By Craig Neil
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Goatfell is an 874-metre mountain on the Isle of Arran on Scotland’s west coast. The mountain (designated a Corbett) is one of four on the island and is located three miles west of Brodick Castle.
Although Goatfell is the highest point on the Isle of Arran the walk to the summit is quite easy with a robust staircase of boulders towards the top and a well-laid path through moorland and forest for the remainder of the path from Brodick Castle.
1: The views. What can I say? They’re amazing. Don’t forget to pack your camera and binoculars.
2: This is an easy mountain to hike and in fact is one of the easiest you’re likely to find in Scotland. The path is well-trodden so should be very easy to follow unless it has been covered with snow. Be aware there are rocks to clamber over near the top and they get slippery after a rainfall.
3: After you’ve visited the mountain grab a drink in the pub back in the car park. You’ll also find a gin distillery across the road if you fancy something stronger and there’s a beer brewery behind the pub if you want to take home an alcoholic memento of Arran.
1: As always with mountain hikes in Scotland, prepare for all seasons even if you’re visiting in summer.
As an example when I set off in August I was sweating in shorts and a T-shirt but by the time I got to the summit there was a freezing cold wind that I had trouble standing up in. Pack thermals and raingear whatever the weather is like at ground level.
2: This is a good hike but if you leave early you’ll have time to explore the gardens of Brodick Castle a mile to the north. You can pay separately for the gardens or you can purchase a full ticket which also allows entry inside the castle.
3: If you don’t like the idea of losing the walking trail make sure you take an Ordnance Survey map with you.
The Isle of Arran is one of the top destinations for holidaymakers keen to explore Scotland’s west coast islands.
Although it’s not quite as scenic as Skye and doesn’t have the whisky heritage of Islay it does have several other perks that might make you put this small island at the top of your Scotland ‘must-visit’ list.
First off, it’s dead easy to get to due to its location in the Firth of Clyde. You’ll hear lots of Glaswegian accents while exploring Arran as the ferry terminal at Ardrossan takes less than an hour to drive from Glasgow via the A737.
That means that unlike the outlying west coast islands, Aran can be visited for a day trip as well as for a week or a longer adventure.
The second perk is that there are a huge number of places to visit on the island if you’re a keen cyclist or walker – with the latter being spoilt for choice thanks to the unique landscape of Arran that offers thick forests to explore in the south and mountainous peaks to scramble up in the north.
These mountains (actually Corbetts – mountains between 2,500 and 3,000 feet) lie on the edge of the Highland boundary fault line that cuts its way through Scotland from the southwest to the northeast.
Although they’re not quite as majestic as the soaring peaks you’ll find elsewhere in the Scottish Highlands they’re still worth climbing for the stunning views they offer from the top with Cir Mhor, Beinn Tarsuinn, and Caisteal Abhail offering hardened climbers a tough ascent up steep granite boulders.
The fourth Corbett – Goatfell – is also the highest at 874 metres but the route to the top is by far the easiest thanks to a wide, well-marked path that runs from the edge of Brodick Castle all the way to the summit just over 3 miles to the north-west.
From the castle boundary you’ll walk through forest and moorland on your way to the mountain on a path that’s spectacularly scenic at every step of the way.
Keep an eye peeled for buzzards and golden eagles soaring overhead as you follow the path and take a deep breath of the sweet-smelling heather that covers the lower regions of the glen once you leave the forest.
It really is a beautiful route and you’ll immediately understand why they call Arran ‘Scotland in miniature’ when you climb Goatfell.
On the trail you’ll get to experience many of the iconic scenes this country is famous for in one small area – dramatic glens, windswept mountains, and stunning coastlines.
If you would like to join a tour of Scotland’s west coast islands take a look at this selection from Get Your Guide.
Before I go any further I have to tell you how busy this walk is. Admittedly I visited in August but you wouldn’t believe how many hikers were there and it was basically a non-stop procession of people from start to finish.
If you’re looking for a quiet walk to enjoy the great outdoors in peace and quiet I seriously suggest you look elsewhere.
That being said, if you’re the type of person that doesn’t mind herds of tourists crowding a mountainside you really should give Goatfell a look.
The views are drop-dead gorgeous but it’s also an incredibly easy mountain to climb. The most popular route – and the one I took – starts at The Wineport pub car park at Cladach and continues through well-maintained paths courtesy of The Forestry Commission.
The path only narrows once you leave the covering of trees, but even then it’s very accessible apart from the occasional boulder that you’ll have to shimmy your way over.
As the path weaves its gentle curve towards the eastern shoulder of Goatfell the terrain becomes wide-open and relatively flat with a remarkably shallow incline.
The only downside is that the summit then requires a fairly steep climb up granite boulders, but it’s still not that difficult and most of the boulders form a natural staircase.
This ease of access means most people should be able to complete the three to four-hour climb without needing to use walking poles or having to stop for rest breaks.
That being said you absolutely must wear hiking boots when you climb any of Scotland’s mountains as the ankle support they provide can prevent serious injury.
On my visit I passed a young girl being carried back down who was wearing trainers and had slipped on wet rocks. I was so glad I was wearing my trusty Berghaus hiking boots (Amazon link).
Once you get to the top of Goatfell you’ll find a large, fairly flat area with a trig point in the middle and a few large boulders to shelter behind from the stiff winds that are almost guaranteed to blow in from the other Arran peaks to the north and west.
The views are absolutely fantastic and in my opinion are equal to those at the Quiraing on Skye thanks to the mainland and the Firth of Clyde clearly visible to the east and the Campbeltown peninsula to the west.
Make sure you’ve got your camera with you to preserve the moment and take your binoculars as well because you’ll be able to see the east coast of Ireland on a clear day.
And speaking of clear days, remember we don’t get many of them in Scotland so always make sure you’re prepared for any mountain walk.
Wear good quality walking boots as mentioned above, pack a waterproof and a thermal top, and take a waterproof backpack (Amazon link) with energy snacks and lots of water.
Finally, make sure your mobile phone has plenty of battery power just in case you need to call the Arran mountain rescue team for help (thankfully they’ve got a station opposite the Cladach car park)
You’ll find an overview of the Goatfell walking trail further down this page.
Discover more mountains in Scotland with: The Best Munros in Scotland – Ultimate Visitor Guide.
Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:
Isle of Arran – 361 Explorer.
North Kintyre & Tarbert – 62 Landranger.
OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
1: Begin at the Cladach Centre which lies about half a mile south of the entrance to Brodick Castle. There is a large pub at the centre with a decent-sized car park in front of it that you can use.
There’s also a bus stop on the road if you’re using public transport. To the right of the pub is a road which leads to a signposted path that points in the direction of Goatfell.
2: The track curves up and around a woodland before opening up to a field with views across Glen Rosa. Continue following the track and cross over the road a half-mile past the field. Continue in the same direction on this signposted path.
3: The path continues towards Goatfell which is now visible in the distance. You’ll first walk through thick mixed woodland and then climb a shallow ascent through heather-covered moorland. This section of the track has a few rocky sections that have to be stepped over.
4: The heather thins and the landscape becomes much more sparse once you are well ahead of the woodland. About a mile further is a small bridge that crosses the Cnocan Burn with a smaller path that joins a separate track from Brodick Castle.
Follow the track that points towards the summit of Goatfell (You can’t miss Goatfell – it’s the largest peak on the skyline).
5: Pass through the gated deer fence – make sure you close it behind you – and follow the well-worn path in the direction of the eastern shoulder of Goatfell. The track is a shallow incline for another mile or so but starts to rise steeply once you get to the foot of the summit.
6: The final ascent is the steepest part of the walk but it’s still relatively easy for a Scottish mountain. During my visit I passed a couple of families with young children as well as a few pensioners. If they can do it, so can you!
7: There aren’t any blind summits so simply follow the worn track to the top. Once at the summit you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of Arran and the Firth of Clyde.
8: You could continue north to explore the rest of Arran’s mountains but the opposite side is very steep with lots of loose shingle.
My advice is to return to the pub for a well-deserved drink by following the exact same trail you went up on. The entire walk should take three to four hours at a steady pace for anyone with average fitness levels.
Things to do nearby
Brodick Castle and Gardens. 2 hours 30-minutes walk. 19th-century castle in a Scottish baronial style that is surrounded by extensive formal gardens. The castle and grounds are open for self-guided tours.
Brodick Forest. 2-hour walk. Expansive forest set between Brodick Castle and Goatfell mountain. The forest has several managed footpaths, most of which can be used by walkers and cyclists.
Arran Coastal Way. 2 hours 30-minutes walk. Walking and cycling trail that circles the entire coastline of Arran. The main starting point begins on Brodick beachfront and continues past Brodick Castle to Lochranza on the north of the island.
Arran Heritage Museum. 2 hours 30-minutes walk and a 10-minute drive. Museum with exhibits that explain the history of Arran, its agriculture and its geology. Features a vintage farm, gift shop and a café.
Sannox. Arran, KA27 8JD. 2 hours 30-minutes walk. Popular parish village that lies on the eastern side of Arran. Highly regarded for Sannox Bay which is a pebbled stretch of coastline that has crystal-clear water looking over the Firth of Clyde.
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to walk up Goatfell?
Goatfell has an elevation of 874 metres, with the route from Brodick Castle approximately 3 miles in length. The return route takes between 4-6 hours to walk.
Can a beginner climb Goatfell?
Goatfell is an easy walk and beginners can climb it without a problem as long as they are moderately fit. The 3-mile ascent from Brodick Castle starts on a long, shallow incline which becomes a scramble up steep rocks towards the end.
Is Goatfell a Munro?
Goatfell is 2,687 feet at its summit, which means it is a Corbett and not a Munro. Corbett’s lie between 2,500 and under 3,000 feet. Anything over 3,000 feet is a Munro.
Where do I start Goatfell?
The most popular location to start a hike up Goatfell is the Cladach Centre (Cladach, Brodick, KA27 8DE) near Brodick Castle which has a pub/restaurant and a large car park. The path to the summit is waymarked and heads through a forest before opening up towards the mountain.