18 Aug 2007
These two walks both have the same start and share a lot of the same scenery so this report starts out describing a traverse of the mountains on the west side of Glen Rosa and beyond to the road just north of Sannox. The second walk we did was a delightful little round which branches off after the second peak, Beinn Tarsuinn and is suitable for a half-day walk – a great one to do the day you arrive on the island if you’re feeling up to it!
On the first trip I took with Richard to Arran this was the first walk we decided to do. We’d left the car over at the ferry terminal on the mainland as we intended to use the great bus service which runs around Arran during our trip. This had the advantage that we could do ‘traverse walks’ as well as ‘rounds’ if we so desired – this day we did so desire.
We’d obtained a bus timetable on arrival and noted that we could set off in a morning from Brodick to walk from Ben Nuis along the west side of the ‘H’ of the main mountain range and end over the peak of Caisteal Abhail. From there we had a choice of descents back to the bus route round the east side of the island. We could either descend the normal route along to Suidhe Fearghas and get the bus from there or keep heading north on another ridge to Lochranza. We delayed the decision until we were on Caisteal Abhail where we eventually decided to do a variation of the normal Suidhe Fearghas route as we found we couldn’t do ‘The Witches Step’.
We got off the bus at the start of ‘The String Road’ just outside Brodick and, after walking a hundred yards or so up The String Road, we turned right down the road into Glen Rosa. After leaving civilization behind, in Glen Rosa’s case just a few houses, the glen bends left past an area used as a campsite. The path continues along the river bank for around a mile and a half to where the glen bends right and a burn comes down the hillside on your left under a footbridge.
We crossed the little bridge and then turned directly up the hillside on our left on a small path. After a short, steepish climb there is a huge, long area of bog which takes you, after another mile or so, to the foot of the climb up Ben Nuis.
The climb starts easily up mixed grass and slabs to a shoulder when you then turn right to head north up the steep grassy pull to the summit. The route then basically heads north all the way from there to Caisteal Abhail.
From there the pleasantly narrow ridge wends its way to Beinn Tarsuinn – an absolutely cracking route.
There is then a steep, slabby descent past the superb ‘Consolation Tor’ (where the two routes in this report diverge) to the col before A’ Chir which, when Richard saw it, was keen to try to get onto.
After Richard had unsuccessfully tried to ascend onto the initial ridge of A’ Chir, he gave up and joined me for the traverse under the west side of the peak.
We then headed for my favourite peak – the very spectacular Cir Mhor…
The ascent up the back of Cir Mhor is straightforward but steep and the summit is small but superb with great views down Glen Sannox.
After a break and a good look at the views, we then descended equally easy ground to the next col before Caisteal Abhail.
The ascent of Caisteal Abhail is yet more straightforward walking round the edge of a scoop with further great views across Glen Sannox. The summit ‘Castles’ looked very daunting on approach but it soon transpired that, by passing them, there was another easy route up onto them.
The route then takes a turn to the right along the ridge towards the famous and daunting ‘Witches Step’. This ridge was pretty scrambly and rocky but I didn’t find anything to unduly perturb me… that is until we reached the step.
I sent Richard down to scout it out but he ended up coming back up after being marooned above a drop he couldn’t see any way of reversing if it didn’t work out below that. A little way back along the ridge, I’d noticed there was an escape route to the north on grass so we ended up taking that. We came off the ridge just below the ‘Step’ but didn’t bother climbing back up onto the ridge to do Suidhe Fearghas but just continued out to where we found a good track leading back to the road and the bus.
I’ve been asked how long this route took – we didn’t take much notice but I think it was around 6 hours…
Our second walk, as mentioned earlier, diverged from the first walk at Consolation Tor on the descent from Beinn Tarsuinn. You should take a short detour up onto the Tor before heading round its southern side to find a nice little path which descends to the col before Beinn a’ Chliabhainn. We were amused to find a natural (short) rock tunnel going round below the tor!
When you get to the col, look round behind you – there’s a truly spectacular view of the Meadow Slabs, Consolation Tor (which looks even better from here), and the Bealach Fhir Bhogha across to A’ Chir and the Pagoda Ridge climbs.
On the way down to the col there is a very exciting looking tiny path cutting across to the aforementioned bealach. I’m trying to pluck up courage to have a little explore along it (I’m sure Richard will give it a go). The path is probably about 8 inches wide and over some pretty severe and almost vertical crags with a pretty large drop to Coire Daingean below! If anyone has given that track a go, put a reply on here and let me know what it’s like!
When you’ve had your fill of the view there’s a very easy climb up onto Beinn a’ Chliabhain which has a surprisingly narrow and slabby summit ridge. We clambered all over it and tried to stay on the ridge as much as possible but it was quite tricky in places. I also found a lower ledge above the very large drop into Glen Rosa but even Richard thought that was a daft route and left me to it.
When you finish the narrow summit ridge I’m afraid any excitement is over for the rest of the walk and all that’s left is to descend on a good path down easy slopes back to the bog above the initial climb up the first burn and the nice walk back out of the glen…
We took the opportunity to sunbathe on a slab in the (pretty raging) river as it was a nice hot day