No doubt about it, the Isle of Arran is the home of my heart. I love it. I met my husband there, and this spring we took our baby boy for his first visit. What can you do with a baby on Arran? Well, you can WALK! And walk we most certainly did.
Arran was made for walking, whether you’re a mountaineer or you’re an average Joe like me. I wanted a balance of easy walking days and slightly more challenging ones, especially considering I was carrying a fifteen pound monkey on my front. So, in no particular order, here are my 10 favourite Arran walks.
North Glen Sannox
Park at the sizeable parking lot off North Sannox Bridge. You’ll find some great informational signage that talks about the highland clearances. It was from Sannox that many islanders left Arran for the prospects of Canada.
This walk climbs and climbs, hugging the forest and stream. You’ll come to some great viewpoints of rushing water, but the real beauty is when you get to the top and reach the deer fence. You can go further into the hills, for sure, but you would want to be better equipped and skilled in map-reading, which I am not! While the photo below doesn’t do it justice, you’re seeing the other side of the Sleeping Warrior, which is really quite special.
I’m pretty sure that if you do Gorge Walking with Arran Adventure, they bring you up here… at least they did when I tried gore walking YEARS ago. Nothing like some freezing cold water and a wet suit to wake you up.
I cannot for the life of me believe that in all my years living on Arran, that I never walked the EASY route into Glen Sannox. This will forever be on my must-do list when I visit Arran. It was just so unbelievably stunning. For anyone that hasn’t been to Scotland before, Glen Sannox is akin to the best that a Scottish walk has to offer. Lush vegetation, a stream, stepping stones, jagged peaks and a bit of history thrown in.
You’ll find remnants of baryte mining along this walk, from old storage areas to housing. Mining concluded in the area in 1938.
This walk is ideal for any age and relative ability. Watch out for adders, as one was spotted on the day of our particularly sunny walk!
This easy walk has changed over the years. When I went to high school on Arran, Brodick beach was much more intact than it is today (though I hear there is work happening to change this). We always start and end this walk around the small Co-Op parking lot. You head past the children’s park, over the bridge marked “Fisherman’s Walk” and through the gorse bush. You’re rewarded the entire way with view of Goatfell, a meander through the golf course (respect the players, please!), and up the north side of the beach.
You could always come the same way back, or if you’re after a coffee or some shopping, take the main road back to Brodick passing Arran Aromatics, the Wine Port, Creelers, etc.
Sometimes you just need a gentle evening stroll so that you can justify dessert. This was what the Lamlash Track walk was for us. Heading inward on Benlister Road (adjacent to the Hamilton Terrace parking lot), you follow the road right round. You’re passing some lovely houses, the back of the high school, then you’re taking this road all the way until it connects with the Ross road. You really can’t get lost, it’s a basic circuit.
Basic though it may be, you get to pass a working farm, fields of sheep, enjoy the view of the hills and if you’re lucky, you’ll see a rainbow like we did.
Connecting with the Ross Road, as you near the A841 again, you’ll be passing the Paterson Arran Fine Foods shop. The prices here are the best of the island, so it’s the perfect place to stock up on chutneys, cheese and all sorts of delights!
Coire Fhionn Lochan
Not for the faint of heart! This is a tough ramble, but well worth it if you’re up for it. Park at the bottom of the marked track in Thundergay. There aren’t many spots, so arrive earlier in the day if possible, as you’ll want cooler weather for your steep climb. The beginning of the walk will take you past some lovely cottages, through a deer fence and past rolling hills which are stunning. Make sure to turn around plenty so that you get a great view across the water.
All too soon you’ll reach a really rough section. I was walking with a baby on my front, so perhaps I was more nervous than most. Finding your footing is the important part, particularly when you have to come back down this route. Walking sticks would have been a great help for us.
Once you pass this section, you still have a steep ascent, but it’s much less nerve-wracking. To your left is a glorious stream and you keep saying, “just over this hill!” At some point, you’ll finally be right, and you’re rewarded with the calm Coire Fhionn Lochan. Make sure you pack a picnic, or a snack at minimum, so that you can rest your weary bones on the sandy beach, enjoying your view.
It took us about 1.5 hours each way.
Glenashdale Falls and Giant’s Graves
It’s been years since I’ve visited Glenashdale Falls, so I was excited to return, this time taking in the Giant’s Graves as well! Parking at the Coffee Pot, we walked south through Whiting Bay, crossing the bridge and taking a right to begin the path. Quite quickly you’ll see a fork in the road, where you can either choose to take in the Giant’s Graves, or head straight for the falls. We took the rather steep hill of switchbacks to the graves.
Carrying an extra fifteen pounds of sleeping baby on my chest, I greatly appreciated my bottle of water!
When you reach the top of the hill and see the Giant’s Graves, you will not be disappointed. I’d argue that there’s perhaps no better view in terms of bang for your buck. You get to see the graves, the Holy Isle AND Goatfell all from the same point. What are the Giant’s Graves, you may well ask? They are the remains of neolithic chambered tombs, though after seeing them in the flesh, you can understand where their name came from.
We continued on down the forest track to meet up with the falls. As you approach the next signpost towards the falls, you hear them before you see them. There is a great viewpoint to enjoy the falls, and even a picnic bench just across the footbridge so you can rest a while longer. From there, you can continue through the forest enjoying patches of silence as the trees keep the sound at a minimum. It can be quite spooky and simultaneously enjoyable! This track will wind its way back into Whiting Bay, conveniently leading you straight to the Coffee Pot where I recommend you enjoy lunch or baked treats.
This was about a 2 hour walk for us.
This track road is easy for all walkers, but a family favourite for us. Simply walk up Auchrannie Spa road and continue behind the spa resort. You’re essentially doing one big loop down the spa road, round the bottom of the glen and back through the trees along the stream. It’s not a long or difficult walk, but you’re rewarded with the timeless views of Glen Cloy.
Once upon a time when I worked at the Cruize Bar and Restaurant in Auchrannie, I loved to work the breakfast open shift. It meant that before anybody else had set foot in the restaurant, I could set up the tables and chairs on the balcony and just admire the view. It’s the view that I always think of first when I think of Arran.
This is maybe 35-45 mins.
“Spread my ashes in Glen Rosa,” is a sentiment I’ve heard from many islanders. On a sunny day, there is no place like it. You can park in the tiny parking lot on the Glen Rosa track road (maybe room for 6-8 cars?), at the old cemetery, or you can simply begin your journey from Brodick itself. You will follow the stream along your walk, which is a well-worn path, so don’t worry about getting lost.
I’ve walked this path, cycled it, and even attempted to run it *cough cough, not a great runner, cough cough*. Year-round it is a fabulous walk and you get different experiences in every season. Whether it’s a sunny day with blue skies (as we were blessed with on this trip) or a moody grey day, it’s one of my favourite walks, and if you’re a FitBit person, you’ll definitely get in your 10,000 steps if you start at the cemetery and walk to the bridge and back.
The amount of time this walk will take you entirely depends on where you park and how far into the Glen you go. We typically turn around at the bridge, mainly cause we park so far away!
The story goes that when Robert the Bruce was defeated by the English, he retreated into exile… and the local story goes that part of this exile took place on the Isle of Arran. It is said that Robert the Bruce, while taking refuge in a cave, watched a spider trying to build his web. The spider would spin the web, fall, the web would break, but he would keep going. Again and again and again.
It is said that this cave is the King’s Cave near Blackwaterfoot.
A few kilometers north of Blackwaterfoot you’ll find a parking lot marked for the King’s Caves, complete with a forestry map and information. You can choose to make the trail a loop, or go to the caves and back via the same route. We started left, through the forest track, emerging at a gate followed by incredible views of the coastline. You’ll see the gorgeous cliff face at Drumadoon, and on a sunny day there is nothing like the colour of the water below. The path will turn to red dirt as you get closer and closer to the beach, and it can be quite narrow.
Onto the beach itself, you’ll find many balancing rock sculptures. In my part of the world they’re called Inukshuks, but I’m not sure what they’re called on Arran. Make your way across the rocky beach, have a wander in the caves and ensure that you bring a torch or the flashlight function on your smartphone to decipher some of the ancient graffiti within the caves. The beach also makes a great place for a snack or a picnic.
We then headed up the rocky path, the opposite end of the beach that we’d entered, to take the circular route back to the car park. It rises quite quickly, and this section can be incredibly muddy if it’s been wet in recent days, so make sure you’re wearing appropriate footwear. We wound our way back along the edge of the forest, then through the woods for a really pleasant return.
The total trip took us about 2.5 hours including time at the caves, and we rewarded ourselves with a delicious scampi and chips lunch at the Shiskine Golf Club.
Another easy walk, easy parking, and one of the nice sandy beaches on Arran. You’ll see the parking as you drive to the north side of Sannox, plenty of space. Across from this parking lot is actually where you go for the Glen Sannox walk as well. Two walks in one day perhaps?
I’ll tell you a little secret about our recent trip to Sannox beach. I’ve always had a desire to send out a message in a bottle. The idea that years from now (or even tomorrow!), someone could find the message that we put together is such a romantic, whimsical thought. So, the three of us put together our wishes for whoever finds this bottle, our hopes and dreams for this stranger.
Fingers crossed I live long enough to find out if someone discovers it. The only problem, which I realized after we set the bottle out to sea, was that we didn’t date the letter!
These are merely my 10 favourite Arran walks, but there are so many more to be had and discovered. ONE DAY (I say this every time I visit), I’ll get to climb Goatfell. One day the Gods will conspire with me to provide good weather, a stronger back and a child-free day to climb at my own pace. To discover more great Arran walks, or for more details on those listed above, check out the Walk Highlands website.