Posts tagged ‘Isle of Arran’

November 17, 2013

Postcards from Arran part three – Coast, stones, caves and waterfalls

by backpackingbongos

One of the pleasures of taking a campervan to Scotland is being able to park up in remote and secluded spots each night.  This is exactly what I did for the eight nights on the Isle of Arran.  Sometimes it was just me and the dog, other nights I joined the other two vans for sociable evenings.  With the weather being as wild as it was I was glad not to have been backpacking in a tent.  Having a van meant that I could wait out the worst of the weather, dashing out for quick walks in between weather systems.  It would be wrong to name the places where we ‘wild’ camped, so instead here are a couple of photos of my favourite spots.

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Fionn Bhealach (444 metres) and the north coast

The main lesson I learnt on this walk was not to underestimate bad weather even on the lower hills.  This was a full day circuit that took in a trackless moorland ridge before returning along the coast.  I measured sustained wind speeds of 50mph on the open moorland which made it difficult to walk.  I would often have to kneel down during the strongest gusts to prevent being blown over. Add into the mix heavy horizontal rain and I began to doubt my wisdom of leaving the comfort of the van.  Reuben kept disappearing to hide behind anything that would give him shelter.

The unpleasant moorland trudge was soon left behind for a spectacular coastal walk along a well-defined path.  This took us past Laggan cottage and the Fallen rocks.  A section to savour.

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Kings Cave and The Doon

A popular waymarked circular walk took us to the Kings Cave.  This contains Christian and pre-Christian carvings, some of which are quite beautiful.  I found myself following a rather noisy family so decided to peel off to the south to have a look at The Doon with its impressive columnar basalt cliffs.  An enjoyable leg stretcher.

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Machrie Moor Standing Stones

I waited until late afternoon before walking the mile or so to the various stone circles and standing stones on Machrie Moor.  I was lucky to time my visit when no one else was around.  A very atmospheric spot.

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Eas Mor (waterfall)

This was a quick diversion on the way to somewhere else.  During a day of vicious squally showers I managed to time a thirty minute dash without getting wet.  An impressive cascade hidden in the forest above Kildonan.

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Blackwaterfoot to Drumadoon point

Visibility was down to a couple of hundred metres as we sat in the wind and rain lashed Bongo.  The sea and sky had merged under the heavy black clouds.  The shower had blown in from the Argyll peninsular to the west, a solid wall of weather.  Thankfully it cleared as quickly as it had appeared, the sky washed clean.  A stroll along the sandy beach to Drumadoon point was timed to catch a spectacular sunset.  The feel of sand under Reuben’s paws sent him into canine heaven.

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November 10, 2013

Postcards from Arran part two – Moorland

by backpackingbongos

A large chunk of Arran is covered in moorland, this rising to high rocky mountains in the north.  Rough, rugged and empty it provided a welcome alternative to climbing up high during a sustained period of windy weather.

Sail Chalmadale – 480 metres

I spent the night in the van, metres from the sea at the mouth of Lorsa Water.  A windy spot where I did not risk raising the roof of the Bongo for fear of it being damaged.  It was a high tide in the morning and I was surprised at just how close the waves were.

The owners of Dougarie Lodge are keen to keep the public away from their country pile.  A path takes a circuitous route to avoid the buildings, depositing you further along the track that runs to Loch Lorsa.  Here I met a shooting party, who although polite did not appear overwhelmingly pleased to see me.  They were showing great skill in bringing down pheasants, possibly the dumbest creature on earth.

Tweed and gunshots were left behind for the march up the glen, first along a good track to the loch and then a boggy squelch through tussocky grass.  On the long steady plod towards the summit Reuben gave me cause for concern as he was lagging behind.  This soon dissipated once the wind got under his sails on the summit ridge.  For a lowly 480 metres Sail Chalmadale is a pretty fine viewpoint, mountains to one side, the sea to the other.

The trek down the south west ridge was hard going.  Steep and rocky at first, bog and vegetation lower down.  A great walk and the only day when it did not rain.

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Tighvein – 458 metres

Tighvein is the highest point on the southern part of the island.  It was worthy destination for a quick leg stretcher before wind and rain once again swept in from the west.

There is a way marked trail from the car park at Dyemill to Urie Loch.  This is not marked on my 1:25,000 map, a little bit disconcerting when Reuben and I plunged into the forest.  It was a steady plod through a rather dark plantation before a final steep pull onto the moors.  The small loch sits in a hollow, a boulder providing shelter to get out the sandwiches.

The final walk to the freshly painted trig point is short but tough, the deep tangled heather making the going rather slow.

As expected the view was extensive across the surrounding bleak moors.  Within minutes of arrival the clouds started to shroud the summit, it was raining heavily by the time we got back to the Bongo.

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November 5, 2013

Postcards from Arran part one – Mountains

by backpackingbongos

The Isle of Arran has long been on my extensive list of places to visit.  An invite from Geoff and Chrissie to celebrate his sixtieth birthday gave me the perfect opportunity.  Nine humans and four canines would meet up at various points in the week to celebrate both the great outdoors and Geoff meeting the eligibility criteria for a bus pass.

The Bongo was the accommodation for myself and Reuben the Mountain Staffy.  Eight nights spent parked up at various ‘wild’ pitches around the island.  Each night I would be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the sea, the roar of a river, the hammering of rain, or the incessant wind.  A mix and match of socialising in the evenings with others, or in a lonely spot with only the dog for company.

Arran is an island of soaring ridges and jagged peaks and I had plans to explore some airy places.  The weather for the last week of October really did not play ball.  A succession of weather fronts zipped across the island often bringing heavy rain and gale force winds.  Plans soon dissolved in the soggy rain and much of the week was spent low.  However I did manage to get up high on two days.

Goat Fell – 874 metres

It would be rude to visit Arran and not climb its highest peak.  There was one day that offered a glimmer of hope amongst a thoroughly depressing weather forecast.  I had the opportunity to be sociable for the day and join a multitude of bipeds and quadrupeds on the ascent.  However they had chosen a rendezvous time before the magic hour of 9.00am.  Therefore I treated myself to an extra hours sleep and a solitary wander with Reuben.

For once I was more than happy to climb a mountain by the ‘tourist’ route and return the same way.  Although the rain had mostly ceased, the winds were too much of a concern to attempt any form of scrambling.  The route is short and sweet and includes forest, open moorland and a final rocky climb to the summit.  Being half term it was a busy day on the hill, everyone friendly and enjoying themselves.  Shortly after a brief squally snow shower near the summit I found myself shuddering at the sight of a teenager climbing in shorts and t-shirt.

I don’t think that Reuben has met so many people on a hill in one day before.  He kept on disappearing only to be found having gatecrashed various folks rest stops / lunch breaks.  A bit of an embarrassment but in a good way.

The views on the way up and from the summit itself are outstanding.  I can’t wait to return to attempt some of those rocky ridges in good weather.

The day was finished off nicely with a visit to the Arran brewery, the route passing the front door.  Twelve bottles of Arran Sunset for £15 being a bit of a bargain.

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Caisteal Abhail – 859 metres

The following day there was a brief window of opportunity to bag another mountain.  The forecast was for benign conditions before a three hour storm rolled in at midday.  I therefore formulated a plan to bag Caisteal Abhail and be back at the van before it arrived.

I parked at the North Glen Sannox car park for a noisy night, the van filled with the roar of the lively river.  I was away by torchlight at 6.45am followed by a rather reticent Reuben, tired from the day before.  A well-built path led along the river for a mile or so before depositing us in the usual highland bog.

I did consider taking a direct route up the north ridge but had been unable to find much written about it.  I was not keen to do any scrambling with Reuben in tow so climbed into the Garbh Coire and picked a way up the slopes to Sail an Im.  It was atmospheric with swirling cloud but I started to get concerned by the wind which was increasing with every step taken.  By the time we were on the ridge between Carn Mor and Caisteal Abhail I moved away from the edge in case I lost my balance.  We got right up to the second rocky tor on the summit plateau and then I bottled it.  There was an open area between the next tor and the wind was screaming, ragged cloud being dragged at great speed between them.  I had visions of being picked up and being thrown unceremoniously into the coire below.  Not only would I have to dash across in the wind there was a short rocky scramble onto the summit tor.  Reuben was also making his general unhappiness at the situation known.  It was probably only fifty metres to the summit.

It was with great reluctance that I returned the way I had come.  I will return.

The forecasted storm hit bang on at midday and lasted the predicted three hours.  It was rather exhilarating sitting in a wind and rain lashed Bongo a few metres from the Sea.  I dread to think what the conditions would have been like on the mountain then.

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