In the wedge of sea between Ayrshire and Kintyre lies the oval-shaped and very beautiful island of Arran. It manages to combine the classic features of the Northwest Highlands with the more sedate pleasures of the Southern Lowlands, thus earning the sobriquet, "Scotland in Miniature". This obvious appeal, coupled with its easy accessibility, makes Arran a very popular destination, but it remains unspoiled, and at 25 miles long is big enough never to feel crowded.
Arran attracts all sorts of visitors: hill-walkers and climbers come to tackle the 10 summits over 2,000 ft and dozens of ridge routes; golfers are driven by their desire to play on no fewer than seven courses; the beaches of the southeast are popular with the bucket and spade brigade; and the island is a big hit with geology students, who come here in droves to marvel at the unique rock formations.
Although tourism has become Arran's main income earner, the island is large enough to sustain a relatively stable population of around 4,500, only slightly more than the number of red deer which roam wild in the beautiful mountain glens. Arran was tacked on to North Ayrshire in the recent local government reorganisation, but its geological, historical and cultural links are with the Highlands and Islands.
Getting to Arran
For details of bus services to Claonaig, Tel. 01546-604695
The main ferry route to Arran is from the rather unappealing Ayrshire town of Ardrossan to the island's main town, Brodick. The CalMac car/passenger ferry makes the 55 min journey 6 times daily Mon-Sat, 4 times on Sun. There's a regular train connection between Ardrossan and Glasgow Central. There's also a bus connection to/from Edinburgh. By car, from the south the main route to Arran is from the M74 motorway, on to the A71 via Kilmarnock, to Irvine and Ardrossan. For more ferry information, contact Ardrossan ferry office, Tel. 01294-463470, or Brodick, Tel. 01770-302166.
The other ferry routes to Arran are from Claonaig, near Skipness on the east coast of Kintyre, to Lochranzain the north of the island. The non-bookable car/passenger ferry makes the 30-min trip 8-11 times daily during the summer (Apr-Oct), less frequently in winter. There is also a limited service from Tarbert to Lochranza (1 hr 35 mins). An Island Hopscotch ticket allows you to journey to Brodick and leave from Lochranza or vice versa, giving you more freedom on the island. For ferry times, Tel. 08705-650000, for reservations on sailings to Lochranza, Tel. 01880-730253.
Fifty seven miles of main road run right around the coastline and pass through every village, making it easy to see much of the island by car in a short space of time. There are also two roads, "The String" and The Ross Road, which bisect the island. Arran is best appreciated on a bike, however, and for details of bike hire, see below under Brodick.
It's possible to explore the island using public transport, as there are regular bus and postbus services. However you should bear in mind that buses to the north and south of the island leave as soon as passengers have disembarked from the ferry, so you need to be organised: there is no time to go to the tourist office or banks first if you're in a hurry to explore the island. There are regular daily buses from Brodick to Blackwaterfoot (30 mins) via "The String; to Lamlash (10 mins) and Whiting Bay (25 mins) and on to Blackwaterfoot (1 hr 10 mins); to Corrie (20 mins), Sannox (25 mins), Lochranza (45 mins), Catacol (50 mins), Pirnmill (1 hr), Machrie (1 hr 10 mins) and Blackwaterfoot (1 hr 20 mins). There's also a postbus service from Brodick to Corrie, Sannox, Lochranza, Catacol, Pirnmill, Machrie, Blackwaterfoot and back to Brodick; and from Brodick to Lamlash, "The Ross, Kildonan, Whiting Bay and back to Brodick.
A rural daycard gives you unlimited travel on Arran. For bus times and more information contact the tourist office in Brodick, where you can pick up a free copy of the Arran Transport Guide, or contact Arran Rural Rover, Tel. 302000, or Postbus, Tel. 01546 604695.
Things to do in Arran
Though Arran is a tiny island, it has many interesting tourist places and out door fun options to suit a genre of interests. From beautiful landscapes to cultural richness and a crammed event list and more- You would be surprised by just how much there is to do!
Some of the popular outdoor options that you could pursue include distillery tours, hill walking, paragliding and waterskiing among others. It is a haven for food lovers as it offers a delectable range of cuisines and local flavours ranging from salmon and venison to chocolate and beer. Arran plays host to a number of events including folk festivals and hill races; not to forget the golf courses on the island.
One of the most popular attractions on Arran is Brodick Castle and Country Park. Dating back to the 13th century, it's a spectacular country mansion set amidst an extensive parkland that offers great views across Brodick Bay. Holy Island, which has been a place of spiritual importance since the 6th century is another must see spot. It can be reached by ferry from Lamlash. Pets are not allowed on Holy island.
Glenashdale falls located in a scenic woodland is an ideal picnic spot and is quite popular among walkers and adventure tourists. The Iron Age fort located nearby is worth a visit. Machrie Moor that is represented by six stone circles is thought to date back to the Neolithic period and the early Bronze Age. It is believed that these were used for religious rituals or astronomical purposes. The intriguing charm of the Machrie Moor draws visitors from far and wide and is one of the important tourist attractions on the island.
Arran is the birth-place of the award-winning Arran Single Malt whisky; and no trip to this little island of can be complete without a visit to the isle of Arran brewery , where traditional methods of distilling using wooden washbacks and copper stills are being employed even today. Set out on a guided tour through the brewery to know more on the intricate process of the finest ale. There is a gift shop too where you can purchase a wide range of gifts as souvenirs to remember both this unique island and its fine beers. It is well worth a visit no matter whether you are a whisky aficionado or not! Tel: 44 (0)1770 302353
The Lagg Hotel
One of the oldest established hotels on the Isle of Arran that dates back to 1791, the Lagg Hotel is a traditional, family run hotel, which offers a comfortable stay that is well complemented with sumptuous food, fine wines and log fires. Set amidst a large private garden in the wooded hollow of Lagg in Kilmory on the Isle of Arran, The Lagg hotel is highly recommended - Tel: 44 (0) 1770 870 255
The Glenisle Hotel
Dating back to 1849,The Glenisle Hotel has been part of the hospitality sector of the charming village of Lamlash ever since. Refurbished to be a stylish boutique hotel, it is one of the most spectacular accommodation options on the island overlooking the sea.. Large, walled garden and terrace; best views of the island; no smoking property, gay friendly and family friendly.T 01770 600559
Kilmichael Country House Hotel
An award winning 5 star hotel in Arran that has a charming country house character about it, Kilmichael Country House Hotel would be a good choice for a special stay. The individually styled rooms furnished with antiques, some rooms with four poster beds, and the elegant and modern decor and setting ensure the ultimate comfort and luxury. The food is really excellent. An ideal choice for romantic breaks - highly recommended. Closed over the winter months. Tel. 01770 302 219
Self catering Accommodation in Isle Of Arran
Located at the rustic setting at Shedog on the edge of Shiskine village; Include Three beautifully restored cottages from the original outbuildings of Hamilton House. Pet friendly, private garden, no smoking facility and great views of the surroundings. Tel- 01770 860711
A pretty and comfortable studio apartment nestled on the sea front in Corrie, one of the most picturesque locales of Arran’s villages. It has two bedrooms that can sleep 4; great views of the sea and the mountains. Tel 01738 451 610
Burnside House, Dippen, Isle of Arran.
Perched at an elevated locale, Burnside House is close to the beaches at Kildonan and Torrylin and are well cut for exploring the beautiful Isle of Arran. There is a kingsize bedroom, one double bedroom, one twin/double bedroom and one single bedroom arranged as a suite and sharing a third bathroom. Large garden, pet friendly, ample parking Tel: +44 (0)1770 700255.