few gaps in the mist.

A very late start for us…..a mix of hill mist and the odd sunny spell as we cooked breakfast and struck camp.

Went over and climbed the castle – the pitch site is just right of the tor on the left.

Cir Mhor with a halo…..still not looking angelic:

Packed up and headed downhill at 1000 – still not sure how the day would go.

Cir Mhor and Goatfell:

A’Chir and Beinn Tarsuinn:

Over Meall nan Damh to Jura:

I was interested to see that the lower spring marked on the 1:25000 map at about 630m was dry. Very glad I had aimed for the 700m one as this would have caused some consternation.

Cir Mhor from the bealach:

Headed up Cir Mhor – the day was improving quickly, if a bit late.

Beinn Bharrain from Cir Mhor ascent:

It’s an easy enough walk up Cir Mhor from this side – despite its bad boy looks. A good view from what is a spectacular eyrie.

Ceum na Callich and beyond to Bute:

Glen Rosa and Holy Island:

Headed down to the bealach with A’Chir – knew that with our unfit legs that continuing past A’Chir and over Beinn Tarsuinn would almost certainly mean the last ferry home. Decided to walk out along Glen Rosa instead.

A’Chir from Cir Mhor bealach:

The path from the A’Chir/Cir Mhor bealach into Glen Rosa has been completely reconstructed and is excellent. Nice to see our NTS path subs at work.

Goatfell from Fionn Coire:

Stag in Fionn Coire:

Cir Mhor from Fionn Coire:

Seems a long way down – it’s an excess of descent when you start at 850m.

Bimbled along the river – lots of time to spare.

Little fishies:

Found a nice rocky shelf to sit, eat lunch, relax and snooze.

Got going after an hour to ensure we got to Brodick with enough time to grab something to eat.

Still plenty of time to look for wildlife and enjoy the views.

Eggar Moth:

Cir Mhor and Ceum na Callich:

Gold-ringed dragonfly:

Grabbed the ingredients for a big prawn cocktail from the Co-op and sat at the shore at the ferry arrived:

…and so the sail home. No nice yacht in front of Ailsa Craig this time.

A cracking walk – a bit let down by the summit conditions for once, although sunset was worth it. Caisteal Abhail is our first repeat summit camp and I can see it being repeated again….well worth the effort.


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