Caisteal Abhail Hike

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Where: Caisteal Abhail, Isle of Arran
When: July 2014
Who: I Parker
Why: Good weather so a day out
Weather: Sunny
Height: 2,818ft
Distance: about 8 miles

The image below is of the Arran ferry Isle of Arran arriving at Ardrossan. This image was taken from the ferry booking office. It costs about £7 per person a day return, and about £30 per return per car, so many people park here for a couple of pounds per day, rather than travel by car. If you are traveling by car at weekends or on school holidays, best to pre-book, as the ferry is often fully booked then.

Ardrossan Train Station is situated under half of a mile south of the ferry terminal. You can buy train/ferry tickets with a discount. Train/Ferry Map.

The first large ferry departs Ardrossan at about 07.00 and the next at 09.45. Afternoon ferriesdeparting Brodick are about 16.40 and 19.20. There is also a smaller ferry that runs in summer, doubling the number of crossings available. This is the small ferry arriving for the 08.20 crossing. The first crossing of the large ferry was fully booked. Price checks and timetables for the ferry can be found at the ferry website:
www.calmac.co.uk/destinations/arran.

Isle of Arran Ferry image

The image below is from the ferry as it was close to Brodick, about 50 minutes crossing time. Had the full breakfast on the ferry, so was ready for a tough hike.

The bus station is situatedat the ferry terminal. Bus scheduals north to Cladach, Corrie, Sannox, Lochranza, and round to Blackwaterfoot are about 10:55 . 13:40 . 16:20 . 19:05. Check times Tel - 0141 332 6811. These buses normally depart about 5 minutes after the large ferry has docked. It seems there are no buses for the first ferry though.

In summer, an Open Top Bus runs between Brodick Pier and Brodick Castle just over 2 miles north. Also other tours around the island. www.stagecoachbus.com/Arran2010.aspx

Bay Garage at the terminal offers low cost car hire, phone 01770 302 839. Bay Garage also offer up to 8 seat mini buses for Hiking Parties, Golf Parties, or Island Tours. For more information, call George on Mob: 07967 587 481 or Day: 01770 700 345 or Evening: 01770 820 286.

A.R.C. Private Hire are based in Brodick with a price guide for up to 4 people of ABOUT £5 between Brodick and Cladach, £10 between Brodick and Corrie, and £15 between Brodick and Sannox. Tel: 0777 608 2752.

The large brown building across from the terminal is the Douglas Hotel with a nice beer garden, ideal when waiting on the ferry back. The white building on the right of the douglas, is another hotel with a beer garden and bouncy castle for kids.

Brodick image

The image below is of the Caisteal Abhail Car Park, at North Glen Sannox, about 9 miles north of Brodick. The sign here states it is 4 miles to Caisteal Abhail. There is a bus stop at this car park.

The steady, safer hiking trail is out to the right there, up the northwest ridge, past a number of waterfalls and pools, that in hot weather, is a popular place to cool down. That is the start of the ridge just past the trees.

The trail out to the left goes up the northeast ridge. That trail includes a number of scrambling and rock climbing sections, so is only hiked by a few real experienced hikers. You can hire a local guide for that route, to show you the best ways over the famous Witches Step.

Road Map . Local Guides .

Caisteal Abhail Car Park image

The image below is of the safer northwest ridge route up past the waterfalls. Take the path to the left at the bridge, then it is a nice steady hike up through the woodland following the burn.

This is North Glen Sannox. Note the white lines on the hill at the start of the ridge. There is a good steady trail all the way from there to the summit of Caisteal Abhail.

North Glen Sannox image

The image below is of the Caisteal Abhail trail as it reaches the end of the woodland path. That is the summit up to the left, and the trail onto the northwest ridge heads right as soon as you get to the end of the woodland.

There are a number of stepping stone places to cross the burn there. From the burn, you will see a narrow trail run up to the northwest ridge, where the white lines are showing.

You can also follow the trail up beside the the burn for about another half mile, then cross the burn up where two burns merge. That crossing is more difficult though, then you have to make your way up onto the northwest ridge from there, following a trail so far, then up through the granite slopes.

Caisteal Abhail Trail image

The image below is of the northwest ridge route to Caisteal Abhail. As soon as you get onto the top here, you get great views north, all the way to the village of Lochranza.

That is the summit of Caisteal Abhail up there, the highest part that looks like a castle. Many hikers refer to this mountain as the Castle, or Castles.

Caisteal Abhail ridge image

The image below is from one of a few spots you get views like this, between rocks, across to Caisteal Abhail, and the Witches Step on the northeast ridge.

Large Image . Witches Step Large Image.

Caisteal Abhail image

The image below is of the final section up to the top of Caisteal Abhail. This part is fairly steep, but straight forward enough. This is a top winter hiking route in snow and ice. Only attempt those condition with crampons and an ice axe though, and know how to use them.

Caisteal Abhail northwest ridge image

The image below is of Caisteal Abhail summit. I hiked to the top of this rocky point thinking it was the top, only to see this view, of the summit a fair bit higher, with two hikers sitting enjoying the views.

You cannot hike to the top from this side, have to follow the trail round to the left there, then up from the east side. There is a little rock climbing to get to the top, that is really easy.

Caisteal Abhail summit image

The image below is from the summit of Caisteal Abhail, looking south to the highest mountain on Arran named Goat Fell. That is an interesting trail across there via Cir Mhor, the Saddle and North Goat Fell.

Trails like those should only be crossed in groups with experienced hikers in the party.

There were quite a few hikers going out to Cir Mhor and back from this side, as this side of Cir Mhor is not as steep as the other side, down into the Saddle.

Caisteal Abhail view to Goat Fell image

The image below is from the top of Caisteal Abhail, looking east over the rocky Witches Step, and on to the Scottish mainland. The sun was shinning right down that ridge, enticing me to go back down that way.

I took a number of photos, then decided to head back down the northwest ridge, the way I came up.

May try hiking up the Witches Step route one day, when with other hikers, or with the local guides.

Large Image

Caisteal Abhail view east image

The image below is from hiking back down the northwest ridge, same route as I took up. The main trail runs straight down and off the end of the ridge, then over to the burn.

There is another route up or down, from the lower section of the ridge, down the granite slopes to a narrow trail that leads to stepping stones, where two burns merge. There is a fairly good trail from there down to the main trail through the woodland. This is a good route if you want to get off a path for a bit.

Caisteal Abhail route down image

The image below is of the main trail that leads down off the end of the northwest ridge, with the narrow path down there running across to the burn and trail back to the car park..

Caisteal Abhail bottom section image

The Caisteal Abhail Map below shows the two main routes onto the mountain from the North Glen Sannox car park. The Green and Yellow dots show the fairly safe northwest ridge route. The Green and Brown, and Green and Red dots, show the dangerous northeast ridge route. The Witches Step is normally regarded as the most dangerous section of all the mountain trails on the Island of Arran.

Caisteal Abhail Range OS Map.

Caisteal Abhail Map image

The hike to Caisteal Abhail was enjoyable and fairly steady most of the way. The views from the top may be the best on the island. Many hikers use the buses up this way, so they can go up one trail, and back down any other they fancy.

I could not find any good photo tours for this mountain, and the OS Map didn't show a trail all the way, so didn't know what to expect.

The trail from the burn across to the start of the ridge is quite narrow, and there is no bridge across the burn. If there had been a bridge, and the lower trail was more defined, it would have been classed as a tourist trail.

Caisteal Abhail is a real rugged mountain, so I was surprised there was such a straight forward route to the top. The Witches Step and Cir Mhor routes look amazing, may get round to trying them one day.

See also the Goat Fell Photo Tour.

For information on Corrie, Sannox and Lochranza, visit the Tour of Arran Page.

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