Back Where I Belong: Exploring Arran by Mountain Bike

After a long struggle over the winter months without being able to travel and explore new places, I was absolutely over the moon when restrictions eased enough to travel to Arran for the first time in months. The weather forecast was superb, which made choosing my activity quite difficult, but I opted for a chance to explore some of the corners of my favourite island that I haven’t touched before – it was a good choice!

[Apr ’21]

I’m definitely very lucky to have such an amazing island right on my doorstep, so naturally it’s always exciting heading for the ferry. This time was different though as it was the first time I’d visited Arran by bike. With plenty of routes and trails to choose from, I pieced together a down-and-back route from Brodick to Kildonan via some different trails, paths and forestry roads. I booked myself on the 0820 ferry, which was surprisingly quiet given the recent easing of restrictions (I was the only bike), but I definitely wasn’t complaining – more of the island to myself!

A glorious morning

The views on the 55 minute crossing were sensational, but it was still a rather chilly -2 or -3, so I was keen to get moving and warm up a bit! After leaving the ferry terminal, I climbed up and out of Brodick towards Fairy Glen. Although steep in places, it was a nice easy start to my route and a great way to warm up the legs.

An easy way to start the day

At the top of the Fairy Glen path, my route took me across the A841 towards Clauchland Hills, where the terrain became steeper and was still frozen and quite slippy in places. As I climbed above the tree line, the views to the north of the island opened up – what a view it was!

Before the first descent of the day
Lamlash Bay & Holy Isle

I soaked up the views for a while and had a quick bite to eat before heading off on what was the first proper descent of the day, down to Clauchlands Point. This was superb fun and not overly difficult, but quite exposed in places as the slopes below disappeared into the sea. It didn’t take long to reach the bottom of the descent and the next leg of the journey was a short distance on the road through the lovely village of Lamlash – there are worse places to be on a sunny spring morning, that’s for sure.

I passed through Lamlash and headed for Dyemill – where there’s a small car park and picnic area – to join a forestry road that heads south and eventually comes out at Kilmory.

More easy riding

The track was good and apart from a couple of prolonged climbs, I made good progress south. Rather than heading all the way to Kilmory, I turned off the main forestry track a couple of miles from the end to follow another track that headed for Loch Garbad.

Kintyre

Another few miles passed and I was soon just below Loch Garbad, where I enjoyed a short but fun descent past Eas Mor waterfall.

Pladda and Ailsa Craig

After the quick descent, I rejoined the A841 and then headed down the steep road towards Kildonan on Arran’s south coast.

Bennan Head from Kildonan

I stopped for another bite to eat and enjoyed the lovely scenery in a place where I’d only ever been through by bus or car but never properly visited and it’s safe to say I’ll definitely be back in Kildonan!

Suitably rested, I set off now following the Arran Coastal Way as it climbed steeply out of the village and back to the A841. A few hundred metres along the road the Coastal Way turns north and heads uphill to follow a good track towards Whiting Bay.

Approaching Whiting Bay

I turned off this track at a signpost for the Giant’s Graves, where I stopped once again to enjoy more amazing views of Arran’s northern mountains.

Arran’s mountains from the Giant’s Graves

At the Giant’s Graves, a path zig-zags its way down to Whiting Bay and I had been here a number of years ago, just long enough to forget about the many water bars and large rock steps on the way down – this wasn’t as good a descent as I hoped it would be. It was still a good section to practice some manoeuvring skills on the bike though, so I definitely wasn’t complaining.

My next stop was the village shop in Whiting Bay after a quick cycle through the village on the road. I was now out of water so this was a great opportunity to refuel. The shop was very well stocked and had everything you might need on a biking journey (by that I mean many cakes and treats).

Just before the end of the village at Knockenkelly, I turned up a small and steep road to join a path through the woods that eventually rejoined the forestry track I’d taken earlier in the day. After a quick whizz down to Dyemill again, I headed for Benlister and then towards Lamlash, but turned off once more to follow another very steep road and then a path that joined onto some forestry track to head for Brodick. This last climb of the day was extremely steep and not hugely rideable on the way up (down would have been okay), but after topping out the views behind me over Lamlash Bay towards Holy Isle were superb.

Lamlash Bay & Holy Isle after a steep climb

I stayed on this forestry track for several miles as it turned west and headed downhill into Glen Cloy with Arran’s mountains to stare at on the way – what a view! The forestry track ends at a bridge across Glencloy water and from here I followed a lovely wee bit of trail down towards Brodick to round off what had been an awesome day.

More mountain views

I rolled into Brodick just as a hale shower arrived, but this only lasted a few minutes before passing and revealing blue skies. My 40 mile journey with around 1600m of climbing had taken me exactly 6 hours. Given the lack of riding over the winter months, I was very pleased with this progress. I have some ambitious riding plans over the next few months, so hopefully my fitness continues to increase for those…!

I had around an hour to wait for the ferry, so I bought a snack in the Co-Op and enjoyed a relaxing 60 minutes admiring Arran’s mountains after a very fine day indeed. I’ll definitely be back very soon!

Another awesome Arran adventure!

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