Adventure Of The Week: The Arran Coastal Way
Looking back over all that we have written about, it came as a big shock that we have never once written a blog about one of our oldest, best-loved trips. For most people in Macs Adventure, this Island has played a large part in our lives. It is a place of true wilderness, of community and friendliness, a place of great craft, enterprise and gastronomy and for us, here in Glasgow, it is just down the road. It is about time we let you in on the secret that is The Arran Coastal Way.
In a Nutshell:
Where: The Isle of Arran sits off the West Coast of Scotland, only an hour away from Glasgow by train. It is not a big place, but the perfect size to walk around in a week. The clue is in the title of the walk, this outstanding route hugs the rugged coastline of Arran, occasionally dipping inland to access some beautiful hill walking and vistas. Your trip starts from the ‘capital’ of the island, Brodick and returns you there several days later in a neat loop.
Distance: The Arran Coastal Way is 65 miles in total and we have several different options, so you can break this trip down to a seven-day walk, or power around the island in a mere four days, it is totally up to you.
Grade: We have graded the Arran Coastal Way as a Moderate trip. This means that you should have a little long-distance experience under your belt as there are some longer days and even if you go for the seven-day trip, the terrain can be on the tougher side. The walking is on a mix of forest footpaths, hillside tracks, tarmac roads with grass verges, and beaches with boulders, sand and shingle. Navigation is made simple with the tracks being in our Free Macs App, so with no worries about where you are going, you can relax, look around and soak in all that is Arran.
Why Walk Here?
There is something magical about getting on a boat, more so than a plane. With a plane, it is so impersonal, you are cut off from the world, on a boat you can watch the mainland drift slowly into obscurity as your destination gradually appears on the horizon. The stresses of the world seem to drip off your shoulders and the tangible feeling of going somewhere different electrifies the brain with possibilities. Even though it is a short 45-minute crossing to Arran, this is how it feels every time.
Arran’s nickname is ‘Scotland in Miniature’ and while this sounds like a great idea put together by the Arran marketing board, it couldn’t be more true. There is the rugged wilderness of the highlands, the friendliness and charm of the villages, long, empty golden beaches and a huge amount of wildlife to be spotted. Particularly at this time of year (July) your chances of seeing the majestic Golden Eagle in the north of the island are pretty high as well as Hen Harriers and a whole host of divers and other seabirds along the coast. There are the everpresent seals basking on rocks and on the ferry crossing (and even occasionally just offshore) you might be lucky enough to spot Basking Sharks, Dolphins and Porpoise.
The other side to Scotland in Miniature that Arran does incredibly well is crafts and gastronomy. Over the last couple of years, the craft industry on Arran has boomed, with people moving to the island, becoming inspired by its colours, textures and sounds and creating all kinds of beautiful art. From the craft shops in Brodick to the wonderful art gallery in Whiting Bay. The distillery in Lochranza has been producing world-class whisky and the Arran Brewery beat the craft beer revolution by several years, making wonderful local beers (Red Squirrel being my particular favourite) Then there is the Arran Cheese, a pure joy for fans of cheddar, Arran ice cream, which is heavenly creamy not to mention the plethora of little cafes and restaurants that dot the coast, selling local produce put together in a uniquely Arran way.
The walking is fantastic, a real adventure. Standing on deserted shores, looking out to sea and feeling like you are the only people on earth, then walking into a friendly little town to be warmly welcomed and fussed over. There is the option on the first day to climb Goatfell, the highest mountain on the island, which is not that high at 874m but has wonderful views, particularly over the back of the mountain, into the heart of wild Arran.
On the West Coast, here is some outstanding history to be found. A short detour from the path brings you to the Machrie standing stones, an area of neolithic significance. Dating from between 3500 and 1500 BC there are the standing stones themselves as well as burial cairns and hut circles. Further down the coast, here is the King’s Cave, one of the many sites alleged to have held Robert the Bruces meeting with the spider. (this is something drummed into every Scots child, so just in case you don’t know, Robert was at a loss, defeated, then watched a spider trying to build its web, failing, but which never stops trying.) The cave is part of a series of spectacular looking caves, ripe for exploring.
Planning and Preparation
To get on the Arran Coastal Path, the best place to arrive into is Glasgow. From there you can jump on a train from Central Station which will connect you perfectly to the ferry from Ardrossan, which will take you over the sea to Brodick to start your trip.
If you have any questions about the route, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Destination Specialists, who will be more than happy to help.