Travel stories (physical)

Arran

“Climbing a mountain is easy, it’s coming back down that’s hard” – Chinese Proverb

Hmm let me see…. Three quarters surrounded by land which is a part of mainland Scotland, this beautiful island off the West coast, like many islands off the West coast of Scotland, sports a stunning 360 degree view no matter where on the island you stand. Particularly for me, and my travelling buddies on this road trip, the best view was seen from the plateaus and peak of Goatfell, Arran’s highest mountain, which is a Corbett at 874m.

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Earlier this year we had all thought that spring had come early as the warm temps started early, that is in late February. It also meant that my outdoor season also started earlier than expected. Then at the end of May I found myself walking through snow storms. End May!!!! Summer, did you miss that memo about warm weather?! So for this trip to winter Arran trip I should have learnt by now to bring my large rucksack. I thought I wouldn’t need it as I would be wearing everything, but alas the day we hiked up Goatfell I didn’t need my heavy snow jacket as I sweated like it was a summer heat wave in just a T!

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The steep climbs paid off though as I was offered a spectacular view at the top, this time surrounded by mountains as I floated in between the horizon of the sky and sea as far as the eye could see. After the mandatory photo shots the victory was short lived as I then had to find the least treacherous route back down again. With thick frozen ice over the boulders, walking that way was a definite NO! So I had no choice but to retrace my steps, which meant I faced a really steep path down again. As the hikers before me taught, they slid down on their butt aiming for a boulder for each section of slide until they reached more even ground. So I made sure my walking poles were tightened around my bag and I put my waterproof trousers on. As I’m writing this post you can see that I made it down safely, but I have to say, that day it reminded me of just how dangerous natural beauty can be.

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The next morning I do not know what got into us but as we decided to go ahead with our leisurely biking plan anyway despite the aches and pains we were all feeling.  After hunting around town for a bike hire place that was open over winter, (note to careless self: it is winter and you know Scotland shuts down over winter, call ahead next time to arrange equipment ahead of time) we headed along the MTB Glencloy route.  Though it was only a 6 mile (10km) route, the first hill we had to cycle up from the main street is Brodick was manageable, but with the hard hike we had yesterday behind us, we felt every small undulating and steep hill that this route had to offer.  Towards the end of the route though we cycled through a small forest followed by some flat and down hill tracks, which was a fun way to end the cycle, and even made us feel we wanted more (mentally).  Physically we knew we were ‘done in’ (finished).

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Natural Beauty aside, Arran itself is a really friendly place as all the islanders we met at least, were helpful and welcoming.  For an island it’s surprisingly well catered for too as it has plenty of accommodations and cafes to choose from.  Though Arran would probably best suit day trippers if you’re not the outdoor type, there is enough to keep you entertained if you do decide to go for a short visit, like the Arran Cheese shop, Arran’s handmade chocolate and of course, Arran Aromatics.

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Despite visiting during the winter season when many things are closed, the outdoor adventurist in me left feeling like Arran is a place I would happily revisit!  Maybe next time I should just stick to biking, or hiking, one or the other.  

If you are planning to visit Arran and require some travel information to help get you started, read: Arran – travel information

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