Heading for Goat Fell on the 7am ferry…

'Heading for Goat Fell ...on the 7am ferry'

'Heading for Goat Fell ...on the 7am ferry'

Talk about leaving it a bit late, we took the decision to head over to Arran for a walk up Goat Fell yesterday, after I got back from the studio on Wednesday evening. Not the greatest of preparations but thankfully we had some bread rolls in the freezer and a supply of Lucozade …it wouldn’t be the best packed lunch in the world but good enough.

It’s been pretty miserable up here in Scotland for the last few days with rain and high winds but as we put the rucksacks into the car for the short drive to the ferry …at about 6.15am …there was just enough light to see that the sky was virtually cloud free …it was looking good.

As you may have noticed from the blogs, we haven’t been out on the hill for a good few weeks now.  I’ve just been so busy at the studio that with one thing and another …coupled with many days of low grey cloud and rain …well we just never managed to get out.  I’ve been wanting to go and walk my 50th Corbett but still haven’t decided which hill that will be and so on Wednesday evening we just wanted somewhere to go that would stretch the legs and give great views …what better place to go than Goat Fell over on the Isle of Arran.  On a clear day the views from its summit must be some of the best in Scotland and for us living just across the water in Irvine; it has the advantage of virtually no driving, and the luxury of getting breakfast during the 55 minute crossing between Ardrossan and Brodick.  You arrive in the picturesque little town of Brodick and can see many of the big Arran hills (including Goat Fell) rising just to the north.  You don’t even have to catch a bus to the base of the hill …there is a wonderful path that picks it’s way between the golf course and the sea all the way to below Brodick castle where the main ‘tourist’ path starts and the wonderful Arran Brewery has it’s home.

'On Goat Fell'

'On Goat Fell'

Everything looked so beautiful as we walked along the beach the final few hundred metres to the start of the Goat Fell path.  The sea was an intense blue and the trees were just starting to take on that autumn colouring.  The path picks its way up and around the edge of Brodick Castle gardens ….heading through a mixture of trees and habitat.  After a while it reaches a small fast flowing stream with a wee bridge over it.  I can remember a few years back when this bridge was just a fairly narrow affaire with no hand rail …I used to shuffle my way over it, worrying that I’d miss the edge and end up getting a soaking!  No worries now …as I say, there’s a proper little bridge in place.  About this point you get to the edge of the trees and the path turns and runs across a fairly level section heading for the shoulder of the hill.  We had seen just two other folk at this time and it was so peaceful as we wandered along the stony path.  Already the views to the south were impressive …but there was also a lot of very low cloud out there and we worried that this was the ‘weather’ that the forecast had said was due in later that day …arrived early as it were.

Once onto the ridge the path is nearly all rock …hours and hours of time and hard work moving greet stones and boulders into place, utilizing the natural outcrops and picking a clever line, have created a fine and safe path all the way to the summit.  You don’t have to follow it of course and you can clamber your way up and through the granite boulders and outcrops if you choose.  The views just get better and better as you gain height but the best is left to the last on this hill.  As the angle suddenly eases you arrive on a boulder and slab strewn summit and suddenly you get the most amazing views…the whole of the rocky, Arran mountains stretch out before you, the narrow ridges, rocky pinnacles and bright sand screes. . .there is just so much to look at.  All around you can see the sea and out to the east is the dark line of the main and Ayrshire.  Further to the south Nita pointed out Ailsa Craig.  We had reached the top just before midday and so it seemed like the perfect spot for lunch.

East from Goat Fell

East from Goat Fell

As we sat looking out over the deep trough of Glen Rosa, the very low broken cloud we’d seen earlier to the south, started to feed in on the breeze.  It bubbled up beneath us heading north up Glen Rosa before briefly shrouding the fine pointy summit of Cir Mhor.  It came and went creating a constantly changing view, different colours, tones and patterns.  The strange thing was that for almost an hour as we watched this wonderful changing show …the cloud never enveloped us on the summit of Goat Fell …the highest point on the island.  Indeed, we were sat in bright sunshine much of the time we were watching the flowing and breaking clouds ….quite amazing.  There was a good few folk on the summit by this time …all transfixed by the scene.  After about an hour the cloud faded away and we were left with an almost cloud free sky.  The ridge over to North Goat Fell looked tempting (we first scrambled our way along and over its stumpy pinnacles way back in 1988 during our first ever holiday together), but we decided instead just to have a leisurely return in the sun.

From Goat Fell ...the summit of Cir Mhor above the cloud

From Goat Fell ...the summit of Cir Mhor above the cloud

As I’ve said before, the Isle of Arran Brewery is situated right at the start of the path up Goat Fell, and as we reached it on our way back …having cut it too fine to catch the 16.40 ferry, we stopped by and bought ourselves a couple of bottles of Arran Blonde from the brewery shop.  They have seats and tables outside and so long as you open the bottles yourself …you can sit and drink them in the evening sun …which is what we did.  Within 15 minutes several other walkers, arriving back after a hot day on the hill, stopped and did like-wise.

A gentle amble back around the bay and just time for some chips before the ferry arrived …then coffee and a kip before arriving back in Ardrossan a little after eight in the evening …what a wonderful day.

A local fisherman ...near Brodick

A local fisherman ...near Brodick

Interestingly on Wednesday evening I also received an email inviting me to take part in a group exhibition at the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock…at the end of January.  They asked if I might have any paintings I could include that were local to the area.  I’m thinking I may well be able to do a couple of pieces based on the incredible views we had while at the summit of Goat Fell.  Anyway, more details about this exhibition as and when I know them.

Finally, if you’re reading this and live in Ayrshire and have never made the trip over to Arran …well then …do go and visit.  It is a magical place with something for everyone and as I found yesterday, when you’ve been working hard and are tired and worn out …a day on the island relaxes and restores.

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