Hills: Caisteal Abhail and Cir Mhor
Date: Saturday 28th April 2018
Company: Just myself
Distance: 21.5km Ascent: 1240m
Time: 7Hrs 50Mins

Prior to spending the forthcoming week on Islay and Jura, Arran provided a useful brief stopover. As I was working in Ayr in advance of heading to Islay, a Calmac Hopscotch ticket to get me from Ardrossan to Brodick, Lochranza to Claonaig and then from Kennacraig to Islay worked out ideal.

On arrival in Arran, having done some advance homework about potentially good parking places, I drove to North Sannox and was not disappointed with what turned out to be a wonderful parking spot.

While on Arran, it had originally been my intention to head-up Goatfell from Brodick, however a Twitter post from Kirstie Smith inspired me to start walking from my parking spot in North Sannox instead heading-up Caisteal Abhail and Cir Mhor via North Glen Sannox.

Parked up at North Sannox:

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

From my overnight parking spot, I set off walking at 7am initially up to the main road and then along the main road towards Lochranza for circa one mile. On reaching the waymarker sign indicating "4 miles to Caisteal Abhail", I then followed the excellent-quality North Glen Sannox path which runs alongside a nice burn. It was already a beautiful morning.

Excellent path along North Glen Sannox:

On reaching a section of the burn with slabs, I stopped to take a photograph looking back towards North Sannox.

Looking back along North Glen Sannox:

Immediately beyond the forestry, I crossed the burn and then followed a track of variable quality towards Sail an Im. This route provides for an easy ascent up onto Caisteal Abhail unlike the neighbouring ridge which involves negotiating Ceum na Caillich also known as 'the Witches Step'.

Burn crossing:

Beyond the fairly level section the path improved and before long I was followed a nice, easy ridge skirting the top of Garbh-Choire.

Ascending Sail an Im:

This northerly ascent of Caisteal Abhail provided good views down towards Lochranza.

View down to Lochranza (zoom):

As I skirted round the top of Garbh-Choire, I was surprised and delighted to see a Golden Eagle fly past. Unfortunatly, it was roughly in the same direction as the sun so my photographs are not as good as I would have hoped for.

Golden Eagle fly-past:

Golden Eagle fly-past:

I really enjoyed this route up onto Caisteal Abhail.

On Creag Dhubh ridge:

By 09:00, I could already see billowing cumulonimbus clouds which would likely become thunderstorms later in the day.

Ascending Caisteal Abhail:

On approaching the summit area, I was passed by a fellrunner who made me feel unfit in comparison. We spoke briefly before he continued on running.

Looking back:

My previous ascent of Caisteal Abhail, Cir Mhor and Beinn Tharsuinn was done entirely in mist. It was therefore great to see what I missed out on during my ascent eleven years previous. On seeing Caisteal Abhail's summit tor, I knew there was an easier way up than what was confronting me ahead. I therefore knew to skirt round the tor to locate the easier way up.

Approaching the summit tor:

After skirting round the tor, I made my way up to the summit of Caisteal Abhail where I took several photographs. It is a great viewpoint.

View from the summit of Caisteal Abhail:

On descending from Caisteal Abhail, I again skirted round the tor to get back onto a level area of ground and to pick-up the path leading down towards the col between Caisteal Abhail and Cir Mhor.

Cir Mhor through the gap:

During my descent, I was starting to worry about the clouds forming ahead. By now I knew there was going to be thunderstorms but didn't know where or when. There was some thundery rain later in the day but thankfully it was after I was off the hills.

Cir Mhor, A'Chir and Beinn Tharsuinn:

It was a delight to come back to ascend Cir Mhor in good visibility. Cir Mhor is definitely one of my top 50 Scottish mountains. It has got to be one of the most shapely and most recognisable mountains in Scotland. It is steep but not particularly difficult especially now that there is a fairly good quality path leading-up towards its summit.

Cir Mhor:

On seeing Cir Mhor again, I did think "how the **** do I get up that" and "I must have been stupid to ascend that in the mist". It is however as I have said much easier than it looks but you do have to take care in places - "look well to each step ...".

Cir Mhor:

View during ascent of Cir Mhor:

Eventually the good path leads to a final short section of easy scrambling to reach the summit. Good to get hands onto Arran granite.

Final easy scramble to the summit:

I spent a few minutes at the summit before commencing my descent.

View from the summit of Cir Mhor:

From Cir Mhor, I made my way down to the col between Cir Mhor and Beinn Tharsuinn. I was half-tempted to carry-on along the ridge towards Beinn Tharsuinn and Beinn Nuis but instead opted to drop down into Glen Rosa as I knew no matter which route I took from here was a long walk out.

Looking back to Cir Mhor:

In descent it was great to see the Rosa Pinnacle of Cir Mhor. It is an awesome granite structure. From memory there are at least a couple of classic climbing routes here. Sou'wester Slabs (VDiff) and Pinnacle Direct (VS?).

Rosa Pinnacle:

Rosa Pinnacle:

I eventually reached the Glen Rosa track which was nowhere near as good as I had remembered - the North Glen Sannox path is far better quality. I had two options from here: i) ascend up to the Saddle and follow the Glen Sannox track back out to Sannox; or ii) follow the Glen Rosa track back out to Brodick and catch the ferry bus back to North Sannox. I opted for the latter.

Looking back to Cir Mhor from Glen Rosa:

Looking back to Cir Mhor from Glen Rosa:

Looking back to Cir Mhor from Glen Rosa:

On reaching Brodick, I had around 90 minutes to kill before I could catch the next ferry bus. I spent this time mostly sitting on a bench admiring the views and rehydrating. I have no intention of trying to do a second round of Corbetts but it is great to just pick off whichever ones you want to do again and do them via different routes.