The mountainous north half of Arran contrasts sharply with the rolling pastoral southern part. Robert the Bruce is said to have lived at Lochranza Castle in 1306, when he began his struggle for independence.
North Arran looks and feels more like the Scottish Highlands – desolate, unspoiled and much of it accessible only to the serious hill-walker. But though the north is scenically more spectacular, it attracts relatively few visitors.
Six miles north of Brodick is Arran's loveliest village, Corrie; a row of perfect, whitewashed fishermen's cottages lining the seafront. Corrie has a couple of hotels and B&Bs, a good pub, and makes an attractive alternative to Brodick as a starting point for the ascent of Goat Fell.
The main coastal road continues north from Corrie to Sannox, with its sandy beach, then it cuts inland and climbs steeply northwest towards Lochranza. It's worth taking your time on this part of the road to admire the wonderful views of the mountains and on the other side of the pass, in Glen Chalmadale, you can see red deer heading down to the shore at dusk.
The most spectacular introduction to Arran is to arrive at Lochranza, the most northerly village and second ferry port. This charming village is guarded by its ruined 13th-century castle and backed by looming mountains. Lochranza Castle can be visited free of charge (the key is available from the Lochranza Stores).
Lochranza is also the site of Scotland's newest distillery, Isle of Arran Distillers, which opened in 1995 and is the first legal whisky distillery on the island for over 150 years. There are guided tours of the distillery, followed by the obligatory dram, and also an excellent restaurant. Tel. 830264,
Mar-Oct daily 1000-1800. Guided tours held throughout the day. £3.50, £2.50 child. A couple of miles southwest of Lochranza is the tiny village of Catacol, whose whitewashed cottages are know as 'The Twelve Apostles'. Here, the bar of the Catacol Bay Hotel serves good, cheap pub food and also puts on live music.
North Arran, Corrie And Lochranza Hotels & Accommodation
Tigh-na-Achaidh, Tel. 810208, offers self-catering accommodation. Blackrock Guest House, Tel. 810282. Open Mar-Oct.
Lochranza has a decent selection of places to stay, best of which is Apple Lodge, Tel/Fax. 830229. A lovely country house with four double rooms, offering high quality home cooking (for residents only). Around the same price but lacking the charm, is Lochranza Hotel, Tel. 830223, whose bar is the social hub of the village. A cheaper option is Castlekirk Tel. 830202, a converted church opposite the castle, or the slightly austere Benvaren, Tel. 830647.
Cheaper still is Croftbank Cottage, Tel. 830201, next to the Post Office; or the SYHA Youth Hostel, Tel. 830631, open Feb-Dec, overlooking the castle. There's a beautifully situated campsite next to the golf course, with full facilities, Tel. 820273, open Apr-Oct.
Eating in Corrie
Corrie Hotel, Tel. 810273. Friendly, unassuming and good value with a lively bar.
Eating in Lochranza