Arran’s magnificent mountains provide a variety of challenging terrain that’s also easily accessible. This can be a blessing and a curse, with terrific walks and busy routes when the weather’s nice.
This quiet and challenging route ascends Goatfell from the north east, starting in Sannox at the main car park at the foot of the glen.
Follow the main glen path past the cemetery (where you’ll find the grave of Arran’s only murder victim) until you reach the ruins of an old barytes mine.
Just beyond the buildings you’ll come to a ford on Allt a’ Chapuill. This is probably the last time you’ll see another person for four or five miles. Turn left rather than crossing the burn and follow faint sheep tracks until you reach a small plateau at around 450ft.
Here you need to cross the burn and follow the first tributary towards the middle of Coire na Ciche (the Devil’s Punchbowl). The path veers right just before reaching the corrie and climbs across the shoulder of Cioch na h’Oighe.
You’ll reach what appears to be a dead end, but if you look closely there’s an arrow etched in a granite slab which you’ll have to scramble over to continue. This is the only scramble without an alternative on the whole route, but is easily conquered by anyone with reasonably upper body strength, so don’t let it put you off.
As the path ascends you have spectacular views of Suidhe Fearghas and Caisteal Abhail across Glen Sannox and over Bute towards the highlands behind you.
Once you reach the top there is a narrow but well worn path along the ridge, offering a feeling of real exposure but with the reassurance that it’s entirely walkable.
The ridge broadens as it gains height towards Mullach Buidhe, offering views towards Cir Mhor and the Saddle at the head of Glen Sannox, as well as the top of Goatfell ahead.
From Mullach Buidhe the path descends to the head of Coire Lan, where there’s an early exit path back to Corrie if the weather turns.
The next summit on the route is North Goatfell, where a path down onto the Saddle offers more options to extend the walk – either into Glen Sannox or Glen Rosa, or onto the formidable Cir Mhor.
The real fun begins on leaving North Goatfell. There are a variety of airy scrambling routes along the Stacach, from beginner friendly paths and steps to easy bouldering. There’s a good path to the east that bypasses the tough stuff if it’s not your thing.
From here it’s a short walk up to the summit of Goatfell, where you can take a well earned rest at the island’s highest point. There are views as far as Northern Ireland and into Perthshire on a clear day, although you will more than likely have some company.
There are almost countless routes you can take down the hill, depending on your travel plans. I followed the path south east until the eastern ridge of Goatfell, where the most direct route off the hill splits from the main path to the left. This will take you down large stone steps (around 1200ft of descent!) into the foot of Coire Lan and into Corrie, where you can get a post-hill pint and some tasty local food. Don’t sample too much local beer though, as it’s still a two mile walk (or bus journey if you time it well) back to the start point at Sannox.
Alternatively you can follow the main path off the summit to Cladach, which is a short walk along the beach from Brodick.
In good weather you’ll want to set aside at least 6-7hrs for this walk, as there are so many great views it just shouldn’t be rushed.