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Goatfell, Arran

Goatfell, ArranOn Saturday, Colin and I caught the train out of Glasgow and headed to Ardrossan for the ferry across to the peacefulness of the Isle of Arran. The forecast had been pretty bad for the weekend but, apart from it being windy, the sun was shining and it was turning out to be a lovely day. The ferry crossing was only an hour, and disembarking at the town of Brodick, we rented a couple of bikes and cycled southwards down the coast with the wind behind us. It felt good to be out of Glasgow and in the fresh air, but Arran isn't the flattest place in the world and some of the hills were fairly tough going.

At the south of the island we left the bikes and walked through the woods to 'Giants Grave', an ancient site that looks like large, stone-lined burial places, in a clearing surrounded by a dark, eerie forest. The sun was going down by now, and after a few Blair Witch jokes we realised we didn't have enough time to make it to the nearby waterfalls, so returned to the bikes and cycled to the town of Lamlash. There, we grabbed a pub meal that was so bad that my stomach ignored me for the rest of the weekend and we ended up back at the hostel for an early night.

This morning we were out cycling at 09:00, stopping on the way for a sausage sandwich before heading on towards the island's highest mountain, Goatfell, which we intended to climb. Leaving the bikes at the beginning of the path, we climbed higher and higher through the forest until the route opened out into a wide expanse of heather and a beautiful view out across Brodick and the Firth of Clyde. We pushed on as the path became steeper and ascended onto a high ridge running up towards the summit. It was getting colder and as we climbed higher the path was becoming frozen and snow-covered as we crossed over to the north face of the mountain and icy wind howled in from the sea.

It was a tough climb, but finally we reached the summit at 874m and stepped into Arctic conditions. The peak was covered in ice, shaped by the bitterly cold wind that was strong enough to blow you off. We pulled our hoods up, put on gloves, and after a brief look around, ducked down behind some rocks for shelter to eat lunch. The view, however, was absolutely stunning. The air was clear, and apart from clouds that would occasionally blow through, shrouding the peak and us completely, we had an incredible panoramic view of the west coast of Scotland. To the south-west we looked across the Mull of Kintyre to the Irish coastline fifty miles away, to the north, the snow-covered mountains of the Highlands, whilst in east we could see Glasgow and the hills of Fife in the distance.

In the end, the cold drove us back down. We climbed a short way below the summit, and sat in shelter from the wind, enjoying the view for a while longer before slowly making our way back down to sea level and returning to Brodick. The evening ferry was just docking as we arrived and by this time we were both quite exhausted. Standing on deck we watched as Arran slipped away in the evening twilight, and we returned, once again, to the mainland and city life.

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