Arran’s Highest Peak… Again!

Myself, my younger brother and my dad took a trip up Goatfell, Arran’s highest peak at 874m and 1 of 4 Corbetts on the island, as my brother’s first proper hill walk. This was my 5th time summiting Goatfell and the first time I haven’t been able to witness the amazing views from the top. Nevertheless, it was a great day for walking and the walk through Brodick presented many photography opportunities.

[January 2017]

We began our day on the 0820 boat from Ardrossan (there was a slight alteration in the timetabling as the usual ferry was being refurbished at this point) and enjoyed the familiar sailing to Brodick. Thankfully the weather was calm and although we were aware that later in the day a large build up of cloud would surround the summits on the west coast, we remained optimistic about the views we would see upon reaching the summit.

Not long after departing Ardrossan, we were presented with a spectacular sunrise en-route to Brodick, so we stepped outside on the ferry and took a few snaps.

Sunrise from the ferry
Arran at dawn from the ferry

We arrived in Brodick just over an hour after departing Ardrossan as the ferry was slightly late leaving and began our walk around Brodick bay to the foot of the day’s objective. The walk was very picturesque and skirted round Brodick golf course, which today was completely deserted.

Left to right, Beinn Nuis, Beinn Tarsuinn and Goatfell
Still impressed with the detail of my iPhone 7 camera

It took us just under half an hour to reach Cladach, the start point for the Goatfell path, from the ferry terminal. This was a good short warm up before we began our ascent and definitely beats getting the bus round the bay, which is the usual plan of attack when conquering Goatfell!

Brodick bay

We began our ascent and quickly reached the top of the tree line, taking about an hour to do so. The sky was still clear at this point and there wasn’t a breath of wind so we were still sure that the summit would be clear to give my brother the best views possible from the summit. The climb through the forest was a steep one, but upon reaching a footbridge across a small burn and then passing through a deer fence, the gradient relents and becomes easier until Meall Breac and Goatfell’s eastern ridge is reached.

The day’s target from roughly 1/3 of the way to the summit

The views back down towards Brodick were spectacular and we stopped regularly to admire the views as well as recover from the steep ascent.

My dad and brother looking back towards Brodick

Just as the ascent began to increase in difficulty once more, the wind and cloud decided to show up too. The cloud started to brush the summit of Goatfell, but it still remained thin and infrequent enough that we still thought the summit would provide us with the excellent views we were hoping for.

Cloud skimming the summit

However, a short way further up the mountain, the cloud began to thicken and soon we were nearly in the clag ourselves.

Large band of cloud approaching

We pressed on regardless and stopped a small distance shy of the summit to put some more layers on as the wind was now bitterly cold. Despite no snow on the summits of Arran’s hills, this was nearly as cold as our snowy ascent of Ben Vane just a couple of weeks earlier.

Around 3 hours after reaching Brodick, we finally made the summit of Goatfell. This was my 5th time reaching the top of this popular Corbett and my younger brother’s first time, so it was celebrations all round. The only issue with the trip was the fact that by now we were completely surrounded by cloud at the summit and could barely see anything other than the trig point and ourselves.

We caught very occasional glimpses of some of Arran’s other hills, but unfortunately these breaks in cloud were only a second or 2, so not even enough for a photo. We took a couple of photos at the top and dropped down a few metres to a sheltered area behind a group of boulders and had a bite to eat before beginning our descent.

My brother at the trig point, you can sense the excitement in his face!
Slight glimpses across Glen Rosa

We were soon on our way again and before long, we were back out of the cloud. The temperature was still quite low even out of the cloud, so we pressed on, stopping occasionally to admire the dramatic views that come about when clouds surround the mountain tops.

Carefully descending

We were off the ridge and back on the flatter section of the path around 20 minutes after leaving the summit, so we continued on and made our way back towards the deer fence and footbridge, again stopping frequently to admire the dramatic views.

The Firth of Clyde and Brodick bay

It wasn’t long before we were back at the footbridge and we once again stopped to take on some water and reminisce about the day’s achievements. Despite not seeing much from the top, the trip had definitely still been worthwhile. We donned our packs once more and set off again for Brodick.

Looking back at Goatfell from the footbridge

We reached Cladach about 90 minutes after leaving the summit of Goatfell and began the return journey to Brodick along the “fisherman’s path” the same picturesque route we had taken to reach the foot of Goatfell. Another half an hour or so passed and we were back at the terminal, so we dumped the packs and took a well earned seat while enjoying a bag of chips each, kindly supplied by my brother.

Despite the gloomy weather at the summit, this was a fantastic trip. As well as an enjoyable walk, it was a good way to keep our hand in and maintain our walking fitness for the adventures to come. My dad and I have decided to walk the West Highland Way this April, so I’m now very excited about our upcoming adventure. During the next few months we will definitely need to squeeze in as many walks as we can to ensure we are as fit as possible for the gruelling, but hopefully enjoyable, week on the West Highland Way.

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