A New Route in Familiar Surroundings: The Bastion Ridge

A reasonable weather window gave me an opportunity for a quick hill walk. With little time to organise, I decided on a trip across to Arran. I have been up Arran’s 4 Corbetts many times over the years and there aren’t many parts of Arran’s high hills I haven’t been, but I felt it was time to visit one of the few places I hadn’t been to yet on the island.

[Nov ’21]

The Bastion Ridge – somewhat mythical in my household. Along with the A’Chir ridge (for obvious reasons), it’s the only part of Arran’s North-Western mountains that I haven’t traversed or summited. I remember visiting Arran when I was younger and thinking it looked like a seriously scary place to be, but as I’ve grown older and gained more experience in wild and rugged places, it’s always looked more and more tempting. I decided an attempt at the ridge was long overdue, so with a trip to Arran on the cards, it was the perfect time to tick another trip off the dwindling ‘Arran to-do list’.

Up Cioch na h-Oighe and on to the Bastion Ridge is one of the more technical routes on Arran, but having done a wee bit of research, it didn’t seem anywhere near as bad as what it appeared. After reading a couple of route descriptions online, there looked to be a fairly clear path up Cioch na h-Oighe and then a well-walked and grippy route along the narrow ridge above the Devil’s Punchbowl and on to Mullach Buidhe.

My day started on the 0700 ferry from Ardrossan, which was busy as always. A bus journey from Brodick to Sannox followed and I was soon ready to start my walk up Glen Sannox – following the good track initially before heading off up a feint path along the Allt a’Chapuill.

A braw morning

The feint path followed the burn as it wound its way up into Coire na Ciche (The Devil’s Punchbowl) above. Below the corrie, the path turned NW and headed for the foot of Cioch na h-Oighe, where the real fun began.

Looking up into the Devil’s Punchbowl

I’ll always remember my dad telling me stories of exposed granite slabs and slippery grass and heather from trips years ago, but so far, the ridge was a much more sedate affair. There was a good path to follow and although the odd hand was required at times, there was much more walking than scrambling.

Back down towards Glen Sannox

Just shy of the summit of Cioch na h-Oighe I ended up in the cloud (which definitely wasn’t on the forecast), but once I reached the airy top and looked across to the rest of the ridge, this only added to the atmosphere of the place. Stretched in front of me was a steep and narrow knife-edge ridge of granite and heather – this looked like fun!

The ridge

I carefully made my way along the ridge – following the well-defined path – and tried my best to get a glimpse below me. The cloud wasn’t having any of this though, so I focused on the task at hand and reached the end of the scrambly section. This was much shorter than I had been expecting, but it was good fun and would definitely be well worth another visit, hopefully with less cloud the next time!

The path wound its way up towards Mullach Buidhe and much to my surprise, a gap was starting to appear in the clouds. It doesn’t take much to put a smile on my face, so the odd glimpse or two of Arran’s pointy and rocky mountains made it well worth the effort.

The start of a brief cloud-free window

As I headed off the other side of Mullach Buidhe the cloud lifted almost completely for a short time, revealing what I’d just come along. I had noticed a couple of half-decent bivvy spots along the way, so this might be worth exploring in future.

Looking back on Mullach Buidhe

After Mullach Buidhe, the next top was North Goatfell. I made light work of this and began the descent down on to Stacach to negotiate my way around the 3 rocky pinnacles en-route to Goatfell.

Goatfell making an appearance

I reached the summit of Goatfell and was once again back in the cloud. It was strange to see only 4 or 5 people on the summit – normally there’s a fairly substantial gathering on a nice weekend! I hadn’t really been focussing too much on time until now either. Other than making the last boat, there weren’t any time constraints on my day, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that I’d only been going 2 hours, not a bad effort from Sannox.

The motorway path down Goatfell is one that I’ve done a number of times, so I hopped and skipped my way down the rocky steps and made good progress towards Brodick Bay below me. The only hinderance was a small altercation with a very disobedient dog that wouldn’t respond to its owner’s calls and insisted on barking at me and jumping around me in circles. I’m by no means afraid of dogs, but I have a very strong hatred toward pets of the canine variety that cannot be controlled by their owners. It may be an unpopular opinion, but if you can’t control your dog (regardless of where it is, quiet hills or not), keep it on a lead!

Heading down to Brodick

Leaving the daft dog behind, I continued to make good progress down towards Brodick, walk-jogging where I could. There were a fair few folk coming the other way who’d perhaps been on the later ferry over to the island, so it was nice to be skipping past them having completed my day’s objective already.

I made it down to Cladach and finished my day with the pleasant walk around Brodick Bay on the Fisherman’s walk before emerging in Brodick with plenty of time to spare before the next ferry. Once again I was surprised when I looked at my watch and noticed I’d only been going for 3.5 hours. For 10 miles and over 1000m of ascent, I was pretty pleased with my progress!

A fine set of mountains indeed

Feeling satisfied, I sat on a bench overlooking the mountains on the other side of the bay and enjoyed a spot of lunch whilst waiting on the next ferry home. Another brilliant day on a brilliant island!

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