Last week was the last part of the SOAP mountaineering skills program … and it was destination Arran. The program has run over this this year for eight S5 and S6 pupils across East Lothian’s schools, and the Arran Exped was the finale. While the Arran mountains are not high they have some of the best (and most exciting) ridge walking and scrambling in Britain.
After gearing up in Musselburgh, it’s a short drive over to Ardrossan for the afternoon ferry to Arran. We were staying the first three nights at the very fine Seal Bay Camping down near Kildonan.
After setting up camp the plan had been to visit a local single-pitch crag. It was a fine evening, bright and warm. Unfortunately as the wind dropped, the midges came out for the evening. Standing around belaying at a crag would have been murder… so Plan B was a walk along a midge free beach and a helpfully smokey driftwood bonfire.
It dawned wet, and didn’t really stop raining for the next 48 hours. Still undaunted the group set off for a mountain day. We drove up to Brodick Castle and did a fine walk up over Goatfell, North Goatfell and back down Glen Rosa
The ridge along to North Goatfell gave some easy scrambling to add interest, but it was a pretty wet day, with no sign of the fine views which we were sure were out there.
Woke to rain and decided to try and stay low. So we set off north of Blackwaterfoot and walked up the coast, sheltering in the Kings Caves before visiting the fine standing stones of Machrie.
Luckily the forecast was spot-on … after a night of very heavy rain sun came out as we packed up camp at Seal Bay. Even better there was breeze. Just enough to blow away the midges.
Making the best of the weather we set off again for an great day of high ridges, and high visibility on the horse-shoe of Ben Tarsium from Glen Rosa. Lots of excellent dry granite, and views extending south to Ireland, out to Jura and north to Ben Nevis.
A pretty tired group arrived back at the mini-bus at 7:00pm … and then had to walk in for the last night to our ‘surprise destination’ … Cloud Base.
Despite being a bit midgy the it was luxury to not be under canvas for the last night.
Another fine sunny day, and once out of the tree in the breeze midge-free.
An easy walk down past the might Falls of Glashendale and back to the bus and off to the ferry.
Despite some wet weather at the start a really good trip, the group were always in good spirits, achieved lots and came back with some great memories. Over the past year all of the SOAP participants have gained new skills and confidence that should help them be better, bolder, and safer, mountaineers in whatever adventures they want to embark upon after their school days.