Going Solo: Another Arran Adventure

A brilliant solo wild camp on Sail Chalmadale, a 480m hill in the Isle of Arran’s rugged and wild interior. Despite being a “small” hill, the walk in and out was tougher than expected, but the panoramic views from what was a comfortable tent pitch made the effort worthwhile!

[August 2017]

After a number of adventures with my dad and Sarah I felt inclined to embark on another solo trip after the success of last year’s night solo on the isle of Arran. Because it’s by far the most convenient place to go with the least amount of people, I opted for Arran again and hopped on the ferry for the lazy afternoon crossing to Brodick, where I boarded the 324 bus from Brodick to the small settlement of Dougarie on Arran’s western coast. The journey took a little over an hour and once off the bus I was in dire need of a stretch after being bounced around and shaken to bits for 60 minutes on Arran’s bumpy and windy roads. It was now 1730, giving me plenty of time to get to the summit with good light to pitch my tent and enjoy my evening meal.

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Beginning of my journey

My journey began along a track towards Loch Iorsa, following a detour to bypass Dougarie Lodge at the request of the estate owners. The detour was well signposted but became very boggy only a few minutes in, forcing me to hop from tussock to tussock in an effort to stay clean and dry.

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Signposted detour

The track soon improved and I was able to speed up a little to make up for the time that I’d spent bumbling between boggy sections. There were excellent views up the glen and towards Sail Chalmadale – the evening’s objective – and a couple of shallow fords to cross, one of which had a bridge.

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Good track up the glen, Sail Chalmadale behind the tree

Around 2km after leaving the bus, I left the good track to follow feint quad bike tracks up the hillside towards Sail Chalmadale. These disappeared often, but looking closely I was usually able to spot more tracks ahead to aim for.

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Feint tracks to follow

As I gained height the views improved dramatically. Arran’s western “Grahams” came in to view as well as some of the southern low lying hills on the island. It was slightly breezy too, enough to keep any midges at bay, and the sun was occasionally covered by passing cloud to ensure that I was never too warm. Bliss!

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Good views to Arran’s western hills

After a considerable amount of trudging along feint quad bike tracks and slighlty boggy sections, I soon reached Loch Sail Chalmadale where the evening’s objective came into view once more. There were more prominent tracks to the foot of the hill, where I knew from reading on Walkhighlands that the best plan of attack was to head to the southern shoulder of the hill and ascend up the shallow slopes to avoid the worst of the large rock slabs surrounding this small but rugged little hill.

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The evening’s objective and a more visible route

I did just that and – after twisting and turning through bogs, puddles and rocks along the plateau – I finally reached the summit at exactly 1900, 90 minutes after setting off. The summit is almost exactly 3 miles from the road, so with a sizeable helping of pathless terrain I was happy with my progress.

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I ventured slightly north of the summit to find a decent pitch atop short heathery ground which made for a very comfortable tent pitch. I was slightly worried that my thin Terra Nova pegs wouldn’t hold during the night if the wind picked up, but thankfully they stayed put. After pitching my tent I sorted my sleeping kit, fired up my JetBoil and enjoyed a hearty meal of Adventure Food Pasta Bolognese and butterscotch angel delight.

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Fantastic views and a good pitch

 

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Loch Tanna and Caisteal Abhail from my pitch

After I had finished eating the wind began to pick up slightly so I retreated to my tent to tidy my cooking equipment away and got everything ready for a speedy departure in the morning. After wandering around my tent some more hoping for a good sunset over Arran’s western hills, a bank of cloud arrived and denied me any sort of decent photos. There were very occasional breaks in the cloud but after the light disappeared and the clouds rolled in thicker, I knew that any opportunity for sunset photographs had gone. I retreated once more to my tent, plugged my earphones in and listened to some music before turning in ready for an early(ish) rise in the morning.

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Some colour but no spectacular sunset

I woke at 0600 to the sound of my alarm and opened the tent door, hoping for some lovely morning light over Arran’s corbetts. Unfortunately, I was bitterly disappointed to discover that I’d woken up in a cloud!

Peeved with the lack of views to enjoy, I began packing up and enjoyed some golden syrup porridge for breakfast, an unusual treat as I usually don’t bother cooking in the morning due to it taking longer to pack up if a hot breakfast is eaten.

I enjoyed my porridge and was packed and ready to go just before 0700, so set off back towards the summit, still in cloud.

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Cloud! The “view” from the summit

My return journey was the same as my ascent, so I retraced my steps back towards the southern foot of the hill, where the cloud began to thin, ensuring I could see Loch Sail Chalmadale again where I knew I would pick up a “better” path to see me down to the track again. I reached the loch around 20 mins after leaving my pitch, but rather than stopping to admire the non-existent views, I pressed on towards the track – now running low on water – to rehydrate with my Sawyer filter (highly recommended!).

I set off once more along the good track, turning off before Dougarie lodge to negotiate the muddy section before returning to the road at around 0815 where I had nearly an hour or so to wait on the bus. As I was in no rush to get home, I decided to take the bus to Blackwaterfoot and continue around the south of the island on the 323, meaning I had also circumnavigated the island by public transport as well as my summit camp.

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Dougarie boathouse

All in all, this was another successful and enjoyable solo trip. Hopefully in the near future I’ll be able to venture slightly further afield to embark on more wild solo adventures, but it’s certainly hard to beat the convenience, remoteness and beauty of the wonderful Isle of Arran!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Murray Galloway says:

    Cool ost!😎

    Like

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