Island Adventures – Arran

The Isle of Arran is a holiday paradise and sometimes described as Scotland in miniature.  With miles of coastal paths, numerous hills and mountains, high open moorland, deep forested areas, rivers, small lochs and lovely golden beaches, it’s a perfect place to have your own island adventure.

It’s the seventh largest Scottish island, separated from the Hebrides by the Kintyre Peninsula and very accessible from the mainland, with a fabulous choice of self-catering cottages all over the island.

Holy Isle Arran

There are two ways to get to Arran; the most popular is the short ferry trip from Ardrossan on the North Ayrshire coast to Brodick which only takes 55 minutes. Or you can travel further to the Kintyre Peninsula and take the 30 minute ferry ride from Claonig to Lochranza at the north end of Arran. Both ferries are operated by Caledonia MacBrayne and advanced booking is advisable.

The dramatic landscape is best explored on foot or by cycle, with some challenging mountainous walks in the north, and the island’s circular coastal road perfect for cyclists. For lovely beaches, stop off at Brodick, Whiting Bay, Kildonan, Sannox and Blackwaterfoot.

Stay in UKA384, Drimlabarra Croft in Kildonan with sea views to Ailsa Craig

Walkers will love the Arran Coastal Way. The 65 mile route, mainly off-road with a defined path, is packed full of fabulous scenery and amazing wildlife and recognised as one of ‘Scotland’s Great Trails’. It can easily be done in sections, with many side trips and attractions on the way, such as King’s Cave near Blackwaterfoot beach, located on a dramatic section of coastline.

Queenscliff, UKA432 in Blackwaterfoot, lovely apartment, sea views and beach nearby

There are some wonderful hills to climb, the highest being Goat Fell at 874 metres. The whole island, at 20 miles long and 10 miles wide, is a walker’s paradise, with lonely glens, sweeping moorland and majestic mountains.

The view from the summit of Goat Fell is one of the best in the British Isles. Less dramatic but equally rewarding are the Pirnmill Hills. Not to be missed is a short ferry trip from Lamlash to Holy Island as well as a lovey walk up to Mullach Mor and back along the coast path.

The towering peak of Goat Fell

Arran has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, was once colonised by Ireland, then Norway, until the 13th century when it went back to Scotland. History enthusiasts will be in their element with castles, stone circles, ancient caves and graves plus a Heritage Museum to explore.

Don’t miss a day out at Brodick Castle with formal gardens, woodland and waterfalls against a stunning backdrop of the towering peak of Goat Fell. This is the quintessential island castle, and Britain’s only island country park extending from the seashore to mountain top. The castle dates back centuries and was fashioned to its current grandeur in 1844; full of treasures, period furniture, silverware, porcelain and sporting trophies.

On the woodland trails you can spot red squirrels or run wild in the Isle Be Wild play area; it’s a perfect family day out. For lovely views in the north of the island visit Lochranza Castle on a peninsula extending into a beautiful loch. Built mainly in the 16th century, it was the inspiration for the castle in The Adventures of Tintin comic ‘The Black Island’.


Lochranza Castle
Lochranza Castle: inspiration for The Adventures of Tintin comic ‘The Black Island’.

The Machrie Moor Standing Stones are scattered across a rich archaeological landscape. It may be remote moorland now, but it was once a Neolithic centre of ritual. You’ll find stone circles, standing stones, burial cairns and cists, huts and an extensive field system dating back to between 3500 and 1500 BC. The stone circles are aligned at the head of the Machrie Glen, where the midsummer sun would have been visible.

Just a mile north of Broddick is the Isle of Arran heritage Museum, a group of mainly white washed buildings with outdoor exhibits, a garden, café and a waterside picnic area alongside the Rosa Burn.

The museum covers all aspects of life, including the maritime history of the island and there’s an extensive archive for those wanting to trace their Arran ancestors. You will come out learning so much more about life on Arran. And don’t forget the working ‘smiddy’, especially if it’s a chilly day.

Brodick Bay
Brodick Bay in the distance

Nature on the island is plentiful and varied. There are red squirrels and deer, , plus wonderful seabirds and marine life, including otters in Brodick Bay. Also, lookout for eagles across the mainland!

One of the best ways to get out and explore is on the ocean in a kayak where you can really appreciate this beautiful island. You can also enjoy sailing and windsurfing. Fishing can be done out at sea, on one of the 9 island rivers or Loch Garbad. You can catch brown, sea or rainbow trout and salmon at certain times of the year, and visitors are very welcome.

There is a great choice of outdoor activities, including archery, gorge walking and Segway tours. Golf is the biggest draw for many with seven world class courses to choose from, all with spectacular views, and the world’s only 12-hole golf course. Whether you’re a serious golfer or playing for fun, there’s a course to suit you on Arran.

Here are some more holiday tips…

The circular route to Glenashdale Falls is a lovely 3 mile walk on Arran. You ascend up through a wooded glen to watch the tumbling water then continue to Giant Graves, two chambered cairns with a fantastic view towards Whiting Bay and Holy Island.

Arran cottage
Mont Stewart Cottage, UKA403, is a perfect retreat with views across Whiting Bay

The mild climate, influenced by the Gulf Stream, means there are palm trees dotted around the island and some fabulous beaches. Blackwater Beach is great to blow any cobwebs away or Dougarie, which is much quieter. A real hidden gem is Kilmory Beach; long and sandy with gorgeous views across to Ailsa Craig. If you want to take some time out there is a wonderful cafe at Whiting Bay with pretty views and delicious food.

One of the best walks on the island is from Glen Rosa to Brodick with great views of the Goatfell Mountains. The Arran coastal path between Corris and Sannox is described as ‘wild and isolated and includes two pretty villages and fantastic sea views.

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