They say that the Isle of Arran is ‘Scotland in miniature’ but the Arran Coastal Way is anything but miniature. It is a challenging and rugged long distance route hugging the island’s coastline for around 65 miles. But don’t be daunted, you can also tackle this walk in bite-sized chunks and day excursions can be just a much fun as completing the entire Way.
Given the variety of landscapes that Arran is famed for it’s little wonder that the Way boasts superb scenery, and it’s not solely a coastal walk – there are a couple of sections that take the walker inland – albeit never too far from the stunning coastline.
For most of us the walk starts in Brodick and heads towards Sannox. This makes for a marvellous first day and walkers are often lured into squeezing in an ascent of the famous Goat Fell. If you can manage this you will be handsomely rewarded. Goat Fell is Arran’s highest peak and on a clear day it offers a magnificent vista. At 2,866 feet the views are big and it’s a great spot to get a sense of Holy Isle to the south of Brodick (you can see all the way out to the Western Isles, and also Ireland on a very clear day!).
Other highlights are less demanding. The beauty of Lochranza is undeniable, and the whitewashed cottages at Catacol Bay are well known. Named the Twelve Apostles of Catacol, each is said to have a distinctive window so as to be better identified from sea. More challenging sections resume in the south of Arran, particularly the two renowned boulder fields at Bennan Head (which is tidal, escape route signed) and Dippen Head, which is some of Cameron McNeish’s favourite walking on Arran, but is not for everyone (there is a waymarked inland alternative route). Fortunately the lovely villages of Blackwaterfoot and Whiting Bay offer respite to the weary walker from this wild but rewarding walking in the south of Arran.
Of course with its varied habitats, Arran offers superb wildlife watching opportunities. Common seals inhabit the waters around Lochranza whilst further out you could be lucky and spot basking sharks, dolphins and porpoises. Arran’s plant-life is easier to see – ragged robin, oysterplant, thrift and sea campion have all been recorded here.
Just how did The Arran Coastal Way come into being? It all began back in the 1990s when two locals – Hugh McKerrell and Dick Sim, had the vision of a circular walk around the island. They gathered a group of eager supporters and an army of volunteers who by March 2003 were able to celebrate the opening of the Way with Cameron McNeish.
Arran Access Trust now has responsibility for the route and has improved the path, signage and way marking at several points. This was funded by money sourced from the Coastal Communities Fund, The Arran Trust, North Ayrshire Council and Forestry Commission Scotland.
And to keep in touch with what’s happening there the Arran Coastal Way Facebook page has plenty of news and photographs to inspire you.
All pictures courtesy of Arran Access Trust unless stated otherwise.