Scotland in miniature
The Isle of Arran is widely known as �Scotland in Miniature� and is an easy-to-access menagerie of scaled-down summits, ridges, glens and lochs: as a neat stepping-stone to higher, harder Scottish rock.
It's the perfect test-drive to get you over the border without having to walk miles into the wilderness to climb nail-biting, unavoidable outcrops of granite slab at the end of inescapable, merciless ridges. It's full of peaks, scrambles, razor-thin ridges, glens, corries and lochs all set in semi-pathless wilderness a step up from the Lake District and Wales but far less intimidating than the vast tracts of cavernous mountain on the rest of Scotland.
Jagged highland, rolling lowland
The north and south of Arran are divided into jagged highland and rolling lowland landscapes just like the top and bottom of Scotland. To the island�s south are smaller versions of Southern Upland peaks - green hills rolling away puckered by tall cliffs and sandy beaches. To the north is Arran�s Ben Nevis, Goat Fell (874m/2867ft). This rocky giant rises up smooth-sided at first, finishing in daring ridges to Cir Mhor (799m/2621ft), Bein Tarsuinn (826m/2709ft) and Caisteal Abhail (859m/2818ft) that add a black, rocky scrambling trim to the range like the waving arms of a huge brittle starfish.
Bounce over the sea for an hour from Ardossan harbour on the mainland and mini-Scotland looms ahead. Set out from the isolated farmstead at Thundergay in the north-west, and walk up the steep path to the small, remote, ice-blue lochan of Coire Fhionn, with its imposing surrounding green horseshoe ridge. Just like its big sister lochans on the mainland, this scoop of water fills a glacier�s gouge in the mountainside from when the last ice age plunged the UK into deep chill and ripped it into perfect walking territory 10,000 years ago.
Head to Beinn Bhreac (711m/2,332ft) and rain, swirling clouds, and a dramatic backdrop mean you could be in the middle of the sub-arctic desolation of the Cairngorms. This is the end of the beaten track. Your gentle handshake with mini-Scotland is over and real remote Scotland rears in front of you. But at least there are no spirit-crushing 20km walk-outs on this island.
All of Arran�s easy to reach peaks are a great way to see how your legs cope with climbing and scrambling from sea level without an energy-sapping long walk in. Try Mullach Buidhe (721m/2365ft). A perfect introduction to Scottish scrambling with fat, square granite blocks, slotted together with the straight lined precision of an Inca temple.
Goat Fell, Arran�s miniature Ben Nevis is thankfully not as tourist-shattered as its mainland counterpart. And on a clear day, you�ll ogle a mountainside as full of contrasting landscapes; rolling hills to the south, sandy bays nibbling the island�s coast, carved out glens and jutting outcrops, dinosaur-backed ridges, mini-lochs and wide ridgelines, then north over the Kilbrannan Sound to the distant mounds of the Paps of Jura.
The view of the top of the Goat Fell range is a single shot of what makes Scotland so special. A narrow, Alpine-like edge zig-zags up and round to Beinn Nuis (792m/2598ft). All the way round, piles of granite bigger than double-decker buses balance precariously down the mountainside with their weathered cracks sprouting tufts of greenery that lead down to deep, bracken-filled valleys striped with transparent streams.
Try it for size
The Isle of Arran is Scotland in Miniature
OS Landranger (1:50, 000) 69
Can you believe it? A distilled, petite version of everything the north can offer all crammed on to one OS sheet on an island a stone�s throw from Glasgow. Sharp-edged mountains, scrambling ridges, corries, lochs, glens and burns all within 420m2 make the ideal training ground for Arran�s gnarlier, wilder mainland big brothers.
Goat Fell is 4/5th Ben Nevis
Smaller but surrounded by a miniature Cuillin ridge of granite, Arran�s highest summit sees way less flip-floppery from clueless tourists and a panorama of the entire island, over the Firth of Clyde to the whole of the rest of Scotland.
A Chir is 3/4 An Teallach
A step up from famous Grade one ridge scrambles like Snowdon�s Crib Goch and Helvellyn�s Striding Edge, this Grade 3 twist of granite spine is second only to the An Teallach traverse ridgeline because you can bypass the skyway via a walkable path to the west
Cir Mhor is 1/2 Buachaille Etive Mor
This Tryfan-like scramble allows you to pick your own way through granite obelisks the size of sphinxes up a perfect pyramidal slope with a steepness to rival its bigger Scottish brother.
Glen Sannox is 1/3 Glencoe
These Scottish trenches surrounded by sky-scraping ridges and peaks have both seen their fair share of tragedy, but the massacre of 78 MacDonalds living in 17th century Glencoe far out weighs the single murder of one unfortunate holiday maker by his walking companion in Arran�s smaller Glen Sannox in 1889.
Glen Rosa is 1/3 Glen Nevis
This deep-cut glen�s waterfalls are miniature in comparison to the famous Glen Nevis falls and gorges, but although shorter in length, Glen Rosa cuts a dramatically quiet groove below the highest mountain for miles around to make the perfect valley to hone your wild camp skills.
Loch Tanna is 1/18th Loch Lomond
At 2km to Loch Lomond�s 37km ribbon of water, Arran�s biggest Loch is very small in comparison to most of its mainland brothers. You can make up your own soppy poetry about its banks, plus it won�t hold you up on your way to the next mountain - you can circum-navigate it within two hours.
Looking for more inspiration?
Where to next? High Cup Nick
Where to next? Giant's Causeway