Monday 12 September 2011

Five days on Arran

High on Beinn Tarsuinn - feeling good
to be back among mountains
   Being a mere 19 miles long by 10 miles wide the Island of Arran is often described as Scotland in miniature and that's a very apt description. It's an island with something for everyone, for walkers, mountaineers, runners, golfers, pony trekkers, geologists, archaeologists, for shoppers and beach bums, for visitors to breweries and distilleries, for swimmers, wildlife enthusiasts, landscape artists, photographers, fishermen, for browsing around ancient castles, listening to the skirl of Pipe bands, watching traditional Highland Games, meditating with Buddhists, exploring dark caves - and a host of other things. And all this set among the most breathtaking scenery with accommodation in some of the prettiest villages you'll ever see. It was my first visit to Arran but I'm sure it wont be my last. I was VERY impressed. 
Part of the wild life
   Not that the weather was conducive to seeing much of it whilst we were there. Storm force winds estimated at 48mph, and gusting to nearly 70mph, roared through the glen driving torrential rain for hour after hour after hour. Our tent, a Hilleberg Kaitum, rattled and clacked and danced about like a mad thing. The noise was such we'd great difficulty hearing each other speak. But it held firm. Not a peg came loose or one drop of water penetrated through to the inner sactum. Elsewhere, tents were flattened and a campervan awning was blown away never to be seen again.
Path up Goatfell
   We were more than a little concerned after reading a notice stating 'This campsite floods after heavy rain' - and it didn't come much heavier than this. The river, only feet away, rose alarmingly as water poured from the surrounding hills till we imagined a tsunami type wave sweeping us away in the twinkling of an eye. Mercifully, it never came. Eventually, blotches of blue appeared in the sky, the sun peeped through and a rainbow spanned the glen. We pulled on our boots and set off to gain the high tops in the cool freshness of a rain-washed landscape.
18ft Standing Stone on Machrie Moor
   Heather was at its purple best as we clambered by white water streams, noisy waterfalls and up high angled boiler plate slabs to the summits of Beinn a' Chliabhainn (675m) and Beinn Tarsuinn (826m). Since becoming a runner, 25 years ago, I've missed the mountain environment. It felt good to be back, getting to grips with rock again and be surrounded by serrated towering giants in this wonderful wild landscape. 
   I was reminded of a time on Ben Nevis when Hamish Brown, just returned from Ireland, was so happy to be back in familiar surroundings he was jumping up and down with excitement while proclaiming "I don't wanna go down". I know what he meant! We climbed Goatfell too (874m) by an amazingly well constructed stony path that must have taken years to complete.
Lochranza Castle
   On another dreich day the sacred landscape of Machrie Moor transported us back 4,500 years as we explored it's stone circles, cairned burial chamber and giant standing stones.  By contrast, the ruined Lochranza Castle only dated back to a comparatively recent 13th century.
The pretty village of Corrie
   Further imminent storms strafing across the Atlantic in the path of Hurricane Katia forced an early departure from the island, but our appetites were well and truly whetted, enough to ensure a return visit in the not too distand future - but hopefully in more clement weather.


  1. Sounds a lot like our coastal weather here! The tent sounds well made. Took a peek at it- nice looking too. My hubby will try to sleep in a hammock under a tarp this weekend- but inland on the dry east side of the cascades.

    Awe-inpsiring scenery you have there! Someday I hope to get to the land of castles and crags.
    Hope your injury is getting better.

  2. Great report! Did you have any wee dram while over there?!

  3. My wife is on holiday (with her 88 year old Mom) in Scotland and has been tell me how bad the weather is...
    wanting to run a bit of track this coming session I think I might miss my mountain.

  4. Beautiful wilderness is one of the things I miss most about Scotland - not the weather though!

  5. Hi Old Runningfox! Are you keeping all of these posts and pictures for the book that you know you should write? Sorry about the weather but--It sounds so adventurous! I'd really love to see an old castle like that--but we don't have anything that old in the US.

    :-) Marion