The Isle of Arran is often called ‘Scotland in miniature’ and, in many ways, its Coastal Way is a ‘Thistle trek in miniature’. The trail has it all; unique wildlife, a geological kaleidoscope formed by volcanoes and ice, Gaelic culture and history, pristine beaches and mountain ascents. All packaged into 65 miles of beautiful, challenging trekking.
Day 6 – Brodick to Sannox (9 miles)
Although we still have to untangle our walking poles from their new hiding spots in the van, it’s a novelty not to have to clamber into the minibus. We set off on foot along the promenade and through the sand dunes, golf course and wetland boardwalks that fringe the northern curve of the bay. The path leads quickly to the small estate at the foot of Goatfell, where a brewery and other shops offer up a final temptation to the hesitant walker.
We pass quickly by and into the woods through which we will ascend on the first stage. Climbing the full 874 metres of Goatfell in mizzly cloud, this will be a final effort without the real promise of views. The accomplishment of summiting Goatfell and completing the trail, however, will be reward enough.
It’s a steady climb up through the woods on a good path to a wide burn, where a bridge provides a nice resting spot and views back down to the full sweep of the bay and Brodick below. The trail from here gets rockier, as we climb a little further into the col that sits below the top of Goat Fell. From here the path runs level for a while before beginning to climb up to the summit ridge.
Through the mist emerges Davey, as ever with a big smile on his face. We have reached the crossroad of paths on the ridge, in the cloud and cold wind but only a short climb left to the top. A chance to miss out the summit is on offer here and one of the group decides they’d rather get going on the long descent down to Corrie. Davey takes the rest on up to the summit not wanting to turn down the opportunity even in the mist. We watch them go into the cloud and then start the slow descent along the nose of the eastern ridge and down into the glen. We cross over a small but powerful river and sit by it for a lunch break, watching the ridgeline shifting in and out of the cloud and wondering how the group are doing.
We continue the descent, finally reaching more plantation woodland and checking out some Dor beetles on the path before reaching a road for the final downhill section, and to the waiting van. We sit in the van or lie on a bench by the shore and enjoy a relaxed and lengthy break while waiting for the group.
When they arrive, they are tired but elated at their efforts in getting to the top, and having had a windswept and grey lunchbreak on the summit before following the same path we had. Only an hour or so left I tell everyone happily and we switch shoes, drop bags in the van and head off for the final road walk to Sannox. It’s short but beautiful; a last walk past picturesque inlet harbours, coastal cottages, and dinosaur eggs, coloured plateaus of rock and even a seal (which turns out to be a sculpture perched on a rock at the sea’s edge).
Davey waves us on as he speeds the van to the end and Sannox swiftly comes into view, its white beach and promise of the journey’s end (and a toilet) make for final motivation as we pace along the quiet tarmac to the van. It’s over, sadly and happily; prosecco on the beach and a dip in the ocean where we began marks the end of our Isle of Arran Coastal Way trek.
We dry off and climb back in the van for the last drive back to Brodick. There is always a strange mix of sensations at the end of a long trail, a difficulty in defining how you feel and what you remember of it all. That comes with time but, for now, as the ocean flashes by on our left and the towering peaks of Arran’s highlands loom to our right; we can relax and enjoy the simple feeling of achievement. 65 miles completed, a store of memories and experiences to draw on, and showers before a slap-up meal in our future.
If you have enjoyed Ed’s blog and would like to join one of our Arran Coastal Way treks you can find out all about our plans here: Isle of Arran Coastal Way