Gadding about on Goatfell

Across Brodick Bay 

The walk round the bay from Brodick harbour to the start of the path is only slightly marred by the golf course (what’s that they say about a good walk spoiled?). However, the greens are placed unfeasibly close to the shore and hopefully the effects of global warming will soon kick in and the rolling greens will disappear beneath the rolling waves (I may be a tad more anti-golf that usual today due to being nearly killed by an errant ball that passed low overhead on the return journey, with not even a word of apology from my would be lobotomiser).

Anyway, Arran, Goatfell! I’ve sampled Goatfell before just over a year ago, but had to turn back half way up due to my walking companion that day deciding they had reached their maximum altitude. Today though, we were going to make it. Of course by today, I mean yesterday, Sunday, I tried writing this last night but being a tad on the tired side it became a morass of terrible writing (not that I claim this to be particularly good writing) and boring cliches (not that I claim this to be not boring or un-cliched). So I shall take some artistic licence with my use of the term ‘Today’.

The day started early, catching the 08:40 train from Glasgow (okay, so not that early, but it was a Sunday) then the ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick. The ferry chugging across a calm sea, pulling up at the dock to be greeted by an island bathed in warm sunlight with just the hint of a refreshing sea breeze. Those of you familiar with the area will know the word “sunlight” is not often associated with the phrase “west of Scotland”, so we counted ourselves lucky to have such amazing weather. We popped into the local co op to get supplies, emerging with ‘Southern fried chicken poppers’ and ‘cheese bacon bites’ which on later inspection turned out to taste of almost the exact same chemicals. I also had an apple, so let it never be said that students have a poor diet.

A kilometre around the bay (past the aforementioned blight) and you reach the start of the Goatfell path. First though, you must resist the draw of the Arran Brewery, we were sadly pressed for time today so didn’t have a chance to sample the pleasure of that establishment but I have done so in the past and it makes for a wonderful post walk pint stop.

The path ascends through a beautiful forest, a mixture of pine and silver birch, the sunlight dappling through the leaves onto the mossy carpet below with the trickle of distant streams playing in your ear. Even Kyle, a good friend and my walking buddy for the day, found it beautiful through the slightly dimming lens of his hangover.

Breaking out of the forest we ascended the valley to the foot of the mountain. At 874m Goatfell isn’t the highest of mountains, though as one starts literally from sea level that is a full 874m of climb, nor is it particularly challenging (as is evidenced by the near unbroken string of walkers from base to summit) but it offers some stunning views out across the other peaks of Arran, back across Brodick bay and over the sea to the other islands (among them Bute where my friend Amy lives and where I spent last weekend camped on a beach in equally lovely weather, it’s a hard life).

The path starts to climb

Here the path starts to climb more rapidly, first peeling right before following the ridge-line to the summit. Covered with large rocks it often resembles a staircase more than a path. With Kyle slowly sweating out the remnants of last night (he was fully covered by the time we reached the peak and to his credit didn’t complain once) we pushed on hard, stopping only once half way up for a spot of blacksmithing on our nifty travel-anvil.

He’s a strong boy our Kyle (genuinely no idea how, or why, this got up here)

Being naturally adverse to paths we decided to cut off slightly and take the more striahgt line approach up the final couple of hundred metres to the summit. Much more direct than the winding path, a bit more scrambley and a lot more fun. The last few days of good weather had left the rock dry and grippy, perfect for bouncing from one to another.

The final ascent
Generic one leg forward, casual adventurer pose (credit to Kyle for this photo)

Reaching the summit, we sat down to our lunch of assorted chemicals, accompanied by a thermos of coffee and the smell of my feet (I can’t resist taking off my boots and feeling the wind between my toes) and, of course, started to plan other hikes. Looking down the North-Westish side of Goatfell one looks into a valley ringed by craggy ridge-lines, which I of course wasn’t smart enough to get a photo of (the one bellow is of the Northeasterly side but still, its craggy and ridgey). At some point this summer we are planning a multi-day hike around said ridges, perhaps with the aid of a rope to help with my slight fear of heights… So stay tuned for more views of Arran with a side of vague panic.

Some would say mountaineering is an odd pastime for someone afraid of heights and to them I would reply with, well some vague waffle about facing your fears and whatnot. I don’t know, I just really like mountains.

See, ridges, crags, valleys, it’s got it all. 


Tiring of paths and crowds we decided to descend via the Southern spur. It’s a boulder strewn prominence and a great route for someone wanting to try a bit of scrambling. Apart from Thursday’s climb up Beinn Vane (I’ll be putting up a post about that as soon) I’ve never really tried scrambling but Kyle is like a mountain goat, and bloody fearless.

About half way down the spur we found a large cracked boulder and decided we simply hadn’t been irresponsible enough for one day, so we climbed it. Again, I’ve traditionally been more the “two feet on the ground, steady trudge up a hill” kind of guy but after today (and Thursday) I think scrambling is going to have to become a staple of my hillwalking diet.

Getting down is always the hard part

Scraping our way back down we continued our descent, into the valley towards Brodick. Following a tributary to Cnocan Burn, marvelling at the crystal clear water and finding a millions different places where we “absolutely have to camp” (stay at them all and we may be living there for some time). All to soon we were passing back through the woods and out onto the accursed golf course, round back to the port and onto the ferry.

Arran is a wonderful island, and Goatfell a great little mountain. I’m a little sad we didn’t have the time to head along the ridge to the north peak but I look forward to returning to explore the island (as well as the other islands long Scotland’s West Coast) and climbing a few more of the islands peaks.


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