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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

I wrote this blog for the Arran Mountain Festival website: www.arranmountainfestival.co.uk   The booking lines have been busy lately but some places remain on this year's walks May 17th-20th.

The Arran Hills: Many Shades of Grey

Certain to get your heart racing and your knees trembling, Arran’s exciting mountains take your breath away. Whilst Munro-Baggers may whizz up the M74 without turning left, missing out the Arran hills because of their lack of a few metres is a bit like getting married without the wedding night.

So what makes the Arran hills so seductive?

1. A magnificent profile: from all approaches, the distinctive mountain skyline of Arran commands your gaze, with its soaring peaks and pinnacles. The towering east ridge of Caisteal Abhail is known as the Sleeping Warrior- see the photo. (He’s wearing a helmet and he has a firm chin!)
2. In a vigorous embrace: Arran is only ten miles wide so wherever you are, you’re never far from the encircling presence of the waves. From the summits, you can get 360 degree sea views- to Northern Ireland, the Kintyre peninsula, the Paps of Jura, Mull, the Arrochar Alps, Cowal, Bute, Ayrshire and Galloway.
3. No boring introductions:  you won’t find long walk-ins on Arran. Unless you keep going in circles round the coast, the only way is up, but taking things one step at a time you’ll be amazed at the height you can achieve in a relatively short time. The apparently vertical climb up Cioch na h-Oighe is a good example of this- it’s still a walker’s route though a head for heights and sure-footedness will help.
4. Fill up your senses: waterfalls stream over Arran’s shoulders, sliding down chutes and plunging into deep, ferny chasms. The background music of water accompanies every Arran walk. Glen Catacol especially is a great place for waterfall hunters.
5. Hands-on experiences:  once you’re on the ridges you won’t be able to resist some exciting hands-on scrambling on the satisfyingly rough-textured  tors of pale grey granite.
6 An untamed character: whilst the Gulf Stream caresses Arran with warm currents making palm trees flourish round its coastline, the mountain tops are survivors of fierce battles with Atlantic weather. Apart from Goat Fell, the hills of Arran are uncrowded and perfect for walks on the wild side.
7. A fascinating past:  walks on Arran reveal hints of the ancestors in ancient cairns, stone circles and the remains of prehistoric hill forts. The echoes of Viking rule are in the names of the coastal settlements.
8. Beautiful creatures: Arran’s most famous wild creatures just happen to be very good looking ones too: there are the pure-blooded, elegant red deer for example, as well as majestic golden eagles, tufty-eared red squirrels and lithe, playful otters to select but a few.
9. Fulfilling: Arran walks are adventurous and the end of adventure satisfaction factor as you enjoy your meal in one of Arran’s independent restaurants is off the scale overwhelmingly good.
10. Enduring and elemental: Arran enjoys worldwide celebrity status in geology circles for its amazing rocks. The island represents a coming together on a titanic scale of highland and lowland. The mountains themselves burst into being as an exploding volcano.  Today, the hills are a rocky heaven with pebbles, boulders, outcrops and crags in every imaginable and lovely shade of grey.

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