In Steve’s words:
As the bus pulled into Brodick, we could see ominous looking clouds coming in from the east. They were still high, but dangerously grey and they stretched back over Ardrossan and Glasgow past the horizon. After grabbing a few supplies from the local Co-op we set off for Glen Rosa to find a decent site to wildcamp, hoping every step of the way that the cool off-shore breeze would somehow wend its way into the glen to keep the midges off us.
Three miles later, as we passed the midge-infested Glen Rosa campsite, the air was as dead as it had been on Sunday. Curses were muttered.† Nevertheless we soldiered on and eventually, close to the head of the Glen Rosa where Goatfell and Beinn a’Chliabhain sweep down to meet the burn, and with Cir Mhor brooding over, we found the ideal wildcamping spot. There was even an occasional puff of wind as the sea breeze struggled over the peaks and passes to fill the northern bowl of Glen Rosa. Splendid!† We chucked our tents up, got the stoves going and planned the next day’s hiking over hot brews and camp food.
Come morning, Arran once again proved that all plans were futile here. Low, black cloud drifted in from the east, roiling around the peaks of Goatfell and Cir Mhor, even obscuring the Witch’s Step whose rocky divide had been easily visible over the Saddle on the previous evening. Worse still, from our camp we had no eastward view to see if the cloud was settling in for the day. We decided to give it an hour and then set off into the Saddle at the head of Glen Rosa to see if we could see what the weather was going to do by attaining a vantage along Glen Sannox. As it turned out, the cloud lifted within the hour.
So, off we set. We decided to have a bash at Cir Mhor first and then drop down its eastern slope into the Saddle and then up Goatfell, which had been a main objective of the trip. The footpath splits off at the head of Glen Rosa, with one fork heading up into the Saddle and the other, the one we were taking, leading westward into Fionn Choire, the corrie below Cir Mhor. By the time we made it up into the corrie the cloud had just about lifted and the sun was in full effect and, as we followed the steepening path out of the corrie and up onto the ridge, the wind was getting ever stronger.
We hit the ridge, where the western slope of Cir Mhor narrows to join the dramatic crags of A’Chir to the south, and the wind had become intense. Deciding the best course of action was a cup of tea, we dropped behind the ridge and brewed up.
We decided to contour round Cir Mhor and take the leeward path up, as the steeper, more direct path was right in the wind. It turned out to be a good choice, as while we circled around not only did we avoid the worst of the wind (which snapped like whipping plastic over the ridges) but we were treated to breathtaking views of Caisteal Abhail, the Witch’s Step and Glen Sannox far below.
After maybe 20 minutes of scrambling and cursing (I was wearing the kind of combat-style shorts that Spike Milligan would’ve called Bombay Bloomers and bare legs and Arran granite don’t mix) we reached the summit, and my God what a summit it is.
Even from the ground Cir Mhor appears pointy, but when you’re up there its very pinnacle is not much bigger than a fairly generous sofa. Except rockier, windier and covered in granite gravel. The view, though, is just amazing. Glen Rosa to the south, Glen Sannox to the north-east, westward you can see the head of Glen Iorsa and the slopes of Beinn Bhreac from which we’d watched the bad weather break to good over Beinn Tarsuinn and A’Chir just two days before. Further south you can see Brodick clinging to the coastline and, further still, Holy Island rears up out of Lamlash Bay with its peak basking in distant sunshine.† Goatfell and Caisteal Abhail, the highest peaks on Arran, come only to your shoulders.