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Sunny Corbetts and a claggy Graham on the Isle of Arran

Written by Fiona

June 05 2024

An Isle of Arran trip, off Scotland’s west coast, had been in the diary for months, so I felt very fortunate to be arriving in sunny weather last weekend. Scotland’s weather can be fickle even in summer – and the west coast often faces the force of wet and windy conditions that arrive across the Atlantic – yet on a fine day, the islands are a fabulous place to spend time.

How to get to Arran

I drove some 4.5 hours from Inverness to the ferry port of Ardrossan in Ayrshire the night before the Calmac ferry to Brodick on Arran. I found a place for a van overnight near the very terminal.

Because my campervan is a long wheel base and high top vehicle, I had to book the ferry to be sure of one of limited spaces on the crossing. People with more normal sized cars are also advised to book ahead, while foot and bike passengers will find it easier to make a more spontaneous trip.

The Calmac ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick on Arran takes only 55 minutes. It was a smooth crossing and I enjoyed a breakfast roll cheerily served by the Calmac catering staff. A roll with two breakfast items and coffee is not cheap – almost £8 – but I knew I would be walking in the mountains that day and I needed a filling breakfast.

A friend had joined me and we chatted about the day – and weekend ahead – while eating breakfast.

Sunny Corbett 1: Caisteal Abhail

There are four Corbetts on Arran. Having walked and run Goatfell, the tallest and most famous of the island’s mountains, several times, I had my sights set on the other three Corbetts on the island. The first, Caisteal Abhail, offered an easier warm-up walk on the first day.

Caisteal Abhail is the most northerly of Arran’s Corbetts and often known as the Sleeping Warrior because of its outline when seen from the Ayrshire coastline.

It is not far to drive from the ferry port town of Brodick to North Sannox Bridge for the walk, where there is a small car park just off the A841.

We then joined a well-made path that headed through Glen Sannox and beside a stunningly clear water stream with frequent waterfalls. It was a total delight and very easy going.

At the top of an area of forest, we headed through a gate and suddenly the views opened up, including the magnificent high ridge of Caisteal Abhail at the head of the glen.

A suggested route of the Corbett forms a loop and we decided to take an anti-clockwise route. As the path petered out, we crossed a river on easy stepping stones, then walked uphill on trod that came and went.

This was a slightly boggy section of the walk but nothing compared to the wet and bogland of other Corbetts.

The path headed on to more open moorland and then we headed left on to a steeper incline up Sail an Im and the start of a pleasant ridge. The path was very easy to find and we follow it as it zig-zagged up to around 500m elevation.

After a flatter section, there was another steeper ascent although never daunting. Heading towards Creag Dubh, we bypassed several granite outcrops.

The views of Caisteal Abhail opened up and there was a superb vista over the small coastal settlement of Lochranza. It was also a delight to be walking in warm sunshine.
We continued to stroll companionably along the wide ridge towards Caisteal Abhail. 

First, I spotted the Corbett, Beinn Tarsuinn, and then the peak of Cir Mhòr, which were both part of the planned walk the next day.

There are a couple of impressive tors on Caisteal Abhail and one that looks like a face. It was then that the vast summit came into view ahead and looked like it would require a scramble. However, when we got closer there was a bypass path to the left side before an easy scramble to the top at 859m elevation.

There is a magnificent view of all the other three Arran Corbetts, taking in Goatfell’s dramatic northern side, as well as Cir Mhòr and Beinn Tarsuinn.

Descent loop on Caisteal Abhail

There are several ways to descend from the summit of Caisteal Abhail. You could return the way you came, or take the east ridge, which is suitable only for confident scramblers.

Instead, we headed north close to the top, down a grassy slope and then joined a ridge between Garbh Coire and Coire nan Ceum.

It’s a fairly obvious route although you need to keep a keen eye for the path. Some sections are also quite rocky but not challenging. There was also a boggy section lower down above a gorgeous gorge, before we joined a soggy section of path. 

Finally, we regained the very well-laid path from the first part of the walk and sauntered back along this. It was hot in the lower part of the glen and I was grateful I had chosen to wear a Flanci skort and vest top. Thankfully, I had applied sun cream, too. 

As usual, it took longer to walk the path than I recalled from the start of the route but it was a gentle downhill and easy to stroll. 

Once back at the car park, we changed from sweaty kit, jumped in our vans and headed to Lochranza to take up our bookings for the campsite there. 

Route details of Caisteal Abhail

Distance: 11.5km

Total elevation: 875m

My route: Strava and OS Maps

Corbets bagged: 151

Also read: Corbetts Cir Mhòr and Beinn Tarsuinn and a claggy walk of the Pirnmill Circuit, all on Arran.

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