Saying Goodbye to Education: A Goatfell Summit Camp

Having sat the last of my final year exams at uni a few days earlier, I thought there would be nothing more fitting to see off my time in education and mark the start of my last summer of freedom than a summit camp on my favourite island – the beautiful Isle of Arran. Thankfully the weather looked kind, so I embarked on a fantastic wee trip taking in an alternative way up Goatfell and exploring parts of the island I hadn’t visited in years.

[May 2019]

As always, my adventure started with the crossing from Ardrossan to Brodick, which on a fine day like it was, is certainly no hardship. I found a spot on the deck out of the sun with a view to Arran and relaxed for the 55 minute sailing. After reaching the island, it was on to the number 324 bus to Corrie, where I’d start my walk from.

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The view for the next hour

15 minutes or so on the bus saw me in Corrie, where I hopped off the bus at around 1650 and up the track signposted for Goatfell. I had been to the summit of Goatfell 5 times previously and never taken this route, so I was keen to try something a little different in the hope that I’d be away from the main tourist route and would hopefully be able to enjoy a little peace and quiet whilst walking.

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Leaving Corrie

The track climbed steeply and around half a mile along, I turned off to follow a signposted smaller path that would take me up into Coire Lan. Passing through a gate, I soon left the trees behind and the views opened up.

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Entering mountain country
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Looking across the Firth of Clyde

After another short while, the summit of Goatfell finally came into view again, but it would be a wee while before I was up there – there was the small matter of North Goatfell and some small scrambles along the fantastic connecting ridge first.

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The evening’s objective

The gradient eased as I climbed into the corrie, where I stopped to replenish my water supply and take a little extra to do me for the night. Although the stream continued on the map a good bit higher up on the wall of the corrie, I knew that it would be safer to collect from here as there probably wouldn’t be much of a flow further up (I was right, the stream was almost dry further up thanks to a warm and dry couple of weeks). It was only an extra couple of kilos from around 400m, so it wasn’t too much of a hardship.

After filling up I pressed on up and out of the corrie, stopping to enjoy the great views back across the Firth of Clyde.

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Coire Lan
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Small ferry, big mountains

I reached the ridge connecting Mullach Bhuide and North Goatfell at around 1810, 1:20 after setting off from Corrie. I was pretty pleased with this progress considering the heat and steepness, so I set off with a big smile on my face towards the summit of North Goatfell.

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Looking north towards Mullach Bhuide

The views from the summit were absolutely breathtaking. As much as I love exploring new places and ticking off Munros and Corbetts around Scotland, it’s extremely hard to beat the rocky, steep and picturesque mountains on the Isle of Arran!

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Arran’s stunning mountains
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Goatfell and a fantastic ridge for scrambling

From the summit I opted for a tricky scramble to reach the ridge again, which involved a couple of difficult moves but wasn’t a huge challenge. There are then a series of tors, but I thought it sensible to miss the first (biggest) one out as I was on my own and had a reasonably heavy pack, so skirted round the edge of this and hopped over the remaining tors before the final steep pull to Goatfell.

I reached the summit at around 1850, 2 hours after leaving Corrie. I thought this was pretty good going considering the number of stops I’d taken for photos and the slow pace during any wee scrambly sections on the ridge.

The next job was to find a spot for my tent. There’s only really one good spot on the summit behind a large boulder, so if you do intend on camping on the summit, it’s worth planning some alternative spots in case someone is already up there. This was one of the reasons it had taken me so long to camp on the summit of Goatfell as I had been apprehensive that someone might already have taken the best spot. I was lucky enough to have the place to myself though, so another few minutes saw my tent up and my dinner on.

After I had eaten, it was time to relax, enjoy the spectacular views and hope for a nice sunset!

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What a view
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A spectacular evening
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Can’t resist a wee adventurer pose
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Jura from Goatfell
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A beautiful place to spend the night
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A very distant Mull and some lovely red sky

I was surprised by how busy the summit was even into the evening. Between arriving at the summit and the sun setting after 2200, there were 5 or 6 visitors to the summit, the latest being only minutes before the sun had set! It looked to be quiet now that it was getting dark, so I headed off to bed to get a few hours of sleep before an early rise to catch the sunrise.

I woke at 0400 to be greeted by a lovely still gloomy morning. Quickly packing my tent away, I hopped across to a nice seat shaped rock on the eastern side of the summit to eat breakfast and enjoy what would be an amazing sunrise.

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The summit at 4am
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Sunrise and Wee Cumbrae
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Lovely morning light over North Goatfell and Mullach Bhuide

After enjoying the beautiful colours and stunning views, I set off from the summit at 0530 and much to my surprise, there were a group of 6 or 7 teenagers only a few minutes from the summit. They’d certainly had an earlier start than me and seemed quite surprised to see me already leaving the summit, but after I revealed the fact that I’d spent the night there they looked a little less surprised!

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Goatfell in the morning sunlight

I made good progress towards Brodick down the main tourist route up the mountain and didn’t meet anyone else until crossing the large footbridge at around 300m.

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Brodick

Being on my own, it was good to be able to walk at my own pace, and I managed to reach Cladach from the summit in just over 1hr 10mins. I was quite pleased with my early morning workout and slowed down a bit to enjoy a beautiful morning and a stroll along the beach in Brodick Bay on the way to the ferry. It turned out I had missed the 0700 boat by around 10 minutes, but that meant I just had to sit on a bench in Brodick for another hour or so and enjoy the views – what a shame…!

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Looking back on an awesome wee adventure

I caught the 0820 ferry back to Ardrossan, making use of the cafe for some extra breakfast, which I must admit was exceedingly tasty and not hugely expensive either. This awesome summit camp has definitely left me hungry for more of the same, so hopefully another opportunity arises over the summer months before I start my new job in September!

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