Arran Page 1


"Arran, of course, requires a book to itself. What an island ! What a playground, within an hour or two of a great city ! Its walks are inexhaustible and of every character except the dull." (W. Kersley Holmes, "Tramping Scottish Hills", 1946)

Arran from the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry (photo by Hugh Spicer)

"Robert Burns is said to have been blind to natural grandeur because he could see Arran almost daily from the Ayrshire farms on which he spent his youth, yet never once mentioned it either verse or prose." (R. McLellan, "The Isle of Arran", 1970)


Arran from the Ayrshire coast in June 2001 (image by John Carroll)

"When we were very young, our parents took us year after year to Millport, on the island known as Cumbrae, in the Firth of Clyde. There were several factors which led them to choose this place, but to me its leading attraction was the entrancing view of Arran that it gave.On a clear morning we could see the peaks standing out against the blue sky, and the white-washed cottages of Corrie gleaming by the brink of the sea. And in broken weather the clouds would lie like a dingy blanket upon the heights until the wind blew them over, or the sun pierced them, and revealed the spire of Goatfell or the majestic figure of the Sleeping Warrior.

The sight always filled me with a feeling that had nothing to do with the ordinary processes of thinking, a longing inexpressible, in words: a longing, moreover, that is quite inappeasable, for now, when I have explored the whole of that island, and clambered to the top of every one of those peaks, and know by sight at least the inhabitants of most of those cottages, a glimpse of its dark crest rising steeply from the water arouses it as keenly and namelessly as ever. I have written this little book in the hope that it may be of interest and use to the many people who, like myself, suffer from Arran-mania, and to the many others who each year fall victim to that most delightful of diseases." (R. Angus Downie, "All About Arran", 1931)

Brodick Bay with Beinn Nuiss, Beinn Tarsuinn and Goatfell (photo by Hugh Spicer)

"The Isle of Arran is far and away the most arrogantly brilliant feature of the Firth of Clyde seascape. A romantic view might hold that the lone monolith of Ailsa Craig, which rises out of the same under-water ridge, is unique, but it is only so in its kind as a sort of freak. Arran is infinitely more distinguished in its larger size as an island, the great height and ruggedness of its mountains; in its variety, the interest of its natural history and the charm of its coastal settlements. This is not to mention the fascination it has exercised on generation after generation of holidaymakers, so that a devotion to Arran has become a mystique or cult with its own esoteric understandings and odd social consequences." (George Blake, "The Firth of Clyde", 1950)


Sunset over Kintyre.... on the road from Catacol to Lochranza, May 2002 (image by Hugh Spicer)


Lochranza Castle, May 2002 (image by Hugh Spicer)


Looking towards The Witch's Step, May 1999 (photo by Hugh Spicer)



Arran (with Goatfell) from the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry (photo by Hugh Spicer)


The island of Arran , in the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, is frequently called "Scotland in miniature" - and rightly so ! My love of the island is, I guess, mainly from a hillwalking, mountaineering and cycling perspective. Apart from Skye, Arran has some of the finest ridge walking in the whole of Scotland. But Arran is also a magnet for hillwakers/climbers, cyclists, rock climbers, kayakers, geologists, golfers, fishermen and folk just wanting to get away from mainland life in general.

I first became aware of Arran in the late 1960s /early 1970s when my family holidayed in Millport  on the island of Great Cumbrae (around 10k's / 7 miles  northeast of Arran). Arran, with its massive peaks, seemed like another world to me. One of my first visits to Arran was in the late 1970s - with my late father - on a grey, cold summer day... and, I figure, my illusions were a wee bit shattered. But not for long.... I guess I try and visit the island at any opportunity. As R. Angus Downie (in the text above) would say, I have a bad case of Arran-mania.

Arran is the largest island in the Firth of Clyde. The road round the island - which keeps to the coast for the majority of the time - is 90k's ( 56miles). The highest peak on the island, Goatfell, rises to just over 870 metres (around 2,860 feet). The island has a resident population of around 4,500 Arranachs, around a quarter of whom live in the commercial capital of Brodick (which is the least attractive village on the island - so don't be put off when you come off the ferry). 

Arran also has around 12 designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI's) (as designated by Scottish Natural Heritage). For more information about Arran's SSSI's, checkout:'s.htm If you want to find out more about the island's fascinating geological history, checkout:

On a clear day, from the Ayrshire coast, the visual impact of the island can be nothing short of breathtaking - but don't take my word for it. Check out the images which follow and then go and see for yourself.

The view below shows how Arran looks on a summer evening from the Ayrshire coast near Seamill.


Arran from the Ayrshire coast, August 1999 (photo by Hugh Spicer)


I love hillwalking and enjoy climbing the Munros but the peaks and Corbetts on Arran really put many a mainland Munro in the shade. Arran has, in all, four Corbetts. (A Corbett is a Scottish mountain of between 762 metres (2,500 feet) and 914 metres (2,999 feet) high with an ascent of at least 152 metres (500 feet) all round.)

The Corbetts are Goatfell - the highest and most famous mountain on the island; Cir Mhor (pronounced Keer-Vor) which really is one of the most beautiful mountains in Scotland; Caisteal Abhail (pronounced Kasteel Aval) and Ben Tarsuinn (pronounced Ben Tarssin). Sure so none of these mountains are Munros because they do not reach that magical 914 metres (3,000 feet) figure. But these mountains are major undertakings. The Arran ridges are the most spectacular in Scotland, with the exception of the Skye ridges.

It is a very humbling experience to stand on the summit of Caisteal Abhail on a clear, sunny day and look across and gaze in awe at Cir Mhor, Goatfell and the Firth of Clyde.

I don't intend to go into a lot of detailled information about the island. Too many others have already done that and probably far better than I ever could ! I just want to share some images and give you a wee taste of a really magical place barely 75k's (45miles) from Glasgow.....You'll find a lot of links to further information on my Links page





Arran from Portencross, Ayrshire (photo by Heather Blair)

The awesome profile of the island from Portencross, Ayrshire....


The outstanding beauty of Glen Sannox is revealed in the image below.


Cir Mhor from Glen Sannox, July 2000 (photo by Hugh Spicer)

One of the most remote and beautiful villages on Arran is Lochranza (below) situated at the north end of the island - around 22.5k's (14 miles) from Brodick. This is a view looking east from Lochranza Castle. For more info about Lochranza checkout:


Looking across Loch Ranza towards Torr Nead an Eoin (photo by Hugh Spicer)


Arran viewed from the decks of the paddle steamer Waverley near Garroch Head (Bute) in 1989 (photo by Hugh Spicer)


Cir Mhor from North Goatfell (photo by Hugh Spicer)

The view above (taken from North Goatfell in May 1999) is looking towards two of Arran's Corbetts. The peak on the left is Cir Mhor (pronounced Keer-Vor) and the peak on the right is that of Caisteal Abhail (pronounced Kasteel Aval).


Climbing Whin Dyke - great fun ! (photo by Martin Brookes)


The view above was taken on an ascent of Cir Mhor in August 1998. Just for a change, the ascent was done via the long (wet and muddy !) walk in through Glen Sannox and the climb up Whin Dyke and onto The Saddle. A great opportunity to get a wee bit of scrambling in !! For non-climbers the Glen Sannox - Saddle - Glen Rosa trip makes a really enjoyable and long walk. The only downers are that Glen Sannox is just so wet and damp and the ascent up Whin Dyke requires a wee bit of getting your hands dirty ! But its smashing fun !!


Winter in Glen Rosa (photo by Hugh Spicer)


Winter sunshine at Cladach, Brodick Bay - Glen Cloy beyond (photo by Hugh Spicer)


Cir Mhor, May 1999 (photo by Hugh Spicer)

And the picture above is the beautiful pointy peak of Cir Mhor itself (on the right). The peaks of Goatfell (centre left) and North Goatfell (left) can also be seen. The Saddle is the dip in the ridges in the centre of the picture.

Glen Rosa with Cir Mhor in the background (photo by Hugh Spicer)

This is a view of beautiful Glen Rosa with Cir Mhor in the background. Many non-climbers / hillwalkers enjoy a liesurely walk up this Glen to The Saddle. The scenery is jaw-dropping.

"The scenery is majestic, and blackcock and grouse are numerous. A small number of red deer are also found. In the whole of Britain, there are few valleys more magnificent than Glen Rosa and Glen Sannox". (John Scott Hughes "Harbours of the Clyde" 1954)