The Cock of Arran and a Caisteal Abhail summit camp. May 2016.

Date: Saturday-Sunday 14th-15th May 2016
Distance: 18.6 + 6.5km
Ascent: 1300 + 50m

The forecast finally suggested a reasonable weekend, although the best bet for 2 days of sunshine looked to be limited to Arran.

Ferries being busy I’d booked a single car journey out on early Saturday, planning to return to the mainland via Lochranza on Sunday. With the MV Isle of Arran sailings cancelled for the weekend we decided to just go on foot in case Lochranza was too busy with cancelled traffic from Brodick-Ardrossan.

The sun was out as we crossed to Arran, Calmac Bacon butty costs for the year are rising.

Jumped on a very busy Service 324 straight off the ferry and headed to Lochranza.

Route planning over tea on the Friday had come up with a route to wander round the Cock of Arran coastal path and then over Fionn Bhealach and on to a Caisteal Abhail camp.

Kicked off from the Youth Hostel – herons nesting up in the trees making a racket and a a strong scent of coconut from the gorse.

Lochranza YH:

Wandered round the road to Newton Point – seals resting on the rocks here.

Lochranza seal:

Even in the year or so since we last scoped out this area for camping pitches there has been significant path work. Quite a bit of the coastal path we used was well surfaced.

Nice to work in a bit of coastal walking, with a long day length we were ambling along.

Spotted an Oystercatcher peeking at us from a nest on a high boulder – the path climbed up so we were above it. Beady red eye kept watch.

Oystercatcher on nest:

Here and there the path wends through boulder areas, picked our way through.

Coastal path:

The sounds of spring – a wren screaming abuse at its neighbours.

Singing wren:

The geology is eye-catching, some deeply red sandstones are seen all the way up this NE coast.

Coastal sandstone:

There used to be Salt Pans and Coal Pits around here – a few abandoned buildings a a deep looking water-filled shaft are near the path.

Disused shaft:

The spring flowers are finally racing ahead after a cool start.

Primroses:

We followed the path as far as Laggan Cottage before turning uphill for Fionn Bealach. A warm ascent, we don’t normally aim to be heading uphill from low heights in the warmer parts of the day.

Still, a nice cooling breeze was refreshing.

Laggan to Lochranza track:

Near Torr Meadhonach a group of red deer hinds were lounging around. They were very loathe to move – the deer calves must be nearly due.

Red deer hinds:

Terrain up to Fionn Bealach was a little rough and slow, but it does have rather open views over to Bute and the mainland.

Heading up Fionn Bhealach:

Loch Fyne heads away to the north before heading out of view NE at Lochgilphead.

Looking up Loch Fyne:

Out to the NW Jura finally comes into view:

Jura appears:

The trig point is actinic white.

Fionn Bealach summit:

A much better view this visit – the last time the Arran Hills were rather clagged.

Ceum na Callich and Caisteal Abhail:

Had a second meal break at the summit before heading south to the high point in the Glen Chalmadale road. Rather unusual to come to a public road halfway through one of our wild-camp routes….they normally head as far out of the way as possible.

Glen Chalmadale:

Skirted the little hill called Clachan – the terrain on this is quite nice. Short vegetation and reasonably firm.

Ceum na Callich:

Skirted the forestry plantation before heading south up Creag Dubh.

North from Creag Dubh ascent:

A Golden Eagle appeared, probably scouring the hillside. It turned quickly on seeing us and headed away north. Too quick for a good pic. Quite a starkly gold head.

Golden Eagle heading away:

Up to Creag Dubh and the last few hundred metres of climb appears. Quite a nice gradual ridge.

Caisteal Abhail from Creag Dubh:

Back to Creag Dubh:

I’d thought I might have to drop the camping gear and descend 160m to the springs on the south ridge of Caisteal Abhail. Happily there was a spring visible 70m below the ridge from Carn Mor at about NR 960 446. Dropped down and collected the water for the evening before heading up to the summit.

Last ascent of Caisteal Abhail:

Near the summit the views open out to the south. First A’Chir and beyond Ailsa Craig.

Ailsa Craig and A Chir:

Up to the summit for 5pm. Nice to get there with more than 4 hours to sunset (and as it happens to have the summit to ourselves for 16 hours).

Summit:

Our third summit camp on this one – there are a huge number of potential pitches here and there. We pitched quite close to our last visit with nice views out west to Jura and also across to the other Arran Corbetts.

Jura and Islay:

There was a bit of a breeze – perhaps still 20mph on and off, a bit of shelter where we pitched.

Scarp and Cir Mhor:

Room with a view:

To the SW there’s a view down to Mull of Kintyre and a hazy sight of N. Ireland and Eire.

The superb air clarity the forecasters had mentioned was not apparent.

SW to Mull of Kintyre and Northern Ireland:

Cooked tea and sat around in the tent watching the light change. Although the breeze was chilly the tent was warm in sunshine almost until sunset.

Sunset at 2120 so we were out watching the view from a little prior to 9pm.

Lowering light:


Tor and Beinn Bharrain:

Cir Mhor shadow on Goatfell:

Jura and sunset:

And so to bed…..the wind died completely at some point. We missed that sleeping soundly.

Up once at 0300 to look at the view – at least 2 lighthouses on the Irish coast were easily visible as well as one on Islay.

Back to bed with the alarm set for 0450 for sunrise. The air was hazy enough for a rather weak, red sun disc – not to strong a light on the hills though.

Sunrise:

Mist on Ceum na Callich:

Sunrise hills:

Tor and Beinn Bharrain sunrise:

Went back to bed and slept for another 2 hours, then slobbed around for a few more hours after that.

Lazy morning – why move?

Morning lit hills:

We’d swithered as to whether to break camp earlier and walk back to Brodick for the 1355 ferry or to lounge a bit and head down to North Sannox for the 1250 bus. Decided on the latter.

Visited the summit castle tor prior to removing the tent. The Scarp probably blends better than our green Hilley in places like this.

The Scarp blends in well:

We’d just got the tent down when the first walkers of the day wandered up to the summit.

A last look around and then off we went. We followed our ascent round to Creag Dubh and then carried on to Sail an Ime on a well-worn path down to Coire nan Ceum.

Beinn Bharrain from descent:

Caisteal Abhail from Creag Dubh:

With a fair bit of time left we sat around and had an extended lunch at the river here. Lovely spot.

Ceum na Callich and Caisteal Abhail from Coire nan Ceum:

Little Fishie:

Nipped back to the North Sannox car park and hailed the bus at 1300. Busy, busy bus but it had us back at Brodick with 10 minutes to spare for the 1355 ferry back to Ardrossan.

Leaving Arran:

Another very enjoyable Arran camp – Caisteal Abhail is hard to resist. Nice to get a bit of coastal walking worked into a weekend too.

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