Decide on rough location; convince someone else to come along; find cheap train ticket; buy map (or dig out from collection). The finer details of exactly where to walk, eat, drink and sleep could be decided on the train journey up, sometimes on arrival at the station.
But now? With two rapidly growing children in tow, things need a little more planning.
So our late autumn half-term family holiday needed some preparation. The usual criteria of good public transport links and a bit of wilderness still applied, of course, but with new caveats: a reasonable journey time (and cost) and the need to avoid being anywhere too remote and committing once out on the hills.
Step forward Arran: accessible, affordable and by all accounts rather lovely.
The path to Coire Fhionn Lochan
Good walking routes on the island are abundant. The mountainous north presents more serious walking and scrambling, centred on Goat Fell and its surrounding peaks and granite ridges. Perhaps for next time though; with youngsters on board, a trip to the beautiful Coire Fhionn Lochan and the saddle above was a chance to experience the grandeur of the higher hills without overstretching smaller legs.
While walkers often gaze north, the contrasting landscapes of the island’s south offer a greater choice of family-friendly walks. You can explore the coastline, moorlands and forests, as well as the antiquities they hide. Our own wee stroll from the bus stop at Lagg down to the beach was one of the highlights of our holiday, with not a soul to share the sand and stunning views across to Ailsa Craig, the mainland and the Kintyre Peninsula.
Heading for the sea near Lagg
Throughout our trip we were constantly impressed by the joined up thinking of the public transport services. Trains to and from Glasgow are timed to connect with the regular ferries across to Brodick, whilst a small fleet of buses wait ready to transport folk onwards and back from all corners of the island. In summer, services are more frequent, but even in late October they were enough to allow hopping on and off throughout the day to piece together an adventure and make the most of our all-day family pass. If only this was more common around where I live, maybe it wouldn't have all come as such a pleasant surprise.
For comprehensive information on the Isle of Arran, including accommodation and ideas on what to do, take a look at www.visitarran.com.
Words by Gary
Images by Alistair Robb (www.alastairrobb.com)
Weather by good fortune