Walks and Wildlife: Outdoor Adventures on Arran

The spectacularly scenic Isle of Arran is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, with rugged mountains, rolling lowlands and miles of beautiful coastline.   As part of this month’s focus on Ayrshire and Arran, we interviewed Lucy Wallace of Arran Wild Walks to find out a bit more about walking and wildlife watching on the island, and her tips for visiting.

How long have you been a Mountain Leader and Wildlife Guide on Arran?
I completed my Summer Mountain Leader Award five years ago and the business has slowly grown since then.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?
I love Scotland; the landscape, the variety, the space.  I like to be outdoors and close to nature – this really sustains me.  I also love the wonderful diversity of people I get to meet through doing my job.

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What is your favourite local walk?
The “Three Beinns” – it’s a classic ridge walk with three summits, incredible views, and makes for a good solid day out in the hills.  It’s at the quiet end of the Goatfell Range and, although strenuous, is within most hill walker’s ability.  It’s important to be able to navigate up there though, it’s a bit wild and remote in the mist.

Which season do you prefer for walking on Arran?
May and June can be wonderful months if you catch the right weather. Its pre-midge season, and there is tons of daylight.

What is your favourite animal to watch?
The otter – when we see otters they are usually quite active, either fishing or playing so always good fun. There are some great beaches in the south of Arran where it is possible to watch otters fishing off shore without disturbing them. The volcanic geology means that there are plenty of rocks out to sea and shallow water for them to hunt in without being disturbed by tourists. You need a good set of binoculars and a telescope to get the most out of watching them.

Where on the island is your favourite place to watch the sunset?
On a clear evening the summit of Goatfell is without doubt the best place to watch the sunset. I defy anyone to find anywhere better in all the world! The view from the top is stupendous at any time of day, and the sun sets out beyond Kintyre and the isles of Jura and Islay.

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Do you have a favourite beach on Arran?
Each beach has its own character.  Blackwaterfoot is good for long sandy walks especially if it is a wild day with breakers crashing on the shore. Sannox can have an almost tropical feeling of tranquility on a calm day.

Are there any of your past guided walks that stand out in your memory?
Every walk is different, even when you are going to the same places, day after day. The people, the weather and wildlife sightings make each day unique. There was an otter watching walk a couple of years ago where we saw something really unusual – two dog otters fighting.  It was very surreal and violent – not an enjoyable experience, but unusual behaviour to witness first hand and so stands out in my memory.

Do you have a tip for something to do or see on the island that visitors maybe wouldn’t find in a guidebook?
Walking to Glenashdale falls is in most guidebooks – but what they don’t say is make sure you save this walk for a rainy day.  The falls are humungous!

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Where do you go for good coffee and home baking?
There are lots of great places to stop and refuel as you go around the island, but I’m a big fan of the sandwich station in Lochranza.  It’s a little take away by the wee northend ferry, and their sticky cakes and traybakes are amazing.

Can you describe Arran in three words?
Mountains, sea, wildlife…..

Are there any upcoming festivals or events in Arran that you would recommend visiting?
There are a lot of events on Arran all year round.  The Mountain Festival in May is a great opportunity to get a taste of some of the best walks on Arran with expert guides. Music and Arts events are all listed on www.arranevents.com.  The next big event on Arran will be the Brodick Highland Games on 10th August.  It’s a huge draw, with lots of athletic contests, traditional sports and music…. plus it’s great fun.

Where else do you love walking in Scotland?
I have so many favourite places.  I love Skye; it’s so big and wild, and the Cuillin are very exciting for someone who loves mountains.  I think for sheer bewitching beauty, Torridon is hard to beat… but maybe the wildness of Sutherland tops them all?

 

Read more about Lucy’s outdoor adventures on her blog – Wild on Arran.  You can also follow her on Twitter @snoweider.

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