Saturday, 9 April 2011

Granite Heaven: The High Road to Brodick

Yesterday was one of those days when the Isle of Arran gleamed like a jewel in the sea. Staying indoors was simply not an option, and the only decision to be made was which gorgeous corner of the island to go and play in? In the morning, the Northern Hills were still shrouded in mist, but the forecast looked set fair so we dropped the car at Cladach near Brodick and hopped on a bus to Sannox.  From here we planned to link up two of the finest low grade scrambles in Scotland, if not the UK, and vastly underrated at that. It was a long day, the sort when you linger at every viewpoint for longer than you intend... and I took tons of photos, so I'll let them speak for themselves.

From Glen Sannox, the way strikes up left toward's the Devil's Punchbowl. Cioch Na h'Oighe is the peak on the right of the picture. There is a traverse path that runs from the burn to the base of the scrambling on this peak.

Once established on the Cioch, there are great views in to Glen Sannox. The route follows a series of exposed slabs up to the first summit. Most are avoidable, but there is one tricky section that must be negotiated. 

Once on the ridge, a series of rocky crests rises up before you. 

Most of the hardest scrambling is avoidable on the right, but it is more fun to take the ridge direct at about grade I/II

All too soon the ridge broadens out at the back of the Punchbowl and you begin the climb up to Mullach Buidhe. 

Looking back along the ridge, there are fabulous views of the Cioch, and down to the sandy beach of Sannox Bay. 

Mullach Buidhe itself is a rock escarpment overlooking the head of Glen Sannox, This is looking back to Mullach Buidhe from the slopes of North Goatfell. 

Great views in to Coire Lan and towards the village of Corrie from the slopes of North Goatfell.

The blocky summit of North Goatfell, with Goatfell looming beyond. 

The Stacach Ridge hangs between the two summits of Goatfell.  Most of the difficulties can be avoided by taking a traverse path to the East, but a traverse of the ridge crest is an exposed and exciting scramble on excellent rock at hard grade I.

Great views back in to the mountains. From left to right the peaks are: Cir Mhor, Caisteal Abhail, and North Goatfell. 

And finally, from the summit of Goatfell, the South Ridge. The tourist path takes an easy line to the East.  We chose a direct descent down the South Ridge, with a bit more easy scrambling, before dropping down to the main path above the forestry.


grantsymon said...

Hi Lucy.

I stumbled across your page, when looking up 'the devil's punchbowl'. Why? Because I was reading a review on the bbc site about a hidden Devil's face being revealed in a Giotto fresco in Italy.

I'm guessing that you live on Arran. I sort of used to. I went to school in Edinburgh, but my mum and dad built a house in Glen Sannox, when I was 7 years old and subsequent to that, I spent all my easter and summer holidays, all my half term holidays and occasionally some of the winter holidays on Arran. My brother Scott and I were so emotionally entwined with Arran, that when my dad sold the house he'd built, in the early 80's, it felt like a parts of us had been amputated.

I've only been back to Arran once since then and yet ... when I look at your pictures, it feels like I know almost every nook and cranny. Our house was called Darven cottage and is on the beach, next to the Manse. I'm told it's surrounded by trees now, but when I grew up, there were no such restrictions to the incredible scenes surrounding us.

That's a long-winded way of introducing myself, with only the intention of explaining to you a little bit about the Devil's Punchbowl. Legend has it, that at certain times of day, or perhaps, certain times of year, when the light is just right, 'old nick's' face can be seen in the face of the punchbowl. Legend also has it, that the side of the mountain was 'punched' out by the devil and landed in the sea in Sannox bay (an apparent explanation to the shallow water that lies some distance off shore). I grew up with this legend.

In Sannox, when I was growing up in mid-Sannox, there were 3 houses plus the manse. Not much of a population.

I can't tell you, how many hours, as a young boy, I spent studying, drawing, staring into the face of the Devil's Punchbowl, searching for that face. Then, late one summer, when I was about 15, I saw it. There was no mistaking it. It was old nick himself. It was not so much the light, although it helped quite a bit, but it is the rock and sand structure. Once you 'see' it. You can never look into the face of the Punchbowl again, without seeing it. It is quite haunting.

I've often wondered who it was that must have lived on the beach in mid-Sannox (because you can't see it from Sannox itself) and when it was, that they 'saw' it and how old the legend is. I wouldn't wonder that it is many hundreds of years old.

Best wishes,

Grant Symon

Lucy Wallace said...

Wow! Fantastic. Thank you. I can see that I am going to be spending a lot of time over the coming months searching for that face! Did you know that there is a memorial plaque high up in the punch bowl? It takes some finding, but sometimes you can see it shining in the sunlight after rain at the base of the Bastion.