With the passing of weeks and then months back in England, the pace of life once again gathers momentum as I find myself juggling my time between work, a new business, friends and family and establishing a daily routine in a new part of the country.

An adventure in its own right, my time back in England has continued to challenge, suprise and delight me as much as any of my previous travels over the past two years providing a series of new experiences, opportunites and friendships.

Yet the sad fact is that modern life offers little time for solitude and reflection, a date in the diary penned many weeks before serves as a timely reminder to tune out and run for the hills, to answer the call of the wild.

An early dash from work, and a missed train I default to plan B and make the drive north to Scotland, as the weather slowly detoriates and the downpours verge on the biblical, I begin to wonder why I can’t be content putting my feet up in front of the TV and winding down with a beer in hand like most normal people.

Fortunately there is someone equally stupid as myself, I find Paul my partner for this weekends adventure sheltering out of the rain at the ferry terminal building. With ferry tickets in hand, an announcement advises us the ferry will be delayed giving us plenty of time to discuss where we may sleep, what we have each forgotten and perhaps most importantly whether we will make it to the pub in time.

As the rain begins to ease, patches of blue appear in the sky, before unveiling the mountains of the Isle of Arran and a range of vivid colours as seen from the harbour in Ardrossan.

Sunset

Both tired from our respective weeks sitting at desks, we leave the ferry and decide to bypass the pub, making straight for the coastline to find a place to sleep. The full moon overhead makes our lives easy, as we eventually settle on a quiet spot tucked amongst long grass.

Moon

By morning we wake early as midges begin to nibble the smallest bits of skin exposed outside our sleeping bags. Packing up our things we elect to ride down the beach for breakfast in Brodick rather than following our route of the previous evening.

Beach

Over a relaxed breakfast we discuss the ride, and our destination for the day whilst swilling down our second coffee. At a little over 14 miles away as the crow flys, Lochranza is hardly one of the biggest days either myself or Paul an experienced endurance racer are likely to encounter. But as we were to find, what Arran lacks in size, it makes up for in other ways.

Beach riding

Leaving tarmac behind, wide double track slowly peters out as we enter Glen Rosa. The path narrowing as we ride along the stream fed from the mountains above.

Burn

Rocks and water bars, quickly have us hopping on and off our bikes and pushing over obstacles. At times the path narrows and constricts barely wide enough for our bikes to pass, reminding me of the Ecuadorian paramo, were it not for the flashes of deep purple goarse and the clawing and scratching at our legs.

Flowers

Pressing bikes over our heads, we negotiate one of several deer fences our volumous tyres simply too wide to fit through the gates.

Deer Fence

From Israel to Arran, Paul’s custom built Ari Cycles bike sits in the grass, whilst Paul goes in search of his Spot tracker. Never to be found, a gift to the trail gods.

Ari

Onwards toward the Saddle and our days high point.

Singletrack

Branching off we begin the hike a bike to the Saddle amongst jumbled granite boulders that pepper the hill side.

Path

Views across the valley to the A’Chir ridge and Chir Mor, these fine crags draw many climbers to the island in search of their elusive Classic Rock ticks.

Chir Mor

As height is gained, the river snakes back down the glen, a classic u shaped valley perfectly framed.

Glen Rosa

Goat Fell stood high amongst the clouds.

Goat Fell

Between rideable sections, we push and haul our bikes over the Saddle before casting our eye down Glen Sannox and out to the Firth of Clyde.

Glen Sannox

Expecting easy riding from the saddle, we’re suprised to find steep ground and a chimney blocking our way. Eventually man handling our bikes one at a time down the chimney, as rain and hail to begin to produce waterfalls that run in to our shoes.

Chimney

Somewhat relieved to get ourselves and the bikes down, we’re both left wild eyed.

Wild eyes

Looking back its easy to understand why.

Inpenetrable

A small river crossing, and we’re in to more rideable territory.

River crossing

The mountains behind us. The numerous water bars conspire against a speedy plummet to the sea.

Glen Sannox

After an intense couple of hours its time to chew the fat, and prop the bikes up against felled trees.

Wood

From the high mountains to the sea within touching distance, we join the Coastal Way.

Coast

Cutting through dense bracken.

Coast

And past the white washed Laggan cottage, a land mark to the once thriving community driven out by the land clearances which affected vast tracts of the Scottish Highlands.

Laggan Cottage

Pushing ever onwards to The Cock of Arran, as the coast becomes steeper and more jumbled, our arms begin to tire, and progress feels slow and laboured. Arriving in Lochranza by early evening its been a long day, exceeding both our expectations in its physicality for such a modest distance.

Bracken

Hacking back down the road the following morning we arrive in Brodick as the weather closes in, ideas to explore the man made trails are shelved as the rain patters on the cafe window. The lure of an early ferry too much to pass up. Aboard the ferry back to the mainland, low cloud hangs once again in Glen Rosa.

Cloud in Glen Rosa

Dropping Paul off in Carlisle its time to say our good byes. Sated with a small slice of adventure, we shake hands and transition once again back in to the buzz of modern life, ready to once again pencil another date in the diary and the start of another adventure.

Grizzly portrait

19 Comments

  1. Andi
    06/08/2015

    Awesome landscape! oO

    Reply
    • Mike
      07/08/2015

      Before this trip it was 5 years ago since I was on Arran. I remember it being an amazing little island and it didn’t disappoint!

  2. Logan
    06/08/2015

    Man, great photos and write up…

    Reply
    • Mike
      07/08/2015

      Cheers Logan!

  3. mark willmore
    06/08/2015

    looks like fun

    Reply
  4. Rich
    07/08/2015

    Looks great, I’d never considered taking a bike there.

    Reply
    • Mike
      07/08/2015

      Definitely a great island Rich. There is certainly enough riding to keep you occupied for a weekend, we didn’t manage to check out the man made trails unfortunately.

      The ride over the saddle might be a bit tricky with Mini Pips as the chimney is quite involved and needed two of us to lug and haul the bikes down. Oh and plenty of fell running potential as well!

  5. joan gilbert
    07/08/2015

    What stunning photos, Mike. I almost felt I was there…
    Very best wishes for future rides.
    Joannie
    (Cass’mother).

    Reply
    • Mike
      08/08/2015

      Lovely to hear from you Joannie as always. Glad you enjoyed it :-)

  6. Anthony Pease
    07/08/2015

    Brilliant write up and amazing pictures! You have certainly convinced me that I need to bike pack that island :)

    Reply
    • Mike
      08/08/2015

      Thanks Anthony.

      High praise indeed, you have an impressive selection of photos yourself. Definitely worth a trip up there, there is also the Arran End to End which looks interesting, the route is published on line somewhere.

  7. Sharon McDonald
    07/08/2015

    Another great adventure Mike, can I come next time :-)

    Reply
    • Mike
      08/08/2015

      Great to hear from you Sharon. Maybe we should do something in the Dales, hopefully catch up with you on the Open 5 circuit again this winter :-)

  8. Przemek
    13/08/2015

    Scotland, got to see Scotland!

    Reply
    • Mike
      13/08/2015

      Pzremek! Good to hear from you, always been a reader of your blog.

      Yeah if you make it over, look me up, otherwise maybe we can ride together in your country :-)

    • Przemek
      13/08/2015

      Mike, would love to spend a longer time exploring Scottish ground, it’s very high on my list. Trails like the Highland Trail 500 or West Highland Way are poking my wanderlust big time since ages. I should finally scratch that itch! Thanks for the invitation, I’ll keep that in mind. I suppose somewhere around June-July would be the best period weather wise, am I right?
      Poland is a fine place for bikepacking and one of my favourites to ride! Trail/forest access is great and it’s not hard to venture off the beaten track. Although it’s flat for most of the time we have quite a bit of quality singletrack in the south (

      ) and you can easily jump over the border for more riding in Slovakia and Czech Republic. North? How about swimming in a different lake each day, or twice a day even. Welcome to Mazury!
      If you ever decide to come for a visit drop me a line, even if I won’t be able to join I’ll make sure you land in the right places.

      Cheers
      Przemek

    • Mike
      13/08/2015

      Przemek

      Yeah an extended trip in Scotland is high on my list at the moment as well, ideally I’d like to spend a couple of months up there bikepacking and ticking off some of (the many Munros). Actually late May/June or September time are the best times before the midges become too much. Certainly worth bearing in mind as they can become unbearable.

      I loved Poland when I travelled there some years ago, Gypsybytrade’s blog posts did a good job of persuading me to make it back out there at some point. Likewise I will certainly keep you in mind.

      Hopefully our paths will cross and we get to ride together one day.

      Cheers

      Mike

  9. Michael Dammer
    02/09/2015

    Bien Tocayo! Que lindas fotos y que buen escape del mundanal ruido de la ciudad.
    Those mountains remind me of the “Inca trail section” of the Trans Ecuador.
    Looking forward to visit “tus tierras” sometime soon…

    Reply
    • Mike
      02/09/2015

      Gracias companero!

      Si tiempo afuera de la ciudad es bueno para la alma. Los Ingleses son ricos con dinero, pero pobres en otras cosas, estamos desconectados de la pachamama.

      Tengo muchos memorias buenas desde tu tierra, y darle la bienvenida a nuestra pequeña isla cualquier momento.

      Saludos a ti y todo la familia en Paluago.

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