Arran - The Green Isle of Scotland
Arran is one of the most accessible of all the Scottish islands yet it feels a world away.
It's less than an hour's train ride from Glasgow to Ardrossan on the Scottish west coast, from where there's a scenic 55-minute direct ferry service to the east coast of the island.
As you hop off the ferry at Arran's quaint Victorian Harbour at Brodick, Arran’s highest mountain, Goatfell - 2,866ft high (874m) -rises majestically above the harbour's broad sweep and you immediately get a sense of the island's wild landscape.
Walking on Arran
Arran has a wide range of walks, suitable for anyone from beginners to experienced hikers.
The first day we went for what our hotel receptionist called the ‘Lazy Walk.’ It's an easy winding path that starts a mile north of the harbour near a place called Rosaburn, taking you past the Arran Heritage Museum and past a local brewery to sample some fine Arran ale, the path ending in a beautiful secluded beach before the entrance to Brodick Castle.
Alternative walks include the Coastal Way which you can meander counter clockwise for 60 miles. To make it more manageable you can hop on the island’s dependable but infrequent bus service. The coast is lovely with lots of secluded, pebble beaches where we could frequently spot seals - belly upturned on the rocks, basking in the sunshine. The western coast of the island offers some great walks, none better than a lazy amble towards Drumadoon Point where the white sand beach and azure blue waters are as beautiful as any tropical island and provide some stunning sunset vistas over the Isle of Bute.
Where to stay
We stayed the first two nights at the Auchrannie Spa Resort, which is just over a mile from the ferry terminal (if you phone in advance they offer a free pickup service from the harbour). The resort is in 4 acres of private land that includes a lovely walking trail to the nearby Glen Loy, plus dreamy views of Goatfell. There's an excellent gym, spa, sauna, Jacuzzi, steam room and a decent-sized pool that is open till 9pm.
The hotel has three restaurants that aim to cater for most tastes - eighteen69, Cruize Bar Brasserie and the Brambles Seafood & Grill. On the first night we had a plateful of delicious, juicy mussels sourced locally from the Kilbrannan Sound –a stretch of water that divides Arran and Isle of Bute.
On the third night we stayed at the Best Western Kinloch Hotel in the small sleepy village of Blackwaterfoot. The Best Western Kinloch’s standout features include a local bakery on site where you drop by everyday like the locals do and tuck into a delicious range of homebaked treats. I recommend you get a room on the eastern wing where you’ll enjoy stunning, unfettered views onto the nearby pebble beach. From our room we could see a shoal of seals, happily basking in the sun.
The hotel takes is environmental responsibilities seriously - it has been given the Silver Award by the Green Tourism Business Scheme and has a wood-chip boiler that helps heat the entire hotel and its swimming pool. Within the next few years, the hotel will more than recover its initial outlay and will be in a position of selling their surplus energy to the national grid. Auchrannie (also part of the Green Tourism Business Scheme) is following Kinloch’s lead to get their own woodchip boiler within their premises.
All that walking and fresh sea air gave us a ravenous appetite so we started our daily adventures at Wooleys - the local bakery that is is renowned for its delicious oatcakes. We picked up a nice selection of filled rolls, doughnuts and scones made with artisan bread and cooked to in their antique scotch ovens. Washed down with a glass of the local blonde Arran ale and a bit of smokey garlic cheddar to finish off you can enjoy al fresco Scottish dining at its very best.
When walking in Arran's wilderness, be prepared: weather on the island can be very unpredictable. Always carry a whistle, torch, map and compass as well as the usual emergency clothing.
The island has a regular if infrequent bus service so it's advisable to plan well ahead. For timestable of buses on Arran, you can download a timetable from this link: www.spt.co.uk/timetables/bus/index.aspx.
Bike hire on Arran: Arran Adventure Company
For more information about Arran, see: Arran Island Tourism.
How to get there
From Glasgow Central train station there's a direct train to Ardrossan Harbour several times a day from where you take the Caledonian Macbrayne Ferry (Calmac) to Brodick harbour on Arran. (nb. departures to and from Glasgow are timed to connect with CalMac ferries to Brodick). Virgin Trains runs trains from London Euston (or Birmingham New Street and Penrith) to Glasgow Central Station.
Alternatively, in summer, you can sail from Claonaig (Kintyre) to Lochranza in the north of Arran. During winter, there is a reduced service to Tarbert (Kintyre), which takes about 1.5 hours. For timings and more information, see: www.calmac.co.uk.