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A breathtaking loop of ‘Scotland in miniature’ — Arran Coastal Way

Armin Steinbach

A breathtaking loop of ‘Scotland in miniature’ — Arran Coastal Way

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

5

Tours

32:42 h

71.5 mi

6,300 ft

The Arran Coastal Way is a challenging yet rewarding long-distance hike around the Isle of Arran that fuses classic coastal walking, breathtaking mountain climbs, magical ancient sites, and wonderfully-diverse landscapes.

Hailed as ‘Scotland in miniature’, Arran affords a real flavour of the country, despite its relatively small size. Expect rugged coastal scenery, spellbinding mountain views, lonely moors, sheltered beaches, tranquil forests, welcoming villages, delicious local produce, wee drams, and plenty of classic trails.

Wildlife is abundant on the island, too. Nature buffs should definitely bring their binoculars and keep a look-out for red squirrels, golden eagles, basking sharks, otters, seals, red deers, and plenty more on this route.

Starting from Brodick, the Way makes a full loop of the island, sticking to the coastline for the most part. You begin with an optional detour of Goatfell, the highest point on the island. It is then first-class coastal walking to Lochranza before you take the old postman's path to Catacol. A road section takes you to Machrie Moor Standing Stones and the legendary King’s Cave. It is then tough hiking around the southern part of the island before you climb inland to Glenashdale Falls. You then follow the coastline back to Brodick.

The official route is 66 miles (107 km). However, with a few detours to some worthy sites, this Collection is 72 miles (116 km). As it is a loop, you can walk in either direction, but anticlockwise is the recommended way so you get better sea views on the right side of the road. You can also technically start anywhere along the route. However, as the main ferry terminal is at Brodick this is usually the logical starting point (and there is a sculpture marking the official start/finish in the village).

Highlights along the Way include: Goatfell, the highest peak on the island; Lochranza Castle, an atmospheric 13th-century ruin; Machrie Moor Standing Stones, a magical collection of Neolithic stone circles and cairns; the Kings Cave, where Robert the Bruce had his legendary encounter with a spider; the soot-blackened Preaching Cave, which has been used as a church over the centuries; Black Cave, the largest cave on Arran; and Glenashdale Falls, a tremendous 140-foot (45-m) high double waterfall.

In this Collection, I split the trail into five stages; 9.8 miles (15.8 km), 17.3 miles (27.8 km), 15.8 miles (25.4 km), 12.8 miles (20.6 km), and 15.7 miles (25.3 km), respectively. As Stage 2 is considerably longer than the others, I have made a suggestion on how you can split the hike. Also, if you don’t fancy the Goatfell climb on Stage 1, you can take the low-level route. And, of course, you can divide the Collection into as many days as you are comfortable with or walk any single stage.

The Arran Coastal Way is a challenging route. The mountain climbs and sections around the southern part of the island are particularly difficult. You also need to be aware of tide times in places (tideschart.com/United-Kingdom/Scotland/North-Ayrshire/Isle-of-Arran).

That said, the trail does not stray too far away from civilisation and all of these routes can be divided fairly easily. As such, it is a good choice for anyone with at least a moderate level of fitness and ability. You are well-served by accommodation along the route and, as it is Scotland, you can wild camp. For more information on wild camping, visit: visitscotland.com/accommodation/caravan-camping/wild-camping.

To get to the start/finish of the route, you can catch a train to Ardrossan Harbour, which has connecting services around Scotland and England, and then walk ten minutes to Ardrossan Ferry Terminal. Here, there are regular ferries to Brodick and back. For more information, visit: calmac.co.uk/article/1925/Arran.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Difficult
    06:22
    9.83 mi
    1.5 mph
    3,050 ft
    3,050 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The first stage takes you across Brodick Bay and climbs the highest mountain on the Isle of Arran via some cracking ridge scrambles.

    Whilst Stage 1 is the shortest in the Collection at 9.8 miles (15.8 km) long, it has more climbing than the other hikes by a large margin, with an equal 3,050 feet (930 m) of uphill and …

  • Difficult
    07:24
    17.3 mi
    2.3 mph
    925 ft
    900 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage winds around the wonderfully-remote northern coastline of Arran, where you are afforded breathtaking views to the Isle of Bute and Ayrshire.

    From the shortest to the longest, Stage 2 is a challenging 17.3 miles (27.8 km) long with 925 feet (282 m) of uphill and 900 feet (274 m) of downhill. (For a suggestion on how to split …

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  • Difficult
    06:39
    15.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    600 ft
    625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Ancient stone circles, legendary caves, and wonderful views combine on this stage.

    With 15.8 miles (25.4 km) of distance, 600 feet (183 m) of uphill and 625 feet (191 m) of downhill, this is another hearty hike. Although, compared to the last two stages, it should feel pretty leisurely.

    You leave Pirnmil along the road before a rugged trek along …

  • Difficult
    05:19
    12.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    375 ft
    400 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The penultimate stage takes you to the beautiful Kildonan Beach via some interesting caves, a Neolithic chambered cairn, and one of the toughest sections of the Coastal Way.

    With 12.8 miles (20.6 km) of distance, 375 feet (114 m) of uphill and 400 feet (122 m) of downhill, this hike might appear relatively leisurely. However, there is some rugged terrain …

  • Difficult
    06:58
    15.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,375 ft
    1,350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Expect crashing waterfalls, ancient burial sites, and spellbinding views on the final stage.

    A challenging conclusion to the Coastal Way, Stage 5 is 15.7 miles (25.3 km) long with 1,375 feet (419 m) of uphill and 1,350 feet (411 m) of downhill.

    From Kildonan, you ascend steeply through farmland into woodland and rugged upland terrain. The trail then heads along …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    5
  • Distance
    71.5 mi
  • Duration
    32:42 h
  • Elevation
    6,300 ft

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A breathtaking loop of ‘Scotland in miniature’ — Arran Coastal Way