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Sannox Horseshoe

Sannox Horseshoe

Alex Jeffers
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Hamish Frost gives an account of a winter round of the Sannox Horseshoe on the Isle of Arran, and a dose of unseasonal motivation to boot. At time of writing the great heatwave of 2018 appears to have broken, and the time draws nigh to rouse those winter-loving muscles. Consider this a gentle alarm call...


The Christmas period had brought with it the usual mix of inactivity, excess and associated guilt. There was only one thing for it - a mammoth day charging around the mountains to burn it all off.

The Isle of Arran, although lacking in any Munros, is the home to some fine mountains which are easily climbable in a day trip. We hatched plans to attempt a speedy winter round of the Sannox horseshoe - a 15km circuit taking in many of Arran’s most dramatic peaks, hopefully making it back to Brodick in time for the last ferry back to the mainland.


Sannox horseshoe, isle of arran, scotland, climbing

Beautiful winter light on the climb towards Mullach Buidhe


Despite leaving Glasgow with ample time in hand to make the early ferry, we still ended up sprinting towards the passenger loading bridge as the ferry prepared to pull away (has anyone ever made it to a CalMac ferry in good time!?). A further short bus journey along the coastal road took us to the foot of Glen Sannox and the start of the horseshoe.


sannox horseshoe, goatfell, isle of arran, scotland, mountaineering

Scrambling over the northwest ridge of Goatfell with Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail behind


Every so often it’s nice to leave the camera at home so I can enjoy a day in the mountains for what it is, without feeling any pressure to take photos. I’d vaguely considered doing so this time, however on this occasion I’m glad I decided otherwise. Storm after stom rolled through as we progressed round the horseshoe, giving the day a full-on Scottish winter feel. One minute you could see for miles, the next it was total whiteout. Calm and still one moment, gusting strong enough to throw you completely off balance the next.


cir mhor, sannox horseshoe, isle of arran, scotland, mountaineering

Cir Mhor emerges from the clouds


In between the storms, we were treated to some incredible displays as the clouds rolled off the summits and stunning winter light shine through over the snow-covered mountains. It was one of those days where you definitely wanted a camera with you, only having to point it at the weather unfolding in front of you to get a good shot.


caisteal abhail, sannox horseshoe, isle of arran, scotland, mountaineering

More excellent scrambling on Caisteal Abhail


Despite arduous weather and plenty of stopping to take in the views when it did clear, we eventually made it round the circuit in a respectable sub-eight hours, just about making it back to Brodick in time for an earlier than planned ferry back to the mainland.

You get your fair share of tough days out in Scotland, but when it all comes together like it did on that day, there are few places that can beat it!


suidhe fheargas, sannox horseshoe, isle of arran, scotland, mountaineering

Enjoying the last of the light on route to the summit of Suidhe Fhearghas


To find out more about Hamish Frost and his incredible photography, visit


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