Wild Camp: Isle of Arran – Brodick to Lochranza

MLD Trailstar wild camp on the North Arran coast

I don’t normally go to Scotland in the summer. Those of you familiar with Scotland will know why – midges! In case you think they are just a bit of an annoyance, I can assure you they are far far worse than that, especially if you are camping. However in June 2019 I found I had 2 weeks off between contracts and decided to head off to the Isle of Arran for a multi-day walk. I took the Trailstar, but I also took an inner from UK cottage manufacturer Oookworks, a decision that proved to be very wise!

I took the train up to Glasgow, then a ‘rail and sail’ ticket from there with the train taking you to Ardrossan Harbour and the Calmac ferry taking you to Brodick. Within just a few hours of leaving London, I was enjoying the views of Arran from the deck of the ferry.

The weather was due to be good over the few days I had planned to be there, but the first couple of hours it was due to rain. I soon arrived in Brodick and torrential rain, and decided rather than setting straight off for my intended camp spot in Glen Rosa I would shelter in a bar in Brodick and have some food. I enjoyed a huge plate of fish and chips washed down with a couple of pints of fine local ale. Once the rain had stopped I set off, with the initial intention just to find somewhere with great views to sleep. I decided on Glen Rosa.

After a short hike I entered the Glen. It is spectacularly beautiful, perhaps spoiled only by the deer fencing. There are amazing views up to the island’s highest peak, Goatfell, as well as the jagged shapes of Cir Mhor. However there was a problem. I could not find any remotely level ground anywhere. Being June the vegetation was high, so even where there was flat ground it wasn’t possible to pitch. After scouting around for almost an hour, I just decided to go with ‘least worst’ and pitched the Trailstar.

Midges were a problem and I needed to use a headnet whilst I pitched the Trailstar. Worse than that though were the ticks. Twice I saw a tick on my hand after pushing in a tent peg. Ticks can carry disease and so it’s important to carry a tick removal tool with you. In this case I was able to brush them off before they attached.

I inflated my sleep mat, and that’s about the time I realised just how sloping a pitch I had. I tried to pack out underneath the mat to level it a bit, which worked to a point, but I went on to have an uncomfortable night. I couldn’t open the inner because there were just so many midges, which got worse when the wind died completely. So although it was a spectacular location, I was pretty keen to get moving in the morning.

I packed as quickly as I could and got moving. The plan today was to head to the north coast. The road follows the coast for the most part, but in the north the road comes inland slightly, and I thought this might lead to the area being quiet enough for a camp by the sea. I decided to head up to Goatfell and although I didn’t actually summit (the summit itself was in cloud and I didn’t see the point in carrying my pack all the way up just to touch the cairn) I did get up to around 650 meters, where the views across the Sound of Bute were truly spectacular.

From there I descended down the path to Corrie, before walking along the road to Sannox. I stopped for some lunch, eating a good meal and washing it down with a pint of orange juice and lemonade. It was hot and I wanted to take advantage of the possibility to eat and rehydrate midge-free in case the evening was similar to last night.

I carried on up the road for a short distance before diverting back onto the path. There were some spectacularly clean public toilets there, maintained by the community on a donations basis. I stopped there and took the opportunity to wash my face and brush my teeth before heading around the coast path in glorious weather.

The sea was crystal clear, and although my legs were tired, I enjoyed the walk. Eventually in the distance I saw an almost perfect patch of grass, that looked short, and more importantly completely flat just a few yards from the sea. Soon I had the Trailstar pitched and was delighted to see that it was indeed truly flat!

Unfortunately, the midges did prove to be a problem again. Not a very good photograph, but to give some sense this was what my inner was doing for me.

After another evening being a prisoner in the inner, and eating only snacks, I made a dash to filter some water for the morning and went to sleep to the sound of the waves gently lapping the shore. I woke refreshed and was grateful to see that the midges were gone. There was a gentle breeze that seemed enough to deter them. I sat up to a spectacular sunrise, which made all the hassle of the midges seem worth it.

I had a proper breakfast, enjoying the lack of midges, and filtered some more water. It was due to be very hot today and I still had quite a long walk to Lochranza. Soon after I set off the sun was really burning down and to be honest, it was almost too hot for walking. Initially the path was good and soon enough I came across the cottage at Laggan. I had a look inside and it was clear people had been using it as a bothy, but it was in a vile state. I’ve never really been a fan of bothies, much preferring camping, and I have to say I was glad I’d camped in my Trailstar despite the midges.

After Laggan the path gets a lot more rugged. In fact, at points there is no path at all and you will find yourself scrambling over rocks. There are great views across to Kintyre as you pass around the path. But the going was quite slow with the path being almost non-existent. Eventually, Lochranza came into view. Annoyingly given how tired and hot I was, I had to walk all the way around the harbour to the B&B that was to be my home this evening. I arrived to celebrate with a pint and a meal after a much needed shower.

In the morning, I took a bus from directly outside the hotel back to Brodick ferry terminal, before heading back home. A fabulous trip.

I used the excellent Harvey Maps Superwalker Arran Coastal Way map for this trip.

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2 thoughts on “Wild Camp: Isle of Arran – Brodick to Lochranza

  1. Well done Mark, sounds like a good hike, glad you managed to get a reprieve from the midges in the morning!
    I’m heading north next time after another trip up Goatfell. Although I do want to fit in the King’s caves and Doon fort to the west

    1. Thanks Nina! I also felt that my time there was too short to see everything Arran has to offer. I will definitely go back, but I do want to take in some of the other islands as well, particularly Mull and Rum if I can!

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