Fourteen of us travelled to the Island of Arran for a social hillwalking weekend. Arran lies off the West Coast of Scotland near the Firth of Clyde and is an island noted for its proximity to Glasgow and mountains which are rocky with the connecting ridges airy in parts. Although the hills fall short of being Munros as the highest at 2,867 feet is only just short of the magic 3,000' they are more testing than many of the Munros I have climbed.
The train journey from Glasgow to Ardrossan is less than an hour and the ferry from there was 45 minutes. It is amazing that such a lovely island can be so close to a large city. We stayed in the Hostel as with a large group it is more practical to be together and we had a delicious dinner on the first night, organised and cooked by Ian Mac with the rest of us being kitchen helpers and dish washers! The hostel was well equipped for self catering but on the next evening we had dinner at the local pub although it was not as good as Ian's cooking.
The first walking day we set out from our base at Lochranza - in brilliant sunshine and under clear blue skies we walked up the Gleann Easan Biorach to the ridge. Who says it always rains in Scotland?! A gradual uphill climb took us to Loch Na Davie where a steeper pull took us on to the ridge and our first top of Carn Mor leading to Caisteal Abhail which is Gaelic for Ptarmigan Castle. The weather was so hot and sunny, we had frequent stops to admire the wonderful views over the sea and since we are such a sociable bunch there was much light hearted banter.
Things got a bit more serious from the crag-girt summit as we scrambled over a succession of rock tors and down to the col to circumvent the very difficult scramble on the Witches Step.(Few of us have the ability, or confidence, to tackle anything so potentially dangerous as this scramble. Although we enjoy short stretches of scrambling, we stay within our limits for safety. Mountains can be very dangerous places and we have a healthy respect for them). We descended through Glen Sannox flanked by the ridge we had walked over and the Goatfell ridge, which has the highest top in Arran.
The following day a smaller group of us went on an easy local walk to the Fairy Dell and then on to the beach. We amused ourselves by having a little competition to see who could make the best sculpture from the flotsam and jetsam on the beach. Two passers-by were requested to judge the competition and declared the joint winners to be Jean, with her turtle made from stones, and Ian Mac with a little penguin also built from stones. Unfortunately, there were no prizes just the joy of basking in the glory of winning.
One of the Hillwalking group is off on a working weekend with the John Muir Trust to do some'dry stane dyking', which is building walls without mortar. JMT is a conservation Trust, formed in 1983 to safeguard and conserve wild places and increase awareness and the understanding of such places. The Trust now owns and manages properties covering around 50,000 acres in Skye, Knoydart, Sutherland, Perthshire and Lochaber. There are presently 7,000 members and weekends are arranged to do conservation work. Further information can be obtained on their web site at http://www.jmt.org The Trust takes its name from John Muir, the Scots born conservationist, who became father of the modern worldwide conservation movement and campaigned to safeguard wild areas such as Yosemite Valley in California.
I have now reached the half way mark in Munro bagging having conquered Beinn Nan Aighenan in Glen Etive. The weather was beautiful with lots of sunshine but unfortunately the midges (like mosquitos only more of them) were out in force and we had to forego stopping as we were bitten every time we sat down. Still, it was worth it for the marvellous views of mountains all around.
Coming attractions include trekking in Iceland, weekends in Islay and Jura, Ratagan and in the wilderness of Knoydart.
Thanks to Tom Addie for supplying the photographs in the diary.