Often referred to as ‘Scotland in miniature’, the Isle Of Arran is great place to experience many of the things that the Scottish islands have to offer. It’s also one of the most accessible islands, meaning it’s a fantastic choice to add into any trip to Scotland. Or you could spend longer here and enjoy all that it has to offer. It is a great option either way. It has some fantastic landscape, interesting wildlife, great history and plenty of things to do. There are plenty of beautiful walking spots, great beaches to relax and cute villages to admire.
Reaching the Isle Of Arran
The Isle Of Arran is reached by ferry from the Scottish mainland. The ferry operator is named Caledonian MacBrayne, referred to as ‘CalMac’ for short. They run a ferry from the coastal town of Ardrossan to Brodick, which is the main settlement on the Isle Of Arran. the ferry takes around 55 minutes and you can find information and tickets here.
Ardrossan itself is only 45 minutes train journey from Glasgow. There is a stop right by the ferry port, so you can get the train straight there and then jump on a ferry. You could also stay the night in Ardrossan itself, there is a pleasant beach here. If you’ve had a long journey to get to Glasgow and then onto Ardrossan then it’s a good option to spend the night and then take the ferry in the morning.
There is also a ferry port at Lochranza which connects the island to Claonaig. It doesn’t currently run during the winter months, you can check the timetable here.
Once you’ve arrived on the Isle Of Arran, you can use the public buses to get around. You can use this link to find the bus timetables.
Where to stay on the Isle Of Arran
Personally I stayed in Brodick, and it felt like a great base for exploring the island. There are several good guesthouses here. I stayed at Belvedere Guest House which I definitely recommend. There are also two co-ops (convenience stores) for buying supplies and a few takeaways and pubs here.
I can definitely see the attraction of staying in Lochranza though, it really is a beautiful part of the island. It’s also where you can find a hostel and a campsite. Food options are more limited here, though I understand you can get meals at local hotels. Lamlash is another option to consider, it’s near to Brodick and has a co-op too as well as more accommodation and food options.
Things to see and do on the Isle Of Arran
The below highlights of the Isle Of Arran are based on my own experience visiting the island. I don’t claim it to be an complete list but I certainly filled up 3 days visiting the featured places and has a fantastic time doing so. I’ve included a suggested 3 day Isle Of Arran itinerary further along this post, based on everything I did and saw. It is worth mentioning that there is a walk around the entire island known as the Arran Coastal way. This takes 7 days to complete and takes you around Arran’s amazing coastline. The below list of things to see and do on the Isle Of Arran covers parts of the coastal way. If your a committed walker then it does look like an awesome way to spend a week.
The biggest settlement on the island, Brodick offers easy access to some fantastic coastline. A good walk starting from here is called the fisherman’s walk, and takes you along part of the beach and through the local golf course. This is the first thing I did when arriving on Arran, and it’s a great introduction.
If you follow the path to completion you find yourself at Brodick Castle and it’s lovely gardens. Officially known as Brodick Castle, Garden and Country Park this is a great place to spend a few hours. The castle itself has been around in varies forms for centuries, and has played a role in Scottish history. In 1307 it was in fact one of the first castles captured by Scottish forces in the wars of independence against the English. The current incarnation however dates from 1844, designed as a living space for nobility rather than it’s past life as a fortress.
Its grounds are extensive, with various woodland and garden. There’s a lot to see and it’s worth having a good look around. Be sure to look out for the ‘Bavarian Summer House’ which has a fascinating decorated insides, as well as an interesting location looking out over the sea.
On the north of the island is the village of Lochranza. It’s setting is incredibly beautiful. It’s around the shoreline of Loch Ranza, a small sea loch, with hills and nature all around.
At it’s centre are the ruins of Lochranza Castle. It originates from the 13th century, though most of it’s current form was built in the 16th. Robert the Bruce is said to have visited this site in 1306 when he landed at Lochrenza. This was apparently upon his return from Ireland whilst on his journey to claim the Scottish throne. Personally today I think the castle’s main attraction is it’s setting. It’s really incredible how it sits in the middle of Lochranza guarding the loch and looking out towards the sea.
You can also find the Isle Of Arran distillery in Lochranza. Not to be confused with their sister site which has been opened on the south of the island at Lagg. Opening in 1995, they are the first legal distillery on the island since the last one closed in 1837. They offer tastings and tours though you’ll need to plan ahead.
Machrie Moor Standing Stones
The Isle Of Arran has been inhabited by humans for around 8000 years and these stone circles are the work of people from the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. They all date from between 3500 and 1500 BCE. The walk to see them starts in a small car park, which the island’s buses will stop in by request. Following the path you’ll see various stone circles of different sizes and also spot the ruins of Moss Farm. These stone circles really are remarkable, it was a major highlight for me to see them.
There are a couple of information boards to read, which tell some history and folklore. For example following from the carpark the first set of stones you come across is beloved to have been a burial cairn. Another set of stones is known as Fingal’s Cauldron Seat. These are named after the legendary Gaelic giant Fingal. He is said to have eaten from a cauldron supported by the stones, whilst tethering his dog to one of them.
The Kings Cave
Whether it’s true or not, legend tells that Robert the Bruce sheltered in this cave and was inspired to continue his struggle to claim the Scottish throne. According to this legend, after suffering two defeats to the English he sought refuge here and saw a persistent spider try and try again to make a web. Apparently it finally succeeded and inspired him onwards to victory. Regardless of whether this is true or not, this is a very interesting cave to visit, and it’s found on some of Arran’s spectacular coastline. The cave was also known as Fingal’s Cave in the past, referring to the Gaelic giant I mentioned previously.
The walk here takes you past some amazing forest and give you some brilliant views over the coastline.
The walk begins at a small car park at the entrance of a forest. You can find the details of the walk here. When I did the walk, upon entering the forest area I took the right hand path which I really enjoyed.
I then branched off towards the end to continue onto the next entry on this list of things to see and do on the Isle Of Arran. I recommend bringing food and plenty of water as there are no shops or facilities around here.
The Doon Fort and Blackwaterfoot
Named for the Iron Age fortification that sat upon it, the Doon Fort is a spectacular cliff facing on the west side of the Isle Of Arran. The coastland around is very pretty and I really enjoyed walking along from the Kings Cave to see the cliff face here.
Nearby is the small village known as Blackwaterfoot. I didn’t spend long here but I enjoyed the views and thought the small harbour is pretty.
Corrie and Sannox
The seaside village of Corrie is one of the prettiest on Arran. It’s worth a visit to admire the houses and the general setting.
Nearby is the small village of Sannox. You can find a nice quite beach here which I enjoyed visiting. There looks to be good walking routes around here, though I personally haven’t had the time to check them out. I did pass some of them on the bus though and the landscape looks amazing.
A major highlight for me from my own visit to the Isle Of Arran was spotting seals on the rocky coastline between Corrie and Sannox. There are several spots around the island that are supposed to be good for seal spotting. I’m unsure whether I just got lucky here or if it’s regular spot for them. But the statue of the seal on the rocks at Corrie implies that perhaps it is a regular occurrence!
Goat Fell is the Isle Of Arran’s tallest mountain. At 874 metres, it is not quite high enough to be a ‘Ben’ but is still spectacular. I have yet to climb this mountain though I hope to in future. I did spend plenty of time admiring it though, and it has to be included here. If your planning to you can find route guidance on Walk Highlands.
Suggested 3 day Isle Of Arran itinerary
This Isle Of Arran itinerary is based upon staying in Brodick and using the bus to get around. This is what I did when visiting the island, and I felt it worked really well. It shows a good amount of the island and covers a diverse range of attractions.
After arriving by ferry an dropping your bags at your accommodations, I suggest you use your first day to visit Brodick Castle and it’s gardens. As I mentioned earlier, he walk there from Brodick is lovely. It really gives you a great introduction to the island’s coastal areas. You can spend several hours exploring the gardens before walking back.
On your second day I recommend taking a bus to visit the Machrie Moor Standing Stones. From there it’s not too far to walk along the road to the Kings Cave walk. Then you can walk along more of the coastline to see the Doon Fort up close. Finally head to Blackwaterfoot village and catching the bus back to where your staying. Make sure you bring a packed lunch!
On your third day take the bus up to Lochranza. Enjoy the stunning scenery and check out the castle and distillery. Then take the bus back to Sannox, where you relax on the beach for a while. Following that walk down to Corrie, looking out for seals on the rocks. After admiring the pretty village then you can catch the bus back to Brodik. And finally take the ferry back to the mainland in the morning.
If your planning to do all of the above and climb Goat Fell, I’d definitely recommend you add a whole extra day to do it. Make sure you’ll properly prepared and be aware that the weather can change dramatically up there in a short space of time.
Food on the Isle Of Arran
There are food options dotted around the Isle Of Arran, but it’s wise to plan ahead. It’s much more limited than in the mainland towns and cities. When heading out walking it’s wise to take a picnic as you may not come across any food places for quite some time. When visiting the villages I recommend doing a google search first to see which hotels, pubs and cafes are open and what they offer.
In Brodick a great takeaway place for pizza and ice cream is The Parlour. Check their opening hours on their Facebook page as they only open at certain times. Hooked & Cooked of Arran is another takeaway place in Brodick. As the name implies it’s a fish and chip shop, they also do burgers and some other options like nuggets and jalapeño flames.
When visiting Lochranza I highly recommend The Sandwich Station. It’s right be the ferry terminal and does great takeaway sandwich’s as well as drinks and snacks. When I was there it was very busy with both with tourists and locals. It’s obviously a popular spot! And deservedly so, the sandwich’s were very good.