The through route between Glens Sannox and Rosa, via The Saddle, is often said to be the best walk on Arran that doesn’t actually ascend to a mountain summit. It’s still a mountain walk though – The Saddle is at an altitude of 1417 feet on the ridge that connects Goat Fell with Cir Mhor, and given that both ends of the route are at sea level, there’s a fair amount of ascent and descent. There’s even a short section of scrambling to add a bit of excitement to the outing. Throughout the ferry crossing, we’d been in thick fog, though given the excellent forecast we were optimistic that this would either burn off or that we’d climb through it and witness a cloud inversion. It was still pretty foggy as we left the bus at Sannox and headed up the bottom of the glen, so we didn’t rush, in the hope that the clouds would begin to part.
Luckily, our optimism wasn’t misplaced, as the clouds started to clear the tops after we’d been walking for a couple of miles, so for the first time we were able to see the mountains that enclose the glen: Goat Fell, Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail.
Just before we began the climb out of the glen, the path crossed the Sannox Burn, from which we were able to refill our water bottles and enjoy some of the tastiest water I have ever drunk. As we began to climb, exciting views opened up towards Caisteal Abhail, and we were still able to catch glimpses of the fog hanging over the sea.
Just before the summit of The Saddle is reached, there’s a short scramble up Whin Dyke, though it’s fairly straightforward (grade 1 at a guess). There is some loose rock though, so you do have to be careful, as I found to my cost!
The summit of The Saddle made a superb picnic spot and gave us ample time to take in the magnificent views. My interest was also aroused by a curious looking rock formation that I took to be some kind of volcanic intrusion, but so far I have been unable to verify this. Perhaps some kind geologist will be able to identify it for me?
The only problem with walking over a pass is of course that as soon as you get to the top, you have to start going down again! Thankfully the descent into Glen Rosa is fairly kind on the knees, and the views back up to the peaks are equally as stunning as those from Glen Sannox. The burn running through the glen also offers plenty of interest and beautifully clear water.
In its lower reaches, the burn enters a narrow rocky gorge and the National Trust for Scotland has erected a deer fence around an enclosure here to allow the natural woodland to regenerate. It was heartening to see that the scheme is already reaping rewards, with birch and pine trees starting to return, even if the fence itself is something of an eyesore. It was around this area that we saw a golden eagle, a life tick for me and consequently a matter of great excitement! We watched it for some time as it soared above the Goat Fell ridge, though unfortunately it was too far away to get a decent photograph. Nevertheless, it was undoubtedly a highlight of the walk.
Some pictures by Georgina Collins