Lochranza and the Cock of Arran – Isle of Arran

The Route: Lochranza and the Cock of Arran | Distance: 15.4km | Time: 5 Hours | Height gain: 627m | Max Altitude: 267m | Start: Lochranza Village | Finish: Same as start | Map: OS Explorer OL361 | Date: 06/06/2012

Click for Interactive Route Map

We had travelled to the Scottish Isle of Arran to experience something different to add to our inventory of UK hiking, climbing and camping adventures. We hoped for glorious mountains and unspoilt wilderness. Would we find it though?

The trip across the sea by ferry had offered tantalising views of the main mountain ranges to the north of the Island and upon docking we had driven directly north to the isolated and pretty fishing hamlet of Lochranza. Lochranza is a long straggly village that sits beside a charming sea loch. The romantic Lochranza Castle looks out over the sea from a narrow grassy point and I would wager that it would be hard to find anywhere more stereo-typically Scottish looking. We camped on the only campsite in the north of the Island on the edges of a golf-course where wild deer and stags are known to frequently graze and where a whisky distillery lies just across the road enticing you to sample their wares.

Fairy Dell - Isle of Arran

All was as idyllic as we had hoped for, so it was with great anticipation that we set out on the first hike of the trip, not up a mountain this time but along a wild, windswept and remote Scottish coastline around the northern tip of the island, hiking around the brilliantly named Cock of Arran!

We set out directly from the tent door (the best way to start a walk I always think) and headed across the greens of the immaculate golf course carefully negotiating around the grazing herd of deer. We continued on past some beautiful loch-side cottages until we reached the pebbly beach in Lochranza where we immediately turned right up a steep and stony track. We were headed for such imaginatively named places as ‘Fairy Dell’, ‘Ossian’s Cave’ and the ‘Cock of Arran’! Climbing up the steep track we came to the first of many old crofting cottages this one known as The Whins. This is home to the Arran stone-men a phenomena that has arisen around painted stones collected from around the shoreline of Arran which are then cleverly sculptured into cute little characters, all individual in size, shape, and appearance. We entered the craft cottage to nose around and found that it was a good half hour before we hit the trail again as the proprietor was more than anxious to talk to some exotic looking Londoners all about the big smoke and what it was that had brought us all the way to little Arran and his corner of the world. Upon escape (in the nicest way) we carried on along the stony path across a rugged slope of bracken and gorse scrub eventually following the track downhill toward another cottage known as The Knowe. Here we forded a small burn before continuing along a moorland path. Soon enough we started descending towards the sea. The path ran down towards a cottage and a small wooden hut at the foot of a wooded area called Fairy Dell. As the name would suggest, an idyllic little setting.

Tackling the rugged coastline around the Cock of Arran and checking timings for tides and distances!

Now we turned right along the coastal path for the first time. The path was an easy mix of short green grass wedged between bracken and the rugged shoreline. The views both out to sea and inland towards the steep cliffs were amazing. It was easy to rick one’s neck as our heads darted first left and then right as if we were watching a tennis match at Wimbledon. Soon however our attention was drawn down to our foot placements as the gentle grassy path had given way to a less forgiving boulder strewn field!

The whole shoreline was a mass of large boulders made of coarse conglomerate rock. This area was known as Scriodan. Care was needed and care was duly taken. We wrestled with many a large boulder along the way zigzagging up and down, left and right along the shore. Little did I know it but I was actually walking in the famous footsteps of a certain James Hutton, he of the ‘Unconformity Rule’, known to geologists around the world. Evidently this very shoreline was where his theories were derived which provided evidence for his Plutonist theories of uniformitarianism and about the age of the Earth.

Thrift along the shoreline - Isle of Arran

For our part it certainly felt like we had stepped back in time and were walking were few had trod. The steep imposing cliffs, the rough and boulder strewn shoreline, the mountains beyond the cliffs and all the varied flora and fauna around us, boy we had found what we had been looking for by coming to this island. It felt more like the lost world than Scotland and different to anywhere I had been to before. Best of all we had it all to ourselves, not a soul was about but us!

We passed by igneous dykes and scrambled over yet more boulders. Eventually we came to the only evidence of man’s interference in the area, some old ruined cottages beside the sea. Remnants of a once small industrial set-up where coal was mined and saltpans were once in use.

Laggan Cottage - Isle of Arran

Soon over the horizon came the first glimpse of the white form of Laggan Cottage. The cottage was our end point along the shore and our turning point to head back inland and start the ascent up to a gap in the mountains where a cairn stands at 263m.

The steep path led up towards Torr Meadhonach which stands proud at 332m, we were only skirting the mountain but the views were still admirable as the sea started to stretch out below us and the mountainous interior started to loom large beyond.

The pass beneath Torr Meadhonach - Isle of Arran

We passed by the ruins of Cock Farm famous for being the birthplace of the Macmillan family, honorary members of which include, Daniel Macmillan (founder of Macmillan Publishing) and great-great grandfather of former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. The setting for the cottage was sublime but alas the building itself was in a ruinous state.

First glimpse of Lochranza over the pass - Isle of Arran

The path up was now flanked by boggy ground and we slogged uphill with the sun on our backs for the first time that day. But the views from the pass were worth the struggle. We could clearly see all the way down into Lochranza the distillery glimmering enticingly below and the white cottages reflecting the now strong sunlight back at us. In the other direction is was all blue sea stretching to the distant horizon and beyond, calm, flat and inviting.

After passing over the picturesque col the path ran down to a small footbridge across a tiny burn in a serine wooded ravine and then down some more until hitting a track which crossed leading eventually to Butt Lodge a former host to shooting parties in glamourous days gone by.

Lochranza - valley, sea and distillery - Isle of Arran

Eight miles had now passed since we had left the tent earlier that day and every foot of the walk had been interesting, different, beautiful and sometimes challenging. It all bode well for our week on Arran, our only regret being that the day could not last longer and that the walk could not have been further, but we had the whole week to look forward to hidden away on this lovely island so it was not too hard to console ourselves with a wee dram back in the Lochranza Hotel that evening after a very happy and fulfilling day out and about on this incredible Scottish island.

The Highs and the Lows. Altitude Data supplied via socialhiking.org.ukAltitude Data Graph

Find all the Interactive Route Maps from my trip to Arran here: http://www.shareyouradventure.com/map/os/jamehand/Isle-of-Arran-Routes See more photos from my Isle of Arran Adventure on flickr by clicking on this linkflickr Next post about Arran coming soon – A hike into the Glens of the Pirnmill Mountains

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7 thoughts on “Lochranza and the Cock of Arran – Isle of Arran

  1. I remember this walk well, I first went in the opposite direction with my grandmother and younger brother in about 1968 during a summer holiday. We had purchased a family holiday home in Lochranza in about 1962 so this became a “second” home for us until 2004 as my grandparents and father had all passed away. Circumstances meant that I was unable to inherit our house as I had hoped but my younger brother now lives with his wife and children in Shiskine on the island. I hope to be visiting them sometime soon with my Polish wife because she has heard me talk often of the happy times I had then.
    I would love to once again walk on Arran as this is the place I still regard as my “home” even though I’m now living close to Edinburgh!

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    • It’s been a couple of years now since I did this walk but I still rate it as one of the nicest and most interesting ones I have had the pleasure of doing. Very unique landscape and always interesting, hopefully one day we will also go back.

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  2. You should have visited Ossian’s cave which in my time was called smuggler’s cave. The cock of Arran is a large boulder on the shore near the cave. Before some bits fell off it resembled a cock. Fairy Dell cave is much more interesting but has been forgotten about for many years now. I know all the area very well as I was born and brought up in the the house below the one you mentioned – The Knowe.
    Kerr Robertson

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  3. Very few people know where Fairy Dell cave is so without being led to the location you would be unlikely to find it. If you ever get back let me know and I could arrange for a guide to show you the way. Bring a torch!

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  4. I did the walk from lochranza to sannox yesterday and and was in awe with the diversity of every step. We would love to discover more of the island but we would need a guide for the hills. Is there someone/ guide in Arran who would take a group and how much would it cost?

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    • Hi, I would look online as there are many guides on Arran who could help you. But a good book by Cicerone and a compass would also enable you to explore the mountains as we did with no difficulty. We picked walks in the book took a map and followed them letting someone know where we were going. If in doubt though contact the tourist info office as they might have a list of certified guides to choose from. Here are some I follow on Twitter @VisitArran @KirstieSArran @snoweider

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