Hiking up Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran in Scotland at night just before sunset on the summer solstice was a challenge I never ever believed I could do, or even be lucky enough to have good weather to get there. The summer solstice is the longest day with the 2016 sunset at 10.09pm and sunrise at 4.37am.
Goat Fell is the highest point on the Isle of Arran sitting tall and proud at 874 metres (2,866 ft). The hike is around 5.6km (3.5 miles) up and the same back. It’s one of four Corbetts on the island the others being Beinn Tarsuinn, Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail. If you follow the links you can hear the pronunciation of these Gaelic named peaks.
The mountain, along with nearby Brodick Castle, is owned by the National Trust for Scotland.
On the day we’d planned to take on this challenge it didn’t happen. We would have been climbing in the rain and the mountain covered in cloud. So we waited, and climbed the next day with a more promising weather forecast. I was determined as this was on my challenge list for My Peak Challenge. I knew deep down in my heart I had to do this no matter what.
Off we go
We were all packed with everything we needed for one night on the mountain. I didn’t realise how much I would need to carry, so my small day sack wasn’t big enough and I had to use a larger men’s backpack. The backpack was almost 10kg in weight and Alan’s around 15kg. I did share some of the load as best as I could, honestly!
We drove to the ferry terminal in Ardrossan and parked in the car queue to board the ferry. I quickly walked over to the coastline wall and snapped a photo of the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry sailing into the harbour. I so love sailing on the ferry to the Isle of Arran. I feel like I’m going home in a strange sort of way.
The sailing only takes around an hour, with Caledonian MacBrayne serving really good hearty food all day. I’ve been on a healthier eating plan since February but as I was going to be climbing a mountain I treated myself to tasty lasagne and chips. It was my fuel for the night.
We both enjoyed our meal as always and chatted to a lovely elderly lady near our table. She lived on the Isle of Arran and was heading back home after visiting some new friends in Prestwick. I mentioned to her that one day I would like to live on the island. I must make that one of my challenges.
I was wearing the My Peak Challenge t-shirt as it has really inspired me to complete my goals many times! As I looked across at Goat Fell it was so majestic and inviting me to stay… that was our accommodation for the night. Yikes!
We left a wee note on our windscreen, only saying that two people were on top of Goat Fell and would return the next day. I also made sure that I filled in an Arran Mountain Rescue form ‘heading to the hills’ and left this with my mum in case anything happened. Please always tell someone where you’re going out in the hills. Or you can take a photo and share it on your social media channels.
I really wanted to visit all these unique island places at Cladach Visitor Centre but the mountain was calling. We started off around 5pm.
After around 30 minutes of walking I started to realise that this was going to be a tough hike with all the weight on my back. I had lost 16lbs in weight since I last climbed Goat Fell, but gained almost 22lbs with my backpack!
Goat Fell was in sight but I knew we had a long way still to go. At one point I thought someone was pushing me up the hill… this was a strange sensation on my back for a few seconds.
We met quite a few people coming back down off the mountain and said hello or chatted for a few minutes. We’re all such a friendly bunch of people in the outdoor world.
When we told two American visitors that we were camping on top of the mountain the expression on their faces was a picture. They must have thought we were either brave or crazy. We are hardy Scots! Don’t tell anyone, but deep down I was a wee bit scared.
As we were getting nearer I could hear voices at the top. The wind must have been carrying the sound. At one point I thought I could hear music and possibly a bunch of people were having a party up there. I’d hoped we would have the place to ourselves and it would be nice and quiet.
Rest at the junction
We reached the junction where the Corrie and Brodick paths meet and stopped for a rest, taking off our heavy backpacks. My shoulders and neck were so relieved and I felt as light as a feather. About four other people came down off the mountain whilst we were resting. Then the mountain was silent with no voices, apart from the sound of sweet nature.
I looked up and could see that the sun was gradually sinking down behind the mountain casting a dark shadow. I managed to coax Alan into doing the sun salutation for me and this was the result!
The hardest part was still ahead of us though. I knew that climbing the rocky steps would take a while and we were already both feeling aches and pains. It was also difficult at some points to see where the path was.
This little fellow made me laugh out loud though!
Trig point and anvil
I can’t believe we made it!
The sun was still setting and magical beams of light were dancing around the mountains for us. This must have been the party I heard earlier!
There was a huge blacksmith’s anvil at the top! This 120kg anvil was recently dragged up the mountain by big Davy Ballantyne for his marathon challenge to raise funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). It took him 26 days to pull this up from Corrie to the top!
I personally admire and love this challenge. After seeing the anvil for myself I feel it’s an interesting and motivational feature on the mountain. It will also get people talking about it and wanting to find out more about its story.
Over the next many generations it will be a story that is told as part of our history and could become myth… you know how stories can change over the years … Davy could end up being the giant who carried it on his shoulders!
It could be presented better though if it was only the anvil that lived there with possibly a plaque. We also don’t want to encourage everyone to start leaving things on the mountain or it will become a right mess.
Enjoy some more photos of views.
Pitch with a view
So after taking a few photos of the changing sky, we scouted around the mountain to see if we could find a safe grassy place to pitch.
We found this perfect little spot with shelter, flat grass and of course this breathtaking view. Even though there was a huge boulder sheltering our tent, the wind was blowing from the other direction and it was a wee bit on the wild side. I didn’t think it would be possible, but we pitched.
When we were all set up I sat with the tent door open for about five minutes before the wind got worse and I had to zip it up.
My Arran Blonde beer also wanted to join me … and even though I really wanted to drink it and thought I’d earned the right to, I didn’t. Don’t ask me why!
Twas a bit windy
We’ve had this two person Tiso tent for ten years now and I’m really pleased that it withstood the wind and rain on top of the mountain. It weighs 4kg though, so this added to our heavy load.
Five second moon and dark blurry night views
It was so cold and windy but we wanted to see if the strawberry moon was visible so we popped back out of our tent and only just captured a few night time photos. Trying to take a photo in the wind and having cold hands was interesting.
Scared or brave
So we settled down for the night, listening to the wind. I started to feel a bit scared … I thought I could hear someone walking outside around our tent. I don’t know why I thought this as it was already noisy with the wind. Alan said it was probably the guylines of the tent, but he went outside to have a look.
This is what it was like outside … hazy and even more spooky!
My mind was all over the place and I started thinking of the Goat Fell murder and maybe the ghost of Edwin Robert Rose who was allegedly murdered by John Watson Laurie in 1889 was walking the mountain.
I have since read on my return that during World War II six military aircrafts crashed into Goat Fell and Beinn Nuis with 51 souls lost on these mountains.
Alan walked up to the trig point for a look around and was gone for a few minutes, seemed longer! He could easily have got lost in the jungle of rocks as he became disoriented even with a torch. I’ve never experienced being in fog on a mountain before, it’s a dangerous place to be and was so glad when he came back.
We settled down again, trying not to think of anything scary. Our alarm was set to wake us up at midnight to see if it cleared for the moon. No luck there. Then at 4am for the sunrise, again no change.
During the night, with broken sleep, I had a jumpy moment and hid in my sleeping bag, but in no time it was morning, waking up at 7am. Phew!
This was the best we could capture of that star called the sun. It was still the most rewarding wake up call. Or so I thought …
We were so lucky that we came out of our tent when we did. After trying to capture the sun in the whiteout the most amazing cloud clearing appeared right before our eyes. I have never seen anything like this in my life! Right place right time.
Some photos of the clouds clearing.
We didn’t bring any proper food for breakfast, too much to carry, so it was hot chocolate and chocolate! I reached for a Mars Bar and then noticed the hashtag Believe on it.
Do I believe in ghosts? Erm … maybe!
Do I believe in myself? Yes, I can do it!
Then the whiteout came back. We waited for a while in the hope that it would clear again but this wasn’t to be, so it was time to check out and head back down the mountain.
I really found it quite difficult going back down with the extra weight. My legs almost gave way many times and I lost my balance falling backwards. Luckily I had a padded backpack to protect me. It was like landing on a pillow.
Our little smiley friend was having a bad hair day!
We again met lots of people hiking up the mountain. A young guy was hoping to walk to the top and then over North Goat Fell, if the cloud lifted. He said it was a beautiful day down below. It must have been as another group appeared and the girls had shorts on!
We stopped to talk to a few couples and many people were climbing for the first time. I was really hoping the cloud would clear for them, and it did eventually.
The wild white cotton was so pretty blowing in the wind.
Protect landscapes and footpath fund
We stopped at the little bridge and then I remembered that I didn’t capture any photos with my National Trust for Scotland cardboard frame.
It was tricky with the cardboard blowing in the wind, but I managed to find a crack line on the wooden bridge and slotted the frame in. I think the campaign has stopped now, so sorry I’m a little late with this one!
I’m already a member of the National Trust for Scotland and also happy to donate to the Footpath Fund every month. If we didn’t have the good paths, we might not explore!
We finally reached the ground at sea level. My legs didn’t feel like my own, so wobbly they were.
What a relief though, we survived the adventure without any major injuries. Backpack off, walking boots off and we boiled up some water for our Naked Noodles. I also opened my Arran Blonde beer and totally was ready for it. Bliss!
New ferry terminal and homeward bound
It was time to sail home as we were both working the next day. So we drove back to Brodick to queue for the next ferry.
We sailed on the smaller ferry, the Isle of Arran, back to Ardrossan. The Isle of Arran ferry will be replaced soon with a new ferry, so it was nice to sail on it. We could see the new pier and ferry terminal being built and it looks like it’s going to be a great asset to visitors and the community.
I was even more impressed with the food on the Isle of Arran ferry. Yummy Cajun chicken, chips, salad and homemade salsa.
It was another farewell to the Isle of Arran and Goat Fell was clear again.
Our 24 hour micro adventure was completed. This was another first for me and I must admit, this challenge was so much more difficult than my main peak challenge of climbing my first Munro.
It took us three and a half hours to get to the top (moving time was just over two hours) and four hours back down (moving time two and a half hours).
I’d definitely do it again, hopefully with lighter gear next time!
Thanks for reading.
~ Dawn~Marie ~