Thank you to John S for this report from the 2016 club holiday…
A select group of current and ex Glossopdale Harriers made their way to the Island of Arran, situated in the Firth of Clyde on the west coast of Scotland. This is only about 20 miles from where I grew up so a bit of nostalgia for me.
We were heading for the Corrie Croft bunkhouse on the east coast of the island, the website mentioned that the access road ‘can be driven up with care’. More on that later.
Most of us were arriving on the Saturday. Tom and Skip, and Gwyn’s girlfriend Oti arrived mid-week.
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. The bunkhouse wasn’t the best, John H has been quite mortified by fact that it wasn’t great but we’ve all done it ourselves, booked a place cos it looked fine on the website and the price was right. John managed to sort out the key items though, he got the management to replace the duff kettle and he bought a decent sized teapot in Brodick.
Let the other issues slide into the oblivion of history, suffice it to say that Glossop Harriers are a resilient bunch and we cleaned the place up and made it home for a week.
The grothouse was 400m from the coast road, with 80m of ascent, and was something of a challenge for man and car alike. The drive was a narrow mixture of fractured tarmac and stones with at least three hairpin bends. Chris drove his van with Lins and me as passengers, and he managed to get up the hill on the Saturday with several bouts of wheelspin. After getting it back down in one piece the next day he quietly vowed never to drive up it again.
Paul and Cheryl were next up, they got up OK but their bikes were roof mounted and unfortunately Paul’s bike suffered a bit by being dragged through the low hanging tree branches – more on that later.
Sunday 24th August.
Five intrepid explorers set out to investigate Goatfell, the highest mountain on Arran at 874m (2866ft); Chris, Lins, the Johns and Cheryl. Thing is the mountaintop was only 2.5miles from the coast so we didn’t really run up. The path was mostly clear and easy to follow and we soon found ourselves up on the peak and enjoying some spectacular swirly cloudy views all around the island. More astonishing was the discovery of a 120Kg blacksmiths anvil sitting next to the trig point. Several theories were considered as to how this cam to be here, and we joked about taking it down again, but decided we didn’t want to piss off the humans who were strong enough to get it here in the first place!.
It turns out a man called Big Davy hauled the anvil up on a plank of wood to draw attention to type 1 diabetes because his daughter had the condition. I will try not to whinge about a heavy backpack ever again.
But then we had to climb back up the Drive to the grothouse!.
By this time Paul had been out for a bike ride and discovered the damage done by the dragging through the foliage. The rear gearshifter lever on the handlebar had been molested and when he went out he shifted up the gears only to discover at the first hill that he couldn’t shift down again!. Now the Arran coast road might look as though it would be flat but Paul will confirm that in top gear it did not seem that flat. There was some walking involved.
Later in the week he took it to a bike shop in Brodick who advised the repair was not feasible in the short term but they managed to manually put the chain around the middle cog on the back and with the front gearshift still working he now had a rare two speed racing bike.
Paul may well have been the only person in our group strong enough to cycle round Arran on a two speed bike.
In the evening everyone drove into Brodick to share a meal with Lins to celebrate her birthday. We nearly didn’t find the place though, about three wrong turns involved, need more nav practice guys.
Monday 25th August
Today the plan was to explore the Glen Sannox horseshoe route, a jog start from the grothouse 2km up the coast road and then head up onto the first ridge called The Bastion. Weather was OK at low levels but claggy and suspect on the tops. This would be a longer day so butties and drinks were prepared and backpacks filled (almost!).
Lawrence joined us for this run, so off we set in decent spirits up the road, up a stony trail past some flipping huge navigation beacons, up towards The Bastion. The weather started to close in and on the steep beginning of the first ridge everyone felt the rain and donned their waterproofs – except yours truly. Guess who forgot to pack his? After about ten more minutes of ascent we regrouped and a few commented how tough I must be, I shrugged manfully. But one look at the invisible mountaintops and the poor prospects of the weather clearing up led me to the only possible course of action – I fessed up that I’d forgotten my waterproof top and should not proceed up the ridge. I have to be honest, I was surprised how little the others laughed at this point, but still I said goodbye and turned back down the path feeling like a complete numpty. I went off and had some fun on a low level run where it didn’t rain and was so warm I nearly took off my tee shirt.
However, the others went on up the ridge into the cloud and rain and I think they only covered a couple of miles before they agreed the conditions were so nasty and since there were no views to see there was little point in continuing so they back-tracked down the ridge and dropped down to the Glen Sannox path, went up the glen to The Saddle which sits majestically at the head of Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa, and continued down Glen Rosa to Brodick. Unfortunately at some point Lawrence had a fall and whacked a knee pretty hard. He finished this run but was unable to participate in any other high level expeditions during the week.
I think Chris decided he hadn’t done enough for the day so shot up Goatfell again just for fun.
Lins also cooked a chorizo pasta bake for everyone.
That evening Lin and I explored the fern covered path above the bunkhouse and found it wasn’t too bad although didn’t lead directly up to the hills. We did see a huge dragonfly and a smooth snake though, fascinating end to the day.
The next day came, the weather looked OK so we planned a route up Goatfell, to North Goatfell and then round the skyline round Glen Rosa to Beinn Tarsuin and down into Brodick. (Very strange thing to comment, there are THREE Beinn Tarsuins on Arran, I am not joking).
Guess who came in for some stick about kit-check by the way?
This run was really tough. There is almost no easy running on any of the high ridges in North Arran, you are either scrambling up, along or down rocky bluffs and being one of the more nervous of the party I was slow and deliberate in my progress. Weather was good though and we had a fantastic sequence of views as we made our way around the ridge. I think every peak was followed by a drop of several hundred feet only to have to climb back up to a similar height. By the time we reached Beinn Tarsuin and the knob of Arran (see FB photos) we had ascended over 5000ft in maybe 10 miles. A long tricky descent via Beinn Nuis and Glen Rosa led to Brodick where we checked the bus timetable and thankfully had a comfortable stop in the Wineport cafe for much needed cake and drinks.
Off the bus and up the by now much cursed never-ending, climbing, winding, crumbling road to the bunkhouse.
I think Chris and Gwyn decided to race up Goatfell just for a bit more fun!.
Losing track of events but I think this was the night that the two Johns, Lins Paul and Cheryl also went to a yoga class at 6pm in the local village hall. Turns out the locals like chanting Ommmmmmmmmmm a lot, we had trouble not laughing at this.
Cheryl and Paul cooked a chilli dinner for everyone.
Wednesday and our legs were still feeling the previous three days efforts so a plan was hatched to cycle down to Brodick, over ‘The String’, the road across to the west coast of the island, and then round the south and get to Lamlash where we would take a ferry to Holy Isle. Memorable events, The String is nearly as tough as the Snake Road and was into the wind, Lins got two punctures in quick succession so we had to stop for ice cream to cheer her up.
Lunch in Lamlash, ferry to Holy Isle. This is a curious place that’s been considered sacred for nearly 1500 years. It is now owned by a Buddhist trust who acquired the island in 1992, and they opened the Centre for World Peace and Health in 2003 at the north end of the isle.
Visitors are welcome and are asked to observe a few rules. We climbed up to the central peak of the island, down to the southern tip and back around the coast. Mullach Mor is about 1000ft climb which is pretty good for a small place, total walk was only about three miles.
There was a heap of ripe blueberries on the top of the hill, we nearly left John Hewitt behind as he tried to pick the hill clean! During the walk Paul confused the Soay sheep with goats which of course led to a lot of humorous jibes such as ‘A Derbyshire man not knowing the difference’? and worse.
After the return ferry we all made our way back via car, bus or bike. I noticed Lins nip away on her bike sharpish and thought she’d zipped off in front so I wheezed up the hill and down into Brodick, then put the hammer down on the flat 5 miles back to Corrie. O how I laughed when we got back only to be told she got a lift back from in Tom’s car!.
Lins whisked up a birthday cake, then we rolled down the Drive to the local Corrie hotel for to celebrate Paul’s birthday. During the evening we all observed a Bloody Great Insect buzzing about the hotel, we thought it was a hornet, it was three times the size of a wasp and looked like it had an armour piercing stinger so that was nice. I think we’d eaten and were all relaxing with a beer when all of a sudden Gwyn leapt up shouting that the BGI had crawled up his trouser leg!. Of course we were shocked and a bit amused as he hopped about the hotel slapping his trousers like a demented alpine chap. We tended to offer help like saying ‘Are you sure?’ but before long Gwyn hurtled through the lounge and made a beeline for the gents toilet so he could remove his troosers. We laughed like hyenas for a minute but then decided perhaps somebody should go and check on him. I bravely sidled into the gents where Gwyn had shed his trousers, shaken the BGI out only to have it sit on one of his shoes. I think he was planning on leaving with only one shoe when he got braver and shook the thing onto the floor where it sat, menacingly glaring around looking for some armour to go at. At this point Gwyn smashed it with the heel of a shoe, I swear he took a 270 degree backswing and nearly cracked the tiled floor with the force of the impact. Now the BGI was about a foot wide so he took out his phone, snapped a shot of it and we cleaned it up and left. The creature had yet to be identified, it is unlikely we will manage it based on its constituent parts being spread across Corrie Croft Hotel gents floor. But it was HUGE.
I think on Thursday most people took advantage of unsettle weather to rest, do some shopping, read etc. Gwyn did the best though, he came back from Brodick with a girlfriend.
Wasn’t long before Oti wanted to go for a run, about ten minutes after seeing the grothouse I think.
In the evening we went round to the cottage that Lawrence and Naomi had rented for their week, they very kindly offered to feed us all. Oh my it was a sharp reminder how far below civilization we had sunk in the grothouse, the cottage was clean, neat, tidy, sweet and clean. Very enjoyable food, lots of cake and beer so we were in heaven. Then we had to climb the effing hill to the jolly bunkhouse again.
Friday came and we said au revoir to Paul and Cheryl and Tom and Skip, seems our ugly faces took their toll even more than we expected.:-( Couldn’t have been the grothouse could it?
Anyway, the remainder were very lucky to make the most of the last full day. We went to complete the Glen Sannox horseshoe, fully equipped this time of course. One key feature of the horseshoe route is a famous ‘step’ in the far ridge called the Witches Step. This is a deep notch in the ridge followed by a rocky pinnacle. Those with climbing experience were looking forward to this, whilst everyone else was plotting ways to go around it.
Lots of sunshine, plenty of climbing, two food stops and about four hours later we reached the infamous location. I think I was not alone in taking one look and saying to myself ‘no %^& way am I trying to climb that witch’. Lins, Oti and Gwyn all had a good try but there is a key rocky bulge near the bottom that defeated them. Given a bit of rope and maybe other kit they would have made the ascent but in the end it was deemed too tricky so we made our way down and around to the north, but we did climb to the top from the easier side and felt not completely defeated.
During the descent we stopped to do some extreme yoga moves, most notably Gwyn and Oti did the stacked pressup position – is that really a yoga thing?
Last fun of the day was in the stream at the bottom of the glen, deep enough for the brave/young to get right under the water to cool down and wash, and I could chill my sprained ankle too.
John H had prepared a veggie curry to feed 10 people so we had to eat double helpings and still some left over. Strangely the Naan breads he bought were nowhere to be seen, turns out they had mistakenly been packed in Paul and Cheryls bags and shipped out 12 hours earlier.
Saturday was the general end of the holiday, the last time we had to endure the Drive, or Clutchkiller Hill as it was nicknamed. Hooray!.
On the way south we had planned to visit Beetham near Milnthorpe in order to participate in their fell race. Lins and Chris did in fact do this, Chris came 7th too, he is so fit it’s amazing. Lins said she felt tired, so she may be human after all. By this time my right leg had fallen off completely so I wimped out of racing.
Thanks to John S for the write up and some photos, and to John H for the other photos. NB photos are not in any particular order, and may not be placed in with the right day’s events!