With towering mountains, sparkling sea, an abundance of nature and tasty local produce – the Isle of Arran has everything you would want from a Scottish island.
Often called ‘Scotland in miniature’ as it resembles the landscape of the Scottish mainland – mountainous in the north and verdant countryside in the south – Arran is the sixth most populous island in Scotland and has proved irresistible to visitors all over the world.
It’s easily accessible from the mainland via a 55-minute ferry from Ardrossan, which is only 35 miles from Glasgow. At only 20 miles long, it’s easy to explore everything the island has to offer in just one visit – but that doesn’t mean you won’t want to come back year after year.
About the island
Situated in the Firth of Clyde, less than 15 miles from the Scottish mainland at Ardrossan and only 5 miles from Claonig on the Kintyre Peninsula, Arran is the most southerly of all Scottish islands and perhaps one of the most accessible for a Scottish island getaway.
It has been inhabited since the Stone Age, even as far back as 7000BC, and has a fascinating history – evidence of which can still be seen on the island today. The best example is the Machrie Moor Standing Stones which date to between 3500 and 1500BC, some of which are over 5 metres tall.
In its rich history, Arran was ruled by Ireland, then invaded by the Vikings, Celts, English and the Stewart and MacDonald Clans, and at one time many of the islanders spoke Gaelic.
After regular ferry sailings began from the mainland in the early 20th century, Arran became a popular holiday destination for hikers, keen geologists and nature lovers – red deer, porpoises, sharks and dolphins are all common sites on and around the island.
You can find out more about Arran’s history and heritage at the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum in Rosaburn, Brodick.
Scattered around Arran are many charming villages, most of them along the main circular coast road, and all with their own unique character.
Brodick, on the east of the island is the main village and port and has lots of places to eat as well as plenty of opportunities for sailing, playing golf and relaxing on the beach. It’s a very pretty village with the island’s tallest mountain, Goatfell, overlooking it.
Also on the east of the island is Lamlash, Arran’s most populous village and one of the most picturesque. It has a golf club, a yacht club and a supermarket and you can also catch the ferry across to Holy Isle.
In the north-east is Corrie, a very pretty village with whitewashed houses, a golf course and a harbour. It’s twinned with nearby Sannox.
Lochranza is on the north coast, with a stunning castle ruin, a popular distillery and a golf course. It’s one of the best places to spot the island’s wildlife; red deer and sunbathing seals are often seen around the village.
On the west coast is Blackwaterfoot, with a golf and tennis club, a butcher and a lovely beach. The west coast is far less developed than the east and so is a great destination for a tranquil day out, where you can enjoy the incredible views towards Kintyre.
Kildonan is in the south, and has a beautiful beach and a ruined castle.
There’s also Holy Isle, a small island off the east coast, accessed via the ferry from Lamlash. It’s owned by the Samyé Ling Buddhist Community and is home to the Centre for World Peace and Health. It’s also a nature reserve with wild ponies, goats and sheep.
Surrounded by the Firth of Clyde, Arran boasts an incredible choice of beaches around its 55-mile circumference; whether you’re looking for a tranquil retreat by the water or a fun-filled day with the whole family.
In the north is Pirnmill Beach – a long stretch of sand with beautiful views and a set of swings for the kids. Or visit Sannox Beach; a hop, skip and a jump across some stepping stones will take you to a small stretch of sand backed by dunes.
If you’re looking for a family-friendly day out, head east to Brodick Beach, which has plenty of amenities and play facilities, or Lamlash Beach, where you can enjoy the views across to Holy Isle while the little ones have fun in the play area.
The south of the island is where the majority of Arran’s beaches are found. Whiting Bay Beach has the remains of what once was the longest pier on the Clyde, and the beach extends from Sandbraes to the village at low tide. Some islanders think Silver Sands at Kildonan is the most beautiful on the island, and it’s accessed via the steps from the clifftop so is a good destination for a peaceful day by the shore. Also good for peace and quiet is Kilmory Beach, a hidden beach accessed via a small path. And if you’re feeling bold, visit Cleat’s Shore, Scotland’s first official naturist beach, although the average summer temperature on the island is a chilly 17 degrees, so beware!
Finally, on the peaceful west coast is Machrie Beach, a shingle beach with incredible views over Kilbrannan Sound and towards Kintyre, and Blackwaterfoot Beach, which is popular in the summer due to its picturesque swathe of golden sand.
From charming cottages with sea views, to historic country houses backed by mountains, our Isle of Arran holiday cottages allow you to experience island life for yourself. Whether you want to hillwalk, bird watch or simply lie on the sands, a visit to this enchanting island will always be remembered.
Perhaps you’re looking for a cosy cottage for two, perfect for a romantic getaway, or a larger house to bring the whole family together – we have self-catering accommodation to suit all needs. Plus, our dog-friendly cottages mean you can explore the island’s many attractions with your canine companion by your side.
Whether you’re a history fan, a culture vulture or have the kids in tow, there’s plenty to see and do on the Isle of Arran.
Your first stop has to be Brodick Castle. The 19th-century castle overlooks the Firth of Clyde and is owned by the National Trust of Scotland. Inside is a collection of artefacts sure to delight any keen historian, and outside is a play park perfect for kids, as well as picturesque gardens and woodland to explore.
An island institution, Arran Aromatics has been making scents and soaps for 30 years. Visit its shop just outside Brodick to see its fragrant products for yourself.
Art aficionados will love Arran Art Gallery in Whiting Bay. Open since 2005, it’s run by artist-in-residence, Nick Giles, who exhibits his own work and the work of other island artists in mediums including paintings, sculpture, prints, glass pieces, jewellery and ceramics.
Or visit Octopus Centre, a family-friendly attraction in Lamlash and Scotland’s first Marine Protected Area visitor centre, where you can learn about marine protection and Arran’s sea life.
Scotland is the home of golf, so it’s no surprise that ‘Scotland in miniature’ has a wide range of courses for keen golfers to enjoy.
The island boasts seven stunning coastal courses to choose from, ranging from nine holes to 18 holes:
- Machrie Bay Golf Club (nine holes)
- Lochranza Golf Course (nine holes)
- Corrie Golf Club (nine holes)
- Shiskine Golf and Tennis Club (12 holes)
- Brodick Golf Club (18 holes)
- Whiting Bay Golf Club (18 holes)
- Lamlash Golf Course (18 holes)
You can enjoy them all for one price with the Arran Golf Pass.
The food and drink
For such a compact island, Arran has a remarkable range of local produce and artisan producers, making it a great destination for gastronomes.
Begin your food and drink tour at the Isle of Arran distillery in Lochranza. It has been producing whisky on the island since 1995 and offers a range of tours, tastings, whisky and chocolate pairings. While it’s not an obvious choice for a family day out, it’s actually well set up to accommodate younger visitors, too, with shorter tours that are great for families and an on-site café with highchairs and baby changing facilities.
If you’re still walking after that distillery tour, head to Arran Brewery in Brodick, which has been brewing craft beer for over a decade. You can take a tour of the brewery and visit the visitor centre and shop to pick up some gifts to take home.
Then head to the south of the island to sample some Isle of Arran cheese. The Torrylinn Creamery in Kilmory is open to the public, where you can watch the island’s cheese being made by hand.
Looking for a meal out? The island’s coastal position means the seafood is second-to-none; visit Mara Fish Bar in Corrie for traditional fish and chips or something a little different. Its chefs only use the freshest and most sustainable seafood so the menu changes regularly, with soused herring, whole roasted gurnard and mussel spring rolls all making recent appearances.
Or for a completely unique experience, try eighteen69 in Brodick, which specialises in Scottish tapas – plates include a haggis scotch egg, North Atlantic cod cakes and Arran black pudding mac and cheese.
If you’re a keen hiker, why not start at Arran’s Everest? Goatfell is the highest point on the island and is classified as a Corbett at 874m (2,867ft) high, making it a good challenge for hillwalkers. On the route, spot buzzards and golden eagles and then admire the view from the top towards Jura, Ben Lomond and even as far as Ireland.
If you’ve got less of a head for heights, take a trip Glen Rosa; this glen near Goatfell is much less steep, only gaining around 200 metres in altitude, but no less beautiful. Take a dip in the crystal-clear blue pool if you’re feeling brave.
And if you’re looking for a waterside route, you’re spoilt for choice with the Arran Coastal Way running around the circumference of the island. The circular, long-distance walking trail covers 65 miles and takes in all main villages, with incredible sea views for you to enjoy along the way. It can be broken up into sections which take around seven days to complete – perfect for a walking holiday amongst breathtaking Scottish scenery.
With a thriving island community, Arran has a jam-packed schedule of events running throughout the year, so whenever you choose to visit, you’ll find something to get involved with.
In February is the Isle of Arran Drama Festival, where you can watch local amateur dramatic groups put on performances in the hope of winning an annual prize.
Then in April, join the Arran Art Trail to visit practising artists and craftspeople in their studios as they take inspiration from the landscape around them.
If you’re a keen mountaineer, visit in May for the Isle of Arran Mountain Festival, a celebration of hillwalking and mountaineering. You can take part in guided walks amongst small groups of like-minded people and truly appreciate the island’s incredible geography.
June is a great month for music lovers to visit, with both the Arran Malt & Music Festival, organised by the Isle of Arran distillery, and the Arran Festival of Folk on the calendar.
August sees one of the island’s most historic events; the Brodick Highland Games has been held every year since 1886, excluding the two world wars, and has traditional Scottish events including strongman competitions, pipe band performances and Highland dancing competitions. Also in August is the annual Arran Show, an agricultural celebration with stock judging, dog shows and live entertainment.
This small but perfectly formed island really does have everything you need for a Scottish island break, surrounded by heritage, nature and culture. Take a look at our Isle of Arran cottages and start planning your island getaway.