Isle of Arran - Corbett playground of the Giants!

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By Chris Mac on 14/09/15 at 11:52pm

Date started:25/07/2015
Distance:25.4 km or 15.8 miles
Ascent:2377m or 7799ft
Time taken:13:00

4 Arran Corbetts & 2 Corbett Tops

An epic all day walk bagging, in order, a Corbett top; Beinn Nuis, a Corbett; Beinn Tarsuinn, bypassing A'Chir because we weren't feeling brave and weren't sure we had the time to traverse it's tricky ridge, going past Cir Mhor to another Corbett; Caisteal Abhail, heading back to Cir Mhor for Corbett number 3 before taking the quick way down to The Saddle (a 400m descent) then up the steep ridge to Corbett top 2; North Goatfell (now a 400m ascent!) with a detour around Stacach along the ridge to the final Corbett; Goatfell and back home down the shoulder into Brodick.

I was inspired to do this walk for several reasons, first being the excellent walk reports doing the same route (or similar) by the following who i'd like to thank for their excellent photo's and write ups:

Arran - Scotland in miniature & a Corbett Heaven by Beaner001. No Goats, but what a day ! by tall-story. The mists of Arran by basscadet. Arran Magic - Glen Rosa Horseshoe by weaselmaster. Timing is Everything - An Arran Adventure!!! by dooterbang A lucky horseshoe around Glen Rosa by Driftwood

Second of all is the fact that despite growing up on the island for much of my childhood and calling it home from when I was born I had never climbed any of the mountains while taking the local option of staying in the pub for many years and leaving Goatfell for the tourists! :roll: :D So after getting quite into hillwalking I decided enough was enough and that to make up for all the years of having these mountains on my doorstep, I would bag all four Corbetts and a couple of Corbett tops to make it 6 peaks in one go! That should help make amends and I can visit Mum in the process while also partnering up with Iain who loves, and I quote:

"Epic ridge walks and long days on the hills in glorious sunshine"

Well, talk about giving someone their ideal day out, this one did exactly that for both of us! :D :D

Just under 16 miles walked with 2377m of ascent and descent so it was a real energy sapper requiring a fair few short breaks especially during the torturous ascent up North Goatfell's not so easy ridge. We took a few slight detours from the standard path with the most insane one being when we left the summit of Cir Mhor and climbed down a gap on the east face which, on looking back from below, looked to be highly technical! The rest of the steep path down to The Saddle also appeared much worse after we had done it... thinking back it's an incredible little Corbett and no wonder so many rate it so highly. The grassy section near the top was also a brilliant spot.

There were so many interesting features, routes, views, scrambles, ridges, peaks, hills, giant rocks and tors with lots of simulcra, it was really like being in the land of the giants with massive finger like protrusions, the ribs of the earths sticking out and massive dinosaur-back ridges, you can see how the story of the sleeping warrior fighting the dragon came about. This incredible small range of mountainous ridges, Corbetts, all manner of tops, corries and massive glens sees you back in their territory and taking a walk into the past where you'll feel dwarfed on all sides.

If Caisteal Abhail, Ceum na Caillich and Suidhe Fhearghais are the sleeping warrior then Goatfell, North Goatfell and and Cioch na h-Oighe are definitely the dragon with Beinn Tarsuinn the Giant, with his fingers sticking out of the ground in places (see the photo's further below) and the epic subsidiary peaks of Beinn Nuis, Beinn a'Chliabhain and A'Chir all belonging to it. Although we wimped out from doing it there was something special about the A'Chir ridge. It looks formidable in places and a very entertaining beast to conquer and again it's no wonder it is also rated as one of the best ridge traverses in Britain. I'll definitely be back to give it a go at some point and also to take in the Glen Sannox and North Glen Sannox ridge walks. This time next month I should have done the western hills including Beinn Bharrain/Mullach Buidhe and Beinn Bhreac, looking forward to it already!

Before the walk we didn't get the early night we wanted due to excitement and catching up but had still prepared well and also had a secret weapon, 2 Watertogo bottles with filters to save us carrying litres of water for the day and allowing us to safely refill from mountain streams, perfect. So with brekkie down the hatch we eventually left the house around 9am, much later than planned but we had the entire day ahead of us to leisurely stroll round the incredible Arran mountains without the worry of racing off Goatfell to catch a ferry. Although the state we were in coming off of Goatfell later on would make such a suggestion even more hilarious!

A view of our destination from the ferry on the Friday night, from left to right Beinn Nuis, Beinn Tarsuinn, A'Chir, Cir Mhor and Goat Fell:

The next morning we head off and our final destination peak, Goatfell, is going to be visible for almost the entire walk, being the highest Corbett on Arran at 874m:

The road turns off into Glen Rosa and we continue along...

...into Glen Rosa and the Goatfell range:

Glen Rosa opens out and your are met with the view of Beinn Nuis in the distance to the left, our first peak and a Corbett top, with the parent Corbett Beinn Tarsuinn over to the right:

Glen Rosa, Beinn Nuis, Beinn a'Chliabhain and Glenshant hill on the right below Goatfell:

As you head round the corner of Glen Rosa the majestic sight of Cir Mhor appears ahead of you, she's a beauty!

Where the Garbh Allt river meets Glenrosa water we turn left and head up the steep path beside Garbh Allt and through a fence. Goatfell shows off it's steep western side as it towers above:

Looking back down Glen Rosa:

We move up the hill directly towards Beinn Nuis and away from Garbh Allt, bypassing the path up to Beinn a'Chliabhain on the right. It's a little boggy but nothing too bad:

We soon reach Garbh Allt again which has formed a great wee gorge which we follow on the right...

Before realising we have to cross it! Luckily it seems many others have done the same thing as a clear path descends into the lost valley, across the water and up the other side, phew! :clap:

Now just a steady climb to the base of Beinn Nuis and the start of the steep climb to the summit:

A few scrambles later...

...and we reach the first plateau:

Time for a break and some photo's looking back towards Brodick with the ferry on the way out and Holy Isle in the background:

Beinn Tarsuinn, A'Chir and Cir Mhor in the distance, I can't wait to get along some of these ridges!

The path is quite easy and clear now and winds up to the summit of "the mountain of the face" Beinn Nuis:

Looking back down and the rocks are now beginning to get colossal in size!

Iain with the Shiskine valley, Mull of Kintyre and Northern Ireland in the background to the south west:

We reach the summit and the views are already amazing with the entire Island (minus the north which is blocked by bigger "hills"!) opening up for the view. To the west is Beinn Bharrain/Mullach Buidhe, Beinn Bhreac and Meall na Damh:

Looking down on Brodick and the incoming second ferry using Mum's Fujifilm S8650 Bridge Camera which I borrowed for the day. I've just picked up an S8200 for myself today as a result!

A quick scan round while zoomed, here's Holy Isle close up:

And Ailsa Craig to the far south of the island!

For the first time I took videos from some of the summits, here is the first from Beinn Nuis:

<**view on>

A shot from Iain of me checking out the rest of our insane trek over the mountains that was ahead of us!: :shock: :D

The western hills, Loch Tanna and the ridge we'll be heading along towards Beinn Tarsuinn:

Summit posing time!

Time to head off to the next peak, along one of the easier ridges of the day, in fact definitely the easiest!! :crazy:

Aahh, the entrance the the land of the giants!! :shock: :D

Iain had a bad habit of doing this I would soon discover...

My turn:

Continuing along the ridge from Beinn Nuis to Beinn Tarsuinn it feels like another world...

:shock: erm, steady on there Iain...!!

Summit ahoy, let's go... A'Chir and Cir Mhor sit just behind Beinn Tarsuinn's summit with the Witches Step (Ceum na Caillich) peaking out at the far back:

Beinn Tarsuinn summit 1 looking south over the whole island with Beinn Nuis jutting out on the right, stunning!

Iain at it again! He seems to know what he's doing... :lol:

We head down from the double summit of Beinn Tarsuinn after stopping on both although I think the first one is the higher peak. Almost immediately on looking back you see the famous Old Man of Tarsuinn!

I wish I hadn't mentioned that I saw a photo of a guy on top of him! "Oi get down!" :lol: :lol:

So along we go again along the ridge and up again, old Tarsuinn the giant really has a lot going for him and we even managed to miss the arched rock somehow there was so much to play around on! :D

Looking south down Coire a' Bhradhain:

Now we're definitely at the giant's arms and Iain is at it again!! :roll: :lol:

We stop for a break at the giant's fingers to check out Goatfell, North Goatfell, Mullach Buidhe and Cioch na h-Oighe...

I'm definitely laying claim to naming this rock feature! :)

With the good camera out I take a shot of Beinn a'Chliabhain and hear voices so I zoom in for a closer look with the S8650:

It's the NTS volunteers we passed earlier in Glen Rosa!

Hi Jenny!! :)

Wow that's impressive and the panoramic mode is pretty good too!

Giants Fingers, remember that one... :lol: :D

The path down off Beinn Tarsuinn is a steep one and the view opens out to display the awesome A'Chir ridge with Cir Mhor behind it and the Witches Step and Castles (Caisteal Abhail) to the left, superb!

The path down is spectacular as you'd expect leaving the land of the giants, passing the 'giant's ribs' and soon the Consolation Tor is straight ahead with the Goatfell range in the background...

Ooft still not even halfway done yet and we've yet to decide if we'll tackle the infamous A'Chir ridge... already we're thinking it may be biting off a bit more than we can chew, especially considering some of the videos i've seen of Le Mauvais Pas, the Bad Step, requiring ropes!

Incredible rock architecture leaving Beinn Tarsuinn:

We've passed the intersection of Tarsuinn and the ridge to Beinn a'Chliabhain at the Consolation Tor and look back at yet another impressive looking ridge going towards the summit of Beinn a'Chliabhain:

A'Chir approaches... and looks even more menacing close-up than it does at a distance! We opt for the bypass route instead of spending time an energy (which I know will be required for the "Saddle stage" later!) negotiating the fractured looking ridge:

Decision made, off we go:

The west side of A'Chir... huge!

The voices of lost souls float down from above as flashes of colour indicate some brave people finding their way through the maze of A'Chir's ridge above us! :crazy:

We follow the path upwards and instead of heading straight for Cir Mhor we pop up onto the end of A'Chir and look back at it's even more impressive looking, fortified east side!

Yup, i'm glad we never tried it as well...!! :lol:

Fortress A'Chir... size isn't everything!

Right then, our next destination is halfway up Cir Mhor ahead of us, showing off the imressive Rosa Pinnacle to the right of the summit, before we head left to take the ridge up Arran's less well known second highest summit Caisteal Abhail. I've been looking forward to that one the most as the summit looks brilliant.

Our remaining peaks from left to right, Castles, the Big Comb, North Windy Hill and Windy Hill! :D

Looking back on A'Chir as we move off:

... towards Cir Mhor. It's fair to say that the old legs were pretty tired by this point! :lol:

We then hear voices again and notice a madman down the side of A'Chir and climbing up the grass to the summit! I zoom in for a closer look...

Zooming out shows the scale of his task ahead!! :shock:

Not something I fancy doing...

...but fair play to him he made it up to the ridge to the left of the summit when we checked his progress a little later! :clap:

Caisteal Abhail awaits...

Time for another breather, breaks are now more frequent! :D

Looking south from just off the summit of Cir Mhor where we bypass and head along towards the northernmost Corbett Caisteal Abhail at 859m:

Looking back at A'Chir with Beinn Tarsuinn looming menacingly behind it. Tarsuinn is another underrated mountain on this range but has a lot going for it and is the third tallest Arran Corbett at 826m:

Hahaha it suddenly dawns on me just how steep this ridge is and we've got to go back down about 100m before going up another 200m! It's not helped by the ridge ahead seemingly going off into the abyss!! :shock: :lol:

Cir Mhor's pyramid summit from the west as we go past, one more to go before we tackle you!

Caisteal Abhail, Ceum na Caillich & Suidhe Fhearghas, a stunning range and Arran's "Sleeping Warrior" especially when seen from Whiting Bay, Lamlash Hill or from the Bouguille road leaving Lochranza:

Cir Mhor's menacing looking north face, wow!

We continue down the ridge which curves round to the top of the Castles, shown here with Portcullis Butress at the front:

Cir Mhor is very photogenic, especially from the south and the north:

Further up the ridge, North Goatfell and Goatfell come into view:

Directly south is A'Chir, Beinn Tarsuinn and the giant Glen Iorsa on the right which stretches down almost a quarter of the island from the north to the mid-west. Tarsuinn looks intimidating from this angle and A'Chir again looks even scarier!!: :lol:

On the way up the ridge we stopped and tried to quickly film a deer that we saw on a grassy section just below the summit of the Castles! Here it is, a bit windy but I then swing round to show Cir Mhor and our next section of ridges!:

<**view on>

Break time, this has been tough going, we're out of practice!

But we soldier on and before long reach the first tor summit of Caisteal Abhail and the view is simply breathtaking...

Summit number 2 looking like the bridge of a battleship made from rock!

The view northwest and you can easily see the Paps of Jura!

Looking north towards the Arrochar Alps and we could even make out Ben Nevis way in the distance!

Looking back at the impressive summit tors of Caisteal Abhail:

A panoramic shot looking north, what...a....view!!

Time for a few poses from the higher up east tor summit:

This could well be the view of the day, it really brings out the best in the other mountains:

The north face of Cir Mhor:

We have a break on the grass just off the summit of the Castles and the view down to Lochranza and over to the mountains in the north beyond is amazing:

Looking north west towards Glasgow with Ben Lomond visible in the distance:

Looking west towards the Ayrshire coast with Suidhe Fhearghas and Cioch na h-Oighe, the Witches Step ridge continuing down from here... erm not today thanks!

Iain relaxing before the hike down the ridge with the back of summit tor 2 of Caisteal Abhail behind him showing the easy path up the east side:

We head back down and take in the view west:

Cir Mhor, A'Chir and Beinn Tarsuinn:

Our walk back down was interrupted by a herd of about 8 deer that came up out of Coire na h-Uaimh and across our path from left to right! I managed to snap a quick photo here and the second one was a straggler that followed the herd about 15 seconds later:

The deer certainly like it up here:

Iain pointing in disbelief at the remaining three peaks... we're only half way done, already feel shattered and still have the worst section ahead of us, The Saddle descent/ascent!! :shock: who's idea was this anyway?!?! :roll: :D

Much swearing and sweating later and we make it back up the scary looking ridge between Caisteal Abhail and Cir Mhor to find Iain's bag which he had wisely jettisoned for the previous section:

One very quick ascent and we're suddenly on the tiny summit of Cir Mhor! We find a safe seat and post for photo's:

Windswept at 799m! :shock:

Looking down the steep 200m+ drop off the north face down into Glen Sannox. Shortly we will end up down at the grassy outcrop to the bottom right. Cir Mhor really does remind me of a Star Destroyer from so many different angles: :D

The Sleeping Warrior from Cir Mhor. Ceum na Caillich looks so impressive from here, one heck of a gash in the side of the mountain:

So now we just needed to retrace our steps slightly and go south of the summit to find the grassy section below... except Iain seemed to go directly south off the summit and find us a path down which didn't look that steep at first, until we found ourselves scrambling down and even lowering ourselves down off of a few ledges in the process!

We reached a point with a longer drop down and we thought we may be trapped for a moment until I noticed that we maneuver along the rock at the bottom right here and over onto the grassy area which we did:

We reached the bottom, looked up and thought "hmmm, did we really just come down that?!":

Yes... that gouged path down off the summit of Cir Mhor! To be fair it looks worse from below but at the time we were in complete control and handled the scramble down like a couple of pro's but i'd still recommend people take care coming off Cir Mhor and don't try to take this route down! :crazy:

We saw that we had come out at the grassy outcrop we could see from the summit so decided to take advantage of the vantage point for some photo's:

Our next section... down off of this bad boy to The Saddle then up that ridge to North Goatfell which looks nastier the closer I get to it!

Looking back on the summit of Cir Mhor which takes on yet another character from the east side:

Wow again!

With the time in mind we continue on the path off of Cir Mhor down to The Saddle and it is a steep one. On looking back I realise i'm happy to be coming down it and not going up, at least you can make out the path that way! There is a path snaking down here, honest: :lol:

Down we go with the view north east down Glen Sannox and up to the impressive "Mainden's Breast" of Cioch na h-Oighe:

Looking south, Glen Rosa greets you in all its splendour:

At last we've made it to The Saddle, and looking back we are again stunned with what we've just descended! Cir Mhor is fun for such a little mountain, it's full of surprises and yet again looks like a different kind of towering beast to the shark tooth we've seen earlier:

I'd love to tackle the Witches Step one day, it's such an impressive looking feature:

A quick zoom shows the seemingly always busy summit of Goatfell. I've enjoyed the relative peace and quiet of only passing a few other groups of walkers and having every summit to ourselves so far:

The moon rising behind Goatfell:

Only North Goatfell and Goatfell remain... after we negotiate this ridge!

The first few sections are not too bad and the view back continues to astound:

We then encounter the upper parts of the ridge to North Goatfell and things get a little more interesting... starting with some steep scrambling...:

Then traversing some small, scree sloped paths down one side with a steep drop down the other!

By now the legs and even bum muscles are aching but we persevere with the goal inching ever closer...

A final steep scramble up and we're almost there...

I'm glad we came up this ridge, I wouldn't fancy it going down the way!

Success! We suddenly pop up onto North Goat Fell summit and look back on the tricky-in-places ridge we've just climbed:

Some quick clicks for the record:

Ok... just one more ridge to go, the defensive looking Stacach, easily defeated if we can find the bypass path...

It doesn't look like the path goes left so we climb the first tor briefly to be met with a steep drop off of it and retrace our steps, down the path to the right of the tor and along...

Looking back at Cir Mhor, Caisteal Abhail, Ceum na Caillich and North Goatfell:

The view west with the paps of Jura still visible and the sun beginning to set as we approach 7:30pm:

Unfortunately it looked like we had taken the wrong way round Stacach as the path vanished and we decided to push on diagonally up the steep side of the ridge instead of retracing our steps. Our angle took us out at the end of Stacach leaving us to curse our pathfinding ability at this late stage but with just the final summit of Goatfell to climb, which we did....

At last, i've finally climbed Goatfell but in the complete opposite way from normal and with the pleasure of taking in all of the other amazing and underrated Corbetts on Arran for which Goatfell seems to bag all the glory! :lol: well hopefully this report will put the other three higher up on everyone's list, they deserve to be! :D

Summit video from Goatfell, the final peak in our 6 Corbett top challenge!

<**view on>

A cracking photo from Iain, cheers! :clap: :D

The photo I was taking in the last pic, showing Goatfells southern ridge and our long route home to Brodick:

So it's off the summit and down the shoulder we go...

A quick look back at Goatfell during one of several breaks on the way down:


He's ok, the adrenaline from the thought of what we've just done is keeping us going and smiling! :D :lol: :clap:

We pass through the deer fence at the end of the path that never ends :lol: and follow the route down next to Cnocan Burn:

It doesn't take too long to reach the drive leaving Brodick Castle which we follow down to the main road, looking back at the sillhouette of Goatfell, such a familiar sight in Brodick and one I can now proudly say i've climbed at last!

A final look through the field where the Brodick Standing Stones live towards Beinn Nuis and Goatfell, a fitting finale showing the start and end summits of our epic 13 hour walk!

We soon got home and were treated to a cuppa tea with toasted cheese, thanks Mum! A perfect end to a perfect day out on the hills and I spent the rest of the night checking out my photo's before crashing out for the most well earned rest I've had in years!

When we left for the ferry on Sunday we looked back a the mountain range we had conquered just the day before in much nicer conditions and felt a sense of pride and awe. So many memories from such a varied and exciting walk which had everything and the best thing is we missed so much, several more impressive looking summits, more unusual rock features, a fair few WWII plane crashes and many more incredible ridge scrambles that it will be easy to go back again and find a new route to take with countless surprises in store!

So from a farming family in the south of Arran for more than 7 generations to the king of the mountains and proper Lord of the Isles in only 38 years... well that's how I felt anyway! :D :lol:

Thanks again to those who previously did this amazing route and inspired us to tackle it, hopefully this report will inspire more people to do it. It needs a fair bit of hill fitness and some pretty good scrambling skills along with a head for heights but the effort will be well worth it and right up there with anything else you can do on the hills. Iain said it was like a mini Cuillin and that's pretty high praise since the it's his favourite range. I am, of course, bias to the max but i'm looking forward to comparing the Arran Corbetts to other impressive mountain ranges as I continue to walk my way to new and exciting hills around Scotland and beyond!

From Arran and Glasgow with love... :)

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