Can you believe that it has been a year since I was married on the Isle of Arran and walked the Arran Coastal Way . I know everyone must say this, and it’s becoming a bit of cliché, but time does pass too quickly.
That’s why we all need to enjoy our life now. Try not to live in the past or worry about the future, live for today. It’s difficult sometimes to do this, I know, and also need to listen to my own advice.
I was keen to return to the Isle of Arran for my first wedding anniversary this month but I knew we couldn’t afford it. Then I started thinking about living for today and just went ahead and booked a camping pod at Lochranza campsite for two nights. We stayed here for three nights last year so it seemed perfect to return.
When we arrived at the campsite, late on a Friday night, I wasn’t prepared for the swarms of midges that were around. The longer spells of warm weather we’ve been having has its disadvantages … I’ve never seen midges like this before. They seemed to like us very much and follow us everywhere!
Needless to say I didn’t get to enjoy my Arran Blonde sitting outdoors that night …
We’d already enjoyed our dinner on the ferry crossing so a romantic evening walk down the road to the Lochranza Castle ruin was our plan. I was hoping to catch a beautiful sunset. As soon as we stopped to take photos midges were swarming around us.
Lochranza castle midge sunset
I’m still itchy thinking about it. I had so many bites all over my face and arms. Thinking back it was funny. I was walking along the road waving my hat in the air at the midges. People were driving past in their cars, windows up, smiling, either because they were safe or they thought we were so silly being outside…
The wild deer were paddling in the water just off the road but my camera couldn’t zoom in far enough. Alan took this photo but he struggled changing his lens because of those pesky midges. Still a great shot though!
We did have Smidge repellent with us, I should have put it on. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t like the feeling of putting it all over my face and body. Alan was sensible with his midge net on but I couldn’t breathe with it over my face because it was so stuffy and warm. I’m afraid I’m just not used to the heat and I was wishing for a slight wind and light rain to clear the air…
After too many midges interrupting our photography and videography we about turned to hide out in our camping pod. With the midges chapping at the window I couldn’t even open it to let some air in. It was so stuffy I could hardly breathe.
The three beinns challenge
We were planning to hike the three Beinns the next day. The circular hike starts in Glen Rosa, up, across and round these mountains. I was looking forward to showing you the views. In my mind I was determined to do this, but my energy levels this weekend were telling me different.
I had already decided the night we arrived that we should try a new low level walk. Alan felt the same so I wasn’t letting him down. I will return to hike the three beinns. It’s part of my list of 2018 peak challenges. I know it will be one of the most scenic hikes I’ve ever done.
I’d remembered to bring my new book by Alex Drain called ‘Arran – Lesser Known Hill Routes‘. In this book you’ll read great wee stories about Alex’s adventures with his wife and dog Alfie. He’s an experienced hill runner and walker who knows Arran really well. You’ll also find advice on how to find Arran’s 17 trig points. If you include the Holy Isle beside Arran there are 18.
Let’s find our first trig on Arran I thought. Mind you, I’ve already hiked Goat Fell many times so I’ve bagged that one. I said to Alan we shouldn’t count it though and make Goat Fell our very last one to celebrate finding them all.
What’s a trig point?
I wasn’t completely sure myself. I know that when I climb a mountain there’s usually an obelisk type stone that sits on top to let you know you’ve reached the summit.
Concrete trigs were built for Ordnance Survey’s 1936 triangulation to accurately map Britain. My brain isn’t very mathematical so Ordnance Survey kindly tweeted me a link to their history of the trig pillar blog post where you can find out more if you’re interested.
The next day was our first wedding anniversary adventure, yay! I picked a walk out of our book that was also near a trig point. Eas Mor waterfall and gorge, the library and Loch Garbad. The trig was in the middle of a forest and looked very out of place and mysterious. This year we were venturing inland and into the thick of the forest. I do get excited finding new places.
For a change, it was nice not to set off in the early hours for a long day’s hiking. We took our time and enjoyed a relaxed breakfast. Boiled eggs and toast cooked on our camping stove set us up for the day.
It was a hazy day in the mountains with predicted thunder storms so I think our decision was right. We drove to the south of the island and parked in a car park near Kildonan.
I think the most popular route is a clockwise walk taking in the Eas Mor waterfall and gorge, then the library. We walked anti-clockwise. The longer walk including Loch Garbad is optional.
I was immediately excited walking through the beautiful woodlands, crossing a wooden bridge, enjoying the sounds of nature.
The lower end of Eas Mor waterfall wasn’t over flowing with water so we could step along the stones for a wee look.
A library in the woods? Yes, there’s even a signpost for it. I’d read about this library so I was keen to see it with my own eyes.
This little cabin in the woods certainly has some books. What really touched me though were all the memories pinned around the room from visitors. Some were quite touching. Messages of love, appreciation of life, remembering loved ones and some saying they were thankful for this quiet place in the woods. Everything you need to tell your story was there. Pencils, paper, pins and also a visitor book.
I left a little message and pinned it to a log.
We stayed here for a while reading the messages, taking photos and video. There was a great view across to Ailsa Craig from here too. I didn’t realise how high up we were.
We left the library and headed back down to the main woodland path and walked until we reached the sign for Loch Garbad.
The path was so hard and dry because of the warm weather we’ve been having. It was an uphill trek to the loch. Usually I can manage fine, but this day I was starting to feel a little breathless. I’m so pleased we didn’t hike the mountains today, it would have been a real struggle.
My photos don’t show what the woodlands looked like with my own eyes. The light projecting through the trees and the sparkling water was so mesmerizing. I didn’t get many great photos as I was mostly using my phone and recording video.
We reached the loch and what a pretty one it was! We only met one person who was leaving as we arrived.
We saw lots of dragonflies buzzing around the water. The wind had calmed down now, but also brought back the dreaded midges. We stayed for a little while trying to take photos and video of the dragonflies.
Finding the Cnoc na Garbad trig
We were going to walk back down the way we came to find the trig as per our book. Then I asked Alan to check his Garmin as we’d hiked a fair distance uphill, I thought we must already be close. We were, so following his Garmin we took a detour through the woods beside the loch.
We reached a clearing and made our way upwards. The ground was dry but in wet weather it would have been a boggy walk. At some points I didn’t know what I was standing on or how deep my feet would sink in.
As we turned a corner Alan stopped in his tracks and said “shh”. Two deer were standing in the clearing about 100 meters away from us. Alan slowly got his camera out and snapped a photo before they ran away.
I was really hoping to see the white stag, that would have been magical. There’s supposed to be a few on the Isle of Arran. I’m very optimistic that one day I will see one.
After the clearing and checking our Garmin we walked though these trees. They looked very spooky with a type of lichen or moss hanging on the branches.
All I could hear was the crunch, crunch, crunch of our feet and the occasional snap of branches.
Suddenly I saw something white and bright shining through the trees. As I was moving it started to disappear then reappear… the white stag I thought … the lamp-post I thought … spare oom I thought … the setting did make me feel like I was in a magical movie.
Of course it was the trig. It didn’t take us long to reach it at all. Look how white it is! Someone must have hiked all the way up here to paint it recently.
That was fun and it felt magical finding this in the middle of the woods. I also kept thinking it looked like some kind of port key from Harry Potter. Imagine I really did see the white stag …
It looked out of place but then I realised that the trig has been here much longer than the trees. Amazing, I loved every moment.
It was time to escape the midges, they were getting worse and didn’t help my cold or sore throat at all.
We had a rough idea what direction to go but it was a bit of scramble down a steep overgrown slope then into a field. As we plodded down through a field of long grass and heather it felt never-ending. I was wishing we’d walked back through the woods.
Mind you, I wouldn’t have seen the beautiful butterflies, wild flowers and thistles if I had. The field was packed with life, I even saw a frog!
At last we got out of the field and back on to the woodland trail. Eas Mor waterfall was next.
There was geocache hidden at Eas Mor and I’d almost forgotten about my trackable unicorn and Scotland keyring that I wanted to place in the box for our anniversary. Its mission:
“The unicorn is Scotland’s national animal, full of magic and mystery!
The little unicorn loves her home country Scotland, but would like to expand her wings and travel the world sharing her passion for beautiful scenery, adventure, happiness, kindness and peace.
She would like to return to the land of the Scots one day though.”
I only have one other trackable that’s still travelling around the world. My Capricorn geotag and hiking boots keyring called ‘Climb every mountain‘ has travelled 19,337 miles to date! It started its journey on the Isle of Arran too, on top of Goat Fell.
Eas Mor waterfall and gorge
There wasn’t much water falling at Eas Mor this day, but it’s an amazing gorge. I’ll come back in the winter when it’s more plentiful.
Now to find the geocache. It took us a wee while as my phone battery was almost gone using the Geocaching app. The midges were getting worse. I was in such a rush to get away from them that when I found the box I forgot to take a photo of my unicorn trackable.
We walked 10km (6 miles) all in that day. I was tired, we both were. We returned to Lochranza and enjoyed a nice dinner at the Lochranza Hotel before returning to our warm stuffy camping pod.
The next day we were heading home in the 13.55pm ferry. We didn’t have time to go on a long walk so we stopped off at two stunning glens instead.
North Glen Sannox
On our way back to Brodick we stopped at the North Glen Sannox bridge. This is another place we need to explore as the path leads into the Arran hills.
Glen Rosa is where we should have been walking to hike the three beinns. Wow, it’s such a stunning glen. The last time we were here in April 2011 the landscape was brown and orange like this:
This was the first time I’d seen it so lush and green. There are benches along the path to sit on and take in the magical landscape around you.
The bench below was my favourite. Alan sat here quite relaxed whilst he flew his drone. The landscape looks like a scene from Lord of the Rings!
To the left of the footbridge is the uphill hike to the three beinns. Straight ahead takes you deeper into the glen where you can cross the saddle into Glen Sannox and also up to the other mountains. Not far from the bridge is a circular route that crosses the burn on the right and takes you to Brodick Castle. There might be other routes into the hills, I don’t know them all yet.
We never took many photos on this trip as I was thinking more about video clips. I was also trying out photos with my phone as it was quicker. Between the two of us we managed to pull together some photos for this post. Some of them are not the best quality.
Watch the video of our trip to the Isle of Arran
These are some of the best clips from our Arran anniversary adventure. I hope you enjoy the video. We had such a memorable time! I wonder what we’ll do next year?
Goat Fell mountain hike
I returned to the Isle of Arran with my sister a few weeks later. She treated me to an overnight stay in the amazing Auchrannie Resort. This was a rare treat for me as I’m usually always camping. Hotels are normally over my budget but I would totally recommend it. My sister was lucky to get a good deal on our stay. It was so nice and cosy.
She was very keen to hike Goat Fell mountain as she’d never done this before and always wanted to try it. I know she wasn’t sure if she could. To be honest, I was unsure if my current fitness would allow me to get to the top as well, but for some reason I was totally fine this day. It must have been the full Scottish breakfast on the ferry!
We both reached the summit and I’m so proud of my sister. No matter how painful her legs were she kept going. Determination gets you through and we were fortunate with the weather. There were a few scary moments near the top when the wind was strong, but it calmed down eventually.
Sometimes your mind keeps saying “I can’t” but really you can, you’ve just got to at least try.
Watch the video of my sister conquering Goat Fell mountain
Thanks for reading and watching!