If you like a good scramble and you’re after a challenging hike this route on Isle of Arran is what you’re looking for! It’s known as the Sannox Horseshoe for its shape and I guarantee you that the only thing that might disappoint you is the weather. It’s a great hiking route from the beginning till the end, however, if you want to take it easy (as we did) you should allow yourself around 10 hours to finish it. So start early! In total it’s 18.7km long, which is not too much, but there’s almost no flat bits and the terrain is often quite difficult. There are two proper scrambling parts – one at the very beginning to reach Cioch na h-Oighe (661m). Whilst the other one is the Witch’s Step – once you see it from the distance and then scramble it down you’ll know why it got this name…
Note, if you’re up for even a greater challenge you can make a little detour to hike to the highest peak of Isle of Arran – Goat Fell (874m). It would add approximately 3.5km to the track’s distance.
The best way to start this hike is from the Sannox carpark where you can also easily get by bus. It’ll take you approximately 40 minutes of an easy walk to get to the first scramble. And once you’re up you’ll be rewarded by amazing views in every direction! At this point the terrain also gets easier. Soon after that you’ll reach the second highest peak of this route, Mullach Buidhe (819m), from where you’re able to see Goat Fell on your left. Once you’re by North Goatfell you can take the detour to Goat Fell I mention above. I’d say it would add about 1h 30mins to your journey.
The next part will make your legs burn as first you need to descent to The Saddle and then immediately climb up to reach Cir Mhor (799m). There will be some occasional scrambling on both parts but it’s all worth it as Cir Mhor’s glorious pyramidal shape and the view from its top will stuck in your memory for ever. Hands down, it was (so far) the most impressive Corbett I climbed.
The highest peak of this track, Caisteal Abhail (859m) is an easy walk from Cir Mhor. Unfortunately for us, it was covered in clouds so for the next 2km we couldn’t see more than just a few metres ahead of us.
The next challenging part is the Witch’s Step. To reach it you’ll need to scramble down a rather steep rocky dip. Some bits were really tricky and I image the rocks get wet due to the rain it must be quite hard to get down. Once you’re at the bottom of the gap follow the path that goes left and then turns right – it’ll take you to the main path through an easy scramble.
From there it’s about 6km back to the carpark. It’s mainly an easy walk but my legs were burning with every step during the descend from Suidhe Fhearhas (634m). Don’t forget to look back from time to time – it’s impressive to see the full route in all its beauty knowing you’ve just done it. Hiking Isle of Arran is an unforgettable experience and this route is a total must…
You can download this route in the GPX format for your GPS device by clicking on the “Download” button below the map.