Having had a pretty inconsistent summer in terms of weather, I was keen to try and get another hill walk or 2 in before starting my new job in September after graduating university. With a half decent spell of weather for a day or 2 coming, we opted for a familiar favourite – the fantastic Isle of Arran – and the Corbett I had been up least, Cir Mhor.
The great thing about visiting Arran is the lack of driving and the chance to simply relax on the hour-long crossing from Ardrossan to Brodick. As much as it’s tough to beat driving on some of Scotland’s amazing roads with breathtaking scenery on the way to a big Munro day, there’s something very appealing and much more stress-free about sitting on the ferry and watching Arran’s jagged mountains get bigger and closer with every passing moment.
We had decided to catch the 0700 sailing, getting us into Brodick a little before 0800, and caught the bus north to Sannox to begin our walk.
The path up Glen Sannox is one that I’ve been on quite a few times, but it always gets me excited when the first Glimpses of Cioch na h-Oighe (the Bastion ridge) are seen – something I’ve still to tick off my list on Arran. The easy track was a great way to get warmed up for the tougher parts of our walk later on, but for now we were happy toddling along and enjoying the excellent views and fine weather.
The path winds its way gently up the Glen – crossing a few burns along the way – and means you don’t really notice the 200 or so metres gained from one end of the valley to the other.
After around an hour and a half we had reached the end of the valley where the steep scramble to The Saddle began. This has long been a favourite of mine as there are a few different options when ascending the tricker sections – it’s quite fun to make the climb more challenging I think!
Progress was slowed a little due to the steep scrambly sections, but another half an hour of effort saw us on top of The Saddle ready to begin our ascent on Cir Mhor. The path is again fairly steep and snakes its way up the eastern side of Cir Mhor. I had only been up this mountain once before and it was on the way off Caisteal Abhail a few years ago, so it was good to try out the other ascent option this time. The eastern path is definitely steeper, but the views back towards The Bastion ridge, North Goatfell and Goatfell made the effort more than worthwhile.
There are a couple of sections where the gradient eases off slightly, so we made use of these to have a quick drink and appreciate the wonderful surroundings.
The last obstacle of the ascent was another scramble between some of the summit tors before snaking round underneath the summit to approach from the west as it’s a bit more committing to tackle it from the Saddle side.
We reached the summit around 1130, 3 hours after setting off from Glen Sannox. We might only have covered around 3.5 miles, but the majority of the ascent was kept for the last mile or so, so we thought that was reasonably good going. As with any of Arran’s mountains, the summit views were excellent. Cir Mhor is ideally located between the island’s other big mountains, so the panoramic views are especially good. It’s a shame it isn’t really possible to have a summit camp though – the summit isn’t exactly roomy!
We spent a few minutes at the summit before noticing a threatening looking cloud beginning to move over the island and thought now would be an excellent time to begin our descent. We got moving and headed towards the A’Chir ridge, where we would turn off at the top of Fionn Coire to drop down into Glen Rosa. The rain hit just as we reached the small cairn marking the top of the path down into the valley, so we quickly put our waterproofs on and carefully made our way down the rocky staircase.
Almost as quickly as it had arrived, the rain was gone. The shower had lasted around 15 minutes but, as always, was enough to soak the waterproofs and make the rocks nice and slippy for walking on. We weren’t complaining though, as the sun was soon out again to dry us and our kit off.
After the initially steep rocky staircase, the going was fairly easy as we steadily made our way down the now busy Glen Rosa. This was a stark contrast to the quiet and remote feeling Glen Sannox we had walked through just a couple of hours earlier.
Another hour and a half or so from the bottom of the staircase saw us to the end of the path where the Land Rover track begins and from there it was a gentle few miles back to Brodick.
Once again, Arran did not disappoint. I’m very lucky to have such a wonderful place so close to home and so easily accessible. Arran – I’ll be back soon!