Scotland is a world-class destination for hiking, whether you’re into climbing up small hills or massive mountains, or even just enjoying a coastal stroll. This vast country boasts myriad choices for those with the right clothing, a map and a compass, which can make it hard to choose where to go and what to do.
Handily there is an island in The Firth of Clyde that offers myriad walking experiences in one easily navigable whole. I’ve been hiking on six continents and for me it’s one of the best islands in the world for walking. Spend time here travelling by two boots and you will soon see why Arran is often hailed as ‘Scotland in Miniature’. Its northern half is a Highland wildscape awash with eagles and deer, while the south offers sweeping beaches and a spectacular coastline.
Join me now as I share my top five walking experiences on Arran…
1. The Big One – Goatfell is Arran’s highest mountain. It’s 874m high, which means some walkers write it off as it’s not one of Scotland’s 282 Munros. For me it’s just simply one of the finest mountains in Scotland. The summit offers epic views over the rest of the island, the Argyll Hills to the north and then on the other flank across to the Paps of Jura and even on to Ireland. There are two ways up. The ‘tourist route’ is a bit of slog. I prefer the bash up from Corrie. For an interesting way back, experienced walkers can tackle the scramble across to North Goatfell and then descend back to Corrie from there.
Atop Goatfell on Arran
2. The Arran Coastal Way – There are big plans to make this brilliant circular island walk into one of Scotland’s most popular. It takes in 65 miles of superb coastal scenery. I like that it has some flexibility built in so that you can avoid certain sections that you may find tricky and even work in Goatfell. Do your research on this one as some sections are surprisingly remote and you will need to check out the local tides so you don’t end up in a tricky situation. My favourite section is around the rugged Cock of Arran.
3. The King’s Cave – Again this is a walk with options. The target is the massive King’s Cave. This is where Robert the Bruce is said to have been inspired by a spider trying time and time again to rebuild its web in his battle for freedom from English dominion. The quickest way down is from the Forestry Commission car park on the hill above. A path works its way along the edge of the forest opening up sweeping coastal views. It then works its way down to the cave. You can imagine the spider scene here and also check out the ancient rock carvings. The other way is along the coast from Blackwaterfoot, which skirts the beach and golf course on its way to the cave. My favourite option is from the Forestry Commission car park as it offers a greater variety of scenery.
On the King's Cave Walk
4. Brodick to Lamlash – This relatively low level walk sweeps from the ferry terminal at Brodick up over the hills to the charming village of Lamlash. You leave the tarmac behind at Corriegills and a track leads you up into a thick forest before a ridge that offers great views back to the Arran Hills. From here it’s just a short hop up Dun Fionn, the site of an old Iron Age fort. The views here are epic, with Goatfell to one side and the bulk of Holy Isle sitting down in the bay below. This is a great family friendly one too my kids have enjoyed countless times.
Robin and his daughters atop Dun Fionn
5. The Saddle – This long walk sweeps you up from Sannox high through Glen Sannox to a mountain saddle, which offers access to Glen Rosa. This is a classic Scottish walk where you have a very good chance of seeing red deer, golden eagles and sometimes adders. The latter are best avoided! I recommend walking from Glen Sannox as the trickiest part of the route is tackling the Whin Dyke - scrambling up it is easier than coming down! For the very experienced the Saddle offers the chance to snake off into other more testing scrambling adventures in the craggy mountains that lie all around.
Robin in Glen Rosa
Staying Over – The ideal base for a hiking adventure on Arran is the Lochranza Youth Hostel. It offers views of the water and the hills so you really feel part of the Arran landscape. It is also a great place to glean walking information and to meet fellow hikers. In the garden you can look out for red deer, red squirrel, grey seals, otters and golden eagles! I quite like too that the superb Arran Distillery is just along the road.
Biography for Robin McKelvie
Robin McKelvie (www.robinmckelvie.com) is a Scottish travel writer, broadcaster and blogger who has been covering his native land since the 1990s. A member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, Robin is the author of a number of guidebooks, including National Geographic’s Scotland guide. He regularly contributes to a variety of newspapers and magazines across five continents, such as the Times and the Scotsman, as well as doing travel slots for BBC radio. Robin can be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/robinmckelvie.