The Isle of Arran in Scotland, is the largest island in the Firth of Clyde and is often referred to as ‘Scotland in miniature’. From rock-scattered beaches, scenic coastal roads, picturesque woodland paths and gorgeous rural landscapes, this Isle is the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
As one of the biggest Scottish isles, there is a huge amount you can do and see. We stayed on Arran for a week and whilst we managed to see a great deal of the isle, we left knowing there was plenty more to come back to. Whether you are there for a week or just a couple of days, here are my top, not-to-be-missed things to do.
Just outside of Brodick sits Brodick Castle and Gardens, a rather grand baronial castle surrounded by mountains and overlooking the sea. This is easily one of the best castles I have visited in Scotland and if you are a National Trust member then it is completely free. It has a hugely impressive and extensive collection of treasures, including paintings and period furniture, which gives you an indication of what the castle would have been like to live in back in the day. The Gardens are as impressive as the castle itself – beautifully kept with stunning views across Brodick Bay.
Another castle (you can see a theme developing here), which is situated in the picturesque Lochranza Bay and is partly a ruin. It’s free to visit and you can step inside and see what remains of this castle that was once a medieval hall-house and then developed into a tower house in the late 1500’s. Gorgeous setting and definitely worth a visit on your journey around the island!
On the south west coast of Arran, near the village of Blackwaterfoot are the historic King’s Caves. It is here that Robert the Bruce is famously said to have had his encounter with a spider. To reach the caves, you can take a lovely coastal walk from Blackwaterfoot, where you can enjoy spectacular views of the coastline and sandstone cliffs (which I promise look beautiful even in the rain).
Lamlash is another beautiful village on the south east coast of Arran, just three miles from Brodick. It’s one of the larger villages on the island and has many cafes and restaurants (we particularly enjoyed our meal at Glenisle Bistro). Lamlash looks out to Holy Isle, which is a small island owned by the Samye Ling Buddhist Community. You can catch a ferry from Lamlash to Holy Isle between April and the end of October – as the boat is quite small it’s not always possible to cross over from Lamlash if the waters are particularly rough.
When you arrive on Holy Isle, one of the residents of the community gives a brief talk about the island and the Buddhist community. The island itself is only around 2 miles long and ½ mile wide so it’s easily to explore this treasure of an island. Your biggest obstacle will be wild ponies blocking the path! There’s a Centre for World Peace and Health on the island and a visitors shop where you can get a cup of tea after exploring St Molaise’s cave (we actually sheltered from the rain here and ate our slightly damp sandwiches) and the natural springs that are said to have healing powers. Even in the rain, it makes for a lovely day out and is hugely peaceful and brimming with wildlife.
In the north of the island you will find the Isle of Arran Distillery. There are a number of different tours available where you can taste Arran’s very own malt whiskies. If like me, you aren’t a big whisky drinker, try a sample of Arran Gold. According to the locals, it’s a malt whisky cream liqueur which tastes like no other!
Without question, the Glenashdale Falls is one of the prettiest waterfalls I’ve seen in Scotland. We took a map but it’s actually very clearly sign-posted and there’s a path that you can follow. It is somewhat uneven so definitely wear a sturdy pair of trainers or walking boots.
From there, you can walk up to the Giant’s Graves and cross into Glenashdale for another stunning view of Holy Isle and the Firth of Clyde. A hugely picturesque area of Arran.