One of the shorter, but still pretty challenging, of Scotland's walks, the Arran Coastal Trail gives a rewarding circuit around the beautiful, accessible, Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, west of Glasgow.

The route leads around the coastal fringe of Arran’s mountainous north down its west coast to the sandy beaches, rocky shores and gentler landscapes of the south.

The return leg up the east coast leads through forests and woodland, passing Iron Age hill forts and burial cairns.

UK Scotland view of Brodick from Goatfell

The view of Arran's coastline from Goatfell, the island's highest peak

Arran Coastal Way

Distance: 66 miles (107km)

Duration: Seven to eight days

Start point: Brodick

End point: Brodick

Difficulty: Challenging and rugged

Suitable for: Experienced trekkers

Note that the Arran Coastal Way has several sections that involve rough going along the shoreline and some pathless boggy sections. Other sections (including those on minor roads) are suitable for all levels (such as the Machrie Moor walk highlighted below). Yellow waymarkers denote the main route while alternative, harder, legs are signed in red.

Arran is easily reached from Glasgow by a 50-minute train from the city's Central Station to Ardrossan where the ferry departs for Arran's main village of Brodick located mid-way on the island's east coast. Tickets can be bought for the hour long sailing at the terminal. If travelling by car to Arran in peak season (Easter-end of August), book your outward and return ferry journeys in advance from the operator Calmac: www.calmac.co.uk.

Arran Coastal Way route

The Arran Coastal Way monument by the ferry terminal marks the beginning of your walk. While in Brodick it's a good idea to stock up on provisions, particularly on Sundays or out of season when few eateries are open along the way.

Brodick has by far the largest choice of accommodation on the island with several hotels and lots of B&Bs. There's also a wonderful, basic, campsite out of town at wild Glen Rosa which is open all year as is the campsite near Blackwaterfoot on the west of the island. Other sites, at Lochranza in the north and Kildonan in the south are seasonal (there is also a bunkhouse in the south at Kilmory). For non-camping Arran Coastal Way walkers the main options are B&Bs with hotels in the larger villages. It is highly advisable to book your accommodation in advance.

As with most of Scotland one should be prepared for rain and winds anytime. The best months for this walk, with more predictable weather and fewer biting midges are May, early June and September. Early October can be a good time too albeit colder.

The main route as a whole could be completed in seven days by completing days seven and eight in one go. However one should, if possible, spend a night in Lamlash to relish the peaceful setting that looks out to Holy Island.

There are a few excellent alternative routes and additional day hikes, if you’ve got the time. The magnificent climb from Brodick up Arran’s highest mountain, Goatfell, is suitable for fit walkers with competent navigation skills. There are no Coastal Way route markers on large sections of this walk. This 9.75 miles/ 15.5km option takes 6-8 hours.

The walk to Machrie Moor stone circles (2.75 miles/ 4.25km return) is a flat hike to a series of Bronze Age standing stones in a magnificent setting at the heart of an open valley. The walk starts just south of Machrie, from Machrie Moor Standing Stones Car Park.

One should consult the official Way website – www.coastalway.co.uk – if you are considering taking other alternative sections, especially the southern Lagg to Whiting Bay which is impassable at high tide.

A number of companies offer support services ranging from baggage transfer, to full-service packages.

Arran Coastal Way day by day

Day 1: Brodick to Sannox (7.5 miles/ 12km)

Day 2: Sannox to Lochranza (9.5 miles/ 15.5km)

Day 3: Lochranza to Imachar (9 miles/ 14.5km)

Day 4: Imachar to Blackwaterfoot (10 miles/ 16km)

Day 5: Blackwaterfoot to Lagg (7 miles/ 11km)

Day 6: Lagg to Whiting Bay (9.5 miles/ 15km)

Day 7: Whiting Bay to Lamlash (5.5 miles/ 9km)

Day 8: Lamlash to Brodick (5 miles/ 8km)

Arran's mountains

Goatfell, which is composed of a red coarse-grained granite weathered into bizarre pinnacles and gullies, draws the eye on the opening day. At 874-metres high (2,866 ft) it stands at the southeastern end of two back-to-back horseshoe ridges which include the peaks of Cir Mhór and Caisteal Abhail.

About the author

The Arran Coastal Way

Fergal MacErlean

Dublin-born Fergal fell in love with Scotland as a student, settling there to become a journalist and cycle guidebook writer. In addition to his guides covering Scotland, he has written for the BBC, New Scientist, BBC Countryfile Magazine and many travel publications. Andalusia is a second home.

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