- For other places with the same name, see Aran (disambiguation).
The Isle of Arran is situated in south-western Scotland and lies in the Firth of Clyde, which is the broad reach of sea southwest of Glasgow and enclosed by the Ayrshire coast to the east and the Kintyre peninsula to the west. It has a population of approximately 5,000. Arran extends for about 20 mi (32 km) north-south and ten miles east-west, with all its settlements strung along the coast road, and a hilly interior. The tourist agency calls it Scotland in Miniature, but if you try cycling the roads over the hills, you might not agree with that term. And if the wind and rain get up, or the ferry crossing turns rough, or the midges attack, the experience will not feel miniature.
Yet that twee slogan is stating an important truth about Arran’s accessibility, scenery and charm. It’s very accessible, being easily reached from England and central Scotland, you don’t have to drive another 3 hours to Oban harbour or beyond. But equally, it’s not too accessible. It’s not blighted by hordes or tacky “attractions”. The one-hour ferry crossing is just enough to feel mainland life slipping away from you, and once you get around to the west side, with the view of Kintyre, you really are in another place. The scenery is Highland, but on a compact scale – it’s sparse and haunting, but not bleak. You can enjoy seeing and doing things, or just chill. You’re not in the remote Hebrides here (they start the other side of Kintyre) and you can always get yourself to Brodick if you’re missing something essential, like dental floss or a mobile signal. If you reckon your busy schedule may only allow one visit to a Scottish island in your lifetime, then you need to come to Arran, perhaps more than you yet realise.
How old is this Earth? Arran is where geologists began to see that it was vastly older than they’d supposed, and was continually re-shaped by sometimes violent forces – look at that huge plug of granite thrust up through the island’s centre. So it was only an eyeblink ago in geological terms when Neolithic settlers erected the great stone circles of Machrie Moor. Arran was, and is, a farming and fishing community, but from the late 18th century it was systematically depopulated, as its residents were evicted, or chose to leave for better prospects elsewhere. Tourism developed in the 19th century as city workers came “doon the water” for their summer holidays along the “Glasgow Riviera” or “Costa Clyde”, in resorts such as Troon, Largs, Ayr, Girvan and Arran. In the late 20th century they moved on, to the Med, but good car-ferry connections brought in different visitors. Traditional life persisted alongside the caravan parks and B&Bs, but the last native Gaelic speakers died out, fortunately having survived into an era when recordings could capture their oral history and distinctive dialect of Arran Gaelic.
Arran has no air service. You’ll almost certainly arrive on the ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick, the village that is the island’s transport hub. This southern part of the island is lowland in nature, with the bulk of the accommodation and amenities. From Brodick the main road south leads to Lamlash, which is the main population centre and has the hospital and council offices; so if you have official business on Arran, it’ll probably involve a meeting here. Lamlash also has the best anchorage for small craft, with its bay sheltered by Holy Island, to which there are boat trips. The last large village is Whiting Bay then, as the road rounds the southern tip at Kildonan, the island becomes much wilder.
Heading north from Brodick, a couple of miles brings you to Brodick Castle, and the start of the main footpath to the top of Goat Fell. The main road hugs the coast north through Sannox and Corrie then crosses lonely moors to Lochranza, with its stump of castle, whisky distillery and a ferry jetty. So here is the other route into Arran, via the short crossing from Claonaig in Argyll. The road now turns south along the west shore and is quiet – old maps show it as an A-road, but this stretch has been declassified to a lane. Small places along the way include Pirnmill, Catacol, Machrie, Blackwaterfoot and Kilmory, then you circle back through Kildonan into lusher country.
For weather information on the island check the Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) for the Western Highlands which includes Isle of Arran.
In summer 2017 the area around the pier is in a bit of a muddle as a new ferry terminal is under construction. The existing facilities all remain open meantime.
The only practical way to reach Arran is on the ferry, almost always by the Ardrossan-Brodick route. Thus, getting to Arran means getting to Ardrossan, which is well-connected with Glasgow. There is also a short ferry crossing between Lochranza and Claonaig in Argyll, described below, but this is a very long way round, best considered as part of a road tour of the Western Highlands and Islands. Both routes are operated by Caledonian McBrayne (CalMac) and run year-round, weather permitting. See their website for times, prices, terms and bookings, or call 0800 066 5000. The ferries are often booked up in summer, especially for the weekend get-away and the Sunday-Monday return.
The Ardrossan-Brodick ferry sails 8 times a day in summer, 4 in winter. It can usually carry around 100 cars and 1000 passengers, and has toilets, play area, lounge, tourist information desk, bar, café and restaurant; there is disabled access. Extra peak-period sailings may be on smaller vessels, with size limits for vehicles. Return fares are around £30 for a car, £7.50 per passenger including the driver, and £3.80 per child 5-15; toddlers, bicycles and dogs go free. Make sure your car is at the pier 30 minutes ahead (toilets, café and waiting area at both ports), or your space may be re-allocated to someone else; foot passengers are okay till ten minutes ahead. The crossing takes 50 min, but reckon an hour from cast-off to driving onto the jetty at the other end. People sometimes take a round-trip without landing, enjoying a scenic lunch on the way. But unless it’s filthy weather, do stay on deck and watch for marine life: dolphins, porpoise, seals and basking sharks are not uncommonly seen. For day-trippers, a tour coach sometimes meets the morning ferry at Brodick and takes you round the island’s main sights then back in time for an afternoon return sailing – enquire at the tourist desk on board.
There is a long stay car park at Ardrossan harbour, approx £4 per day. So if you're only staying a couple of days, don't have much luggage and don't plan to venture beyond Brodick/Lamlash, consider parking up and coming across as a foot passenger.
The Lochranza-Claonaig ferry sails 8 times a day in summer, taking 30 min. In winter Claonaig jetty is too exposed, so instead there’s a single daily crossing between Lochranza and Tarbert, taking 90 min. The ferry is a small ro-ro with room for 18 cars and 150 passengers; there’s a small lounge and toilets (and none at the harbours). Return fares are around £19 for a car, £5.60 per passenger including the driver, and £2.80 per child 5-15. From Claonaig you can day-trip to Skipness on foot, and to Tarbert by bike, see “Go next”. However most travellers will either be taking a single ride to tour Kintyre and the Western Highlands, or playing “hopscotch” across several islands – Calmac themselves use that word for ferry itineraries that aren’t simple singles & returns.
On summer Saturdays only, the 07:00 Campbeltown-Ardrossan ferry calls at Brodick, so this is an alternative way to return from Kintyre to Arran. The westbound ferries from Ardrossan to Campbeltown don’t call, so from Arran you have to sail Lochranza-Claonaig to reach Kintyre.
Arran is also visited by other ships in summer, but these are excursion cruises not ferries. A charming example is the paddle steamer “Waverley”, the world's oldest sea-going paddle ship, now restored to her 1947 LNER livery.
By road, obviously. The “main road” circles the island: it’s the busy A841 on the east side between Lochranza, Brodick and Whiting Bay, and just a lane – but perfectly driveable – from Whiting Bay round the west side back to Lochranza. Two small and scenic roads climb across the hills in the middle. The “String Road” or B880 runs from Brodick to Blackwaterfoot. The “Ross Road” is that quintessential Highland experience, a narrow single track lane with passing places, unsuitable for large vehicles (thus, no bus service). It wends and winds from Lamlash to re-join the main road between Kilmory/Lagg and Sliddery. Especially in the quieter parts of the island, people are often happy to pick up hitch-hikers who don’t look too weird or muddy, but passing traffic can be very sparse.
Fill up the tank before coming over! – It’s a large island and you’ll probably do more mileage than you expected. Filling stations on Arran are few and expensive: Brodick, Lamlash and Whiting Bay are your best hope.
Car hire is available from the petrol station at the ferry terminal in Brodick. Cars cost from £25 per day, and range in size from a two-seater Smart to a seven-seater Vauxhall Zafira. Tel: +44 1770 302121. Also from Arran Motors in Brodick & Whiting Bay (listed), and from Blackwaterfoot Garage, Tel +44 1770 860277.
- Arran Motors, ☎ (in Brodick), (in Whiting Bay). In Brodick: M-Sa 08:00-17:30, Su 10:00-17:00; in Whiting Bay: M-F 09:15-17:15, Sa 09:15-16:00. Car rental is offered in Brodick and Whiting Bay. Booking in advance is recommended.
Bus routes all start in Brodick and ply all the island roads, except the Ross Road which is too narrow and unpopulated. So you can get places by bus, but you might not get much of a view through the mud-splashed windows. Buses are operated by Stagecoach (West Scotland), under the aegis of SPT – Strathclyde Partnership for Transport – so bus stops and timetables may carry either logo. See online for the full timetable. Printed timetables are on the ferries, at Brodick terminal, on the buses themselves and from convenience stores. An English over-65 bus pass isn’t valid in Scotland. The regular bus services are:
- 321 Brodick - Corriegills (basically just a school bus, runs once per day on schooldays only)
- 322 Brodick - String Road - Blackwaterfoot
- 323 Brodick - Lamlash - Whiting Bay, with a few continuing to Lagg & Blackwaterfoot
- 324 Brodick - Lochranza – Blackwaterfoot
(So the 324 passes the Castle gates, and in summer there’s also a Castle bus going right to the door.) This means that trips around the island can be put together, often with a change at Blackwaterfoot:
- 324 + 322 for North Island circuit via String Road
- 323 + 322 for South Island circuit via String Road
- 324 + 323 to go all the way round.
The buses don’t carry bikes.
All buses are “Hail and Ride” – they’ll stop for you anywhere. Don’t set off back too late, as few buses run after 21:/0.
MyBus Arran is an on-demand bus for the entire island (subsidised by SPT and the British Red Cross) and costs no more than the regular bus fare. It operates M-F, schooldays 09:00-17:00; Sa, school holidays 08:00-17:00 (drop off by 17:30). You have to book a journey with this bus one working day in advance (call +44 845 128 4023 or +44 141 352 5570 M-F 09:30-15:00 to make the booking or book online). Regular bus fares apply. For general MyBus enquiries call +44 845 128 4025 or +44 141 333 4586. If there’s a group of you, especially with children and baggage, consider calling this service to see if this option works for your group.
Bicycles travel free on the Calmac ferries. Bikes can be hired from several locations in Brodick (listed); also from Kinloch Sports Club in Blackwaterfoot, and from the Sandwich Station in Lochranza. The main road from Brodick to Corrie is too busy for an enjoyable ride; but if your lungs and sinews can take it, the String Road and Ross Road are sublime.
- 2 Arran Bike Hire, The Shorehouse, Shore Road, Brodick, ☎ , (mobile), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. £15 for 1 day (other offers available).
- Arran Adventures, Brodick (next to the Auchrannie Resort), ☎ . Bike rental offered throughout the year. Also offers guided mountain bike tours (seasonal). £15 for 24 hours (other offers available).
- 3 Brodick Cycles, Roselynn, Brodick (Opposite Brodick Library. If you come from the ferry, turn right onto the main road along the water, pass the big Coop supermarket on the left, the small Coop on your right and continue from there for another 100m. It is on your left.), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Summer: M-Sa 09:00-13:00, 14:00-17:00; Winter: Th-Sa 10:00-13:00, 14:00-16:00.
Taxis are pricey and booked out at certain times. Ask for a quote when booking.
- Corrie Cabs, ☎ . Offers ferry pick up and taxi service around the island. Arrange a taxi before 22:00 if you need transport at night.
In Brodick is the Arran Heritage Museum, and the Adventure Centre (see “Do”) offers guided activities such as pony-trekking and rock-climbing. A couple of miles north of the village is Brodick Castle (interior closed), Arran Brewery, and the start of the easiest hike up Goat Fell (described under “Do”).
- 1 Heritage Museum, Rosaburn, Brodick KA27 8DP, ☎ . daily 10.30 to 4.30. In an old farmstead at the northern edge of town, covers Arran's geology, archaeology and social history. Adults £4.
- 2 Brodick Castle, Garden & Country Park, Brodick (drive or take bus, it's a weary walk along the main road.), ☎ . Country Park open all year, daily 09:30–sunset; reception centre, shop and walled garden: 1 Apr-31 Oct: daily 10:00–1630; 1 Nov-21 Dec: F-Su 10:00–15:30. This splendid Victorian pile in normal times is Arran's top sight, but the interior is closed for repair and reconstruction until March 2019. You can still visit the gardens and country park, and there are ranger-led tours of the exterior, but without the interior it's overpriced if you're not an NT/NTS member. The works underway will create four self-catering flats within the castle - the place had been losing money hand over fist - and promises an intriguing accommodation option once complete. Adults £7, NTS/NT free.
- 3 Arran Brewery, Brodick (Located at the base of the footpath that goes up Goat Fell), ☎ , e-mail: Sales@arranbrewery.co.uk. Summer: M-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 12:30-16:30; Winter M-Sa 10:30-16:30. There is an independent restaurant facing you in the main driveway, but walk around the corner to the brewery itself for some generous free beer tasting and the opportunity of buying 8-pint jerry cans of some excellent real ale! Although it does not hold a licence, you can get away with drinking on the adjacent picnic tables. A brewery tour is offered at 14:00 every day lasting for about 45 minutes. Adults: £4, children: £1.
Going south from Brodick, Lamlash has fishing trips, indeed you can hire your own boat. The main attraction is Holy Island sheltering Lamlash Bay. In summer, boat trips run roughly hourly from Lamlash, for bird-watching, hikes over the small island, and great views over the Firth towards Ailsa Craig and the Mull of Kintyre. And, last thing you expected to find here, there’s a Tibetan Buddhist community. At the northern end where the boats land is the "Interfaith Centre", with visitor information and a café, open in summer more or less whenever the boat trips are running. The track down the island is dotted with Buddhist iconry then at the southern end is the retreat, where monks live in seclusion and you can’t visit. This community is often loosely described as a monastery, which it's not - that term properly applies to their mother house, the Samye Ling Monastery above Garvald in Dumfriesshire.
Going north from Brodick along the main road to Lochranza, see the caves at Corrie. Pony-trekking is available at Sannox (see “Do”).
- 4 Corrie Caves. Approx. 2/3 into the village, can be accessed from the Shore Road, and is best visited as part of a steep trek to the top of the hill. There is even an old, rusty car in one of them! Note that parking is very limited.
The road then leaves the coast and crosses the moors to Lochranza. Here find Lochranza Castle, the Arran Distillery, and the jetty for the ferry to Claonaig.
- 5 Lochranza Castle, Lochranza. Open Apr-Sep. A 13th-century bastion rebuilt in the 16th century and now just a masonry shell. Dramatic setting on the shingle spit of the village harbour, enfolded by hills and with views out over Kintyre. Usually freely open in summer to visitors and sheep, so watch where you step. If locked, ask for the key at the town hall. Free.
- 6 Arran Distillery, Lochranza (on main road at eastern edge of Lochranza village), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tours at 11:45 and 14:30. Arran's only whisky distillery, established in 1995. Their main product is the unpeated "Isle of Arran" single malt, in various cask finishes and ages. They also produce a peaty malt whisky, "Machrie Moor", currently in small quantities as this involves closing and washing out the main product line. A new distillery is under construction at Lagg, in the south of the island, which will be dedicated to the peaty potion. Standard tour £7.50.
The road now turns south, along the west coast, and downgrades to a lane. Always in Arran be on the lookout for wildlife, especially in these more rugged northern and western sections. Look for Golden Eagles, Hen Harriers, diving birds, ravens, birds-of-passage eg waxwings and crossbills, and occasional windblown strays such as the white-tailed sea eagle and long-tailed skua. Deer are common and have no road sense. Red squirrels may be spotted in the woodlands. Seals often haul out on the shore, eg at Blackwaterfoot. This side of the island has the best views, over Kintyre, and sees the sunset.
Pirnmill has one of the best beaches on Arran. In the hills behind, see the hamlet of Penrioch and the abandoned houses of High Pirnmill. You can get a car or bike up the track as far as Penrioch, otherwise walk.
All over Arran, but especially richly down this western side, there are prehistoric monuments: standing stones, burial cairns, and the like. The main sites are signposted, but use a good Ordnance Survey map (Landranger 69 or Explorer 361) to discover your own. Some are on private land so if there's no sign or access path (eg the Auchencare Stone near the turnoff for Old Byres) then just admire them from the lane. Otherwise feel free to wander in, whenever; there's often no-one else around. They're about 3000 to 4000 years old, Neolithic-going-on-Bronze-Age, good examples being the Auchagallon stone circle and the Kilmory cairn. The outstanding, unmissable group is the Machrie Moor Stone Circles - if you were secretly disappointed by “the Stonehenge Experience”, come here to reconnect with your inner Ancient Brit.
- 7 Machrie Moor Stone Circles (Near the village of Machrie. Watch for the car park sign along the main road, then walk up the track for 20 min - can be boggy, stout boots recommended.). Always open. An impressive, rugged circle of cairns, with others here and there across the heath. The associated site 1 km west is Moss Farm Stone Circle. Free.
From Machrie the String Road cuts across the hills to Brodick (there are signs for Balmichael Visitor Centre, but it's closed). Or continue south along the coast through Blackwaterfoot to Kilmory. Here by a disused church another scenic route branches off, the narrow Ross Road over to Lamlash. Just below Kilmory a track leads down to Cleat’s Shore, said to be a naturist/nudist beach. But how can anyone tell? – since it’s usually deserted apart from the cows, being draughty, dung-splattered and without any amenities. The name “Cleat’s Shore” isn’t recognised by Google Map, and the narrow access track has to date repulsed the camera car, so it should be nice and quiet if you decide to get your kit off.
Near the south tip of Arran is Kildonan, with another good beach, plus great rock formations. The small island with a lighthouse 1 km offshore is Pladda: it's privately owned and can't be visited. The coast road now turns north to Whiting Bay and resumes duty as the A841.
Arran is a great place for walking and hiking. OS Landranger map 69 covers the entire island. All the coast is walkable, though the Brodick – Corrie section is too close to the main road to escape the traffic noise. For hiking suggestions (including GPS coordinates and route descriptions) see Walk Highlands hiking guide.
The unmissable walk is the ascent of 1 Goat Fell (Ben Govar), the island’s highest mountain, at 874 metres (so it’s a “Corbett”, it doesn’t qualify as a “Munro”). The usual ascent is from Cladach near Brodick Castle gates. This trail is well-waymarked and well-trodden, and will take 5 or 6 hours there & back. Nothing technical, but there’s a long scramble of scree near the summit. A steeper but shorter route ascends from Corrie, past some fine waterfalls, and you could use the bus to climb one way and descend the other. The view from the top sweeps over Ayrshire, Galloway, Ailsa Craig, Kintyre, Islay & Jura, Bute, and the hills above Loch Lomond. That’s on a clear day of course. On a misty drizzly day, let’s hope you took a compass bearing before you plunged into the gloom.
Glen Cloy just south-west of Brodick is a good scenic walk.
From Lamlash, you can walk north along the coast to 2 Clauchlands Point. This is 2 miles (or 3 km) from central Lamlash, or you can drive to within half a mile. Usual beach life: birds, seals, squidgy things in rock pools – and you might spot a nuclear submarine, as their base lies further up the Firth. There’s also the remains of a boom defence signal station from World War II.
The Coastal Way is a set of paths for walking around the entire island along the coast divided into 12 sections. The coastal section between North Sannox and Lochranza is not suitable for bikes as it involves light scrambling especially around the Cock of Arran.
Play golf at one of the island’s many courses:
- 3 Shiskine Golf and Tennis Club, Shore Road, Blackwaterfoot, KA27 8HA, ☎ . 12-hole course - beautiful scenery. Ranked 99th in the World's Top 100 Golf Courses.
- 4 Machrie Bay Golf Course and Tearoom, Machrie, ☎ . Some of the best snacks and drinks around! Also good for a game of golf.
- 5 Lochranza 9 Hole Golf Course, Lochranza, KA27 8HL, ☎ . Normally open from April until mid October each year.
- 6 Whiting Bay Golf Club, Whiting Bay, KA27 8QT, ☎ . 18 holes, starter box with changing room, clubhouse with restaurant and bar. Snooker table in its own room.
- There is a mini-golf course and a crazy golf course in Brodick.
- Arran Adventure Centre, Brodick (At the entrance of the Auchrannie Resort), ☎ . Only between Easter and October. Offers guided activities such as climbing, kayaking and mountain biking. Weather forecasts are posted every day.
- Hands on Hawking, Lamlash, ☎ . A range of falconry related activities for those who would like to get a little closer to birds of prey.
- North Sannox Pony Trekking, North Sannox, KA27 8JD, ☎ . Open M-Sa all year (depending on weather conditions). Booking is strongly recommended. £25 for 1-hr track, £45 for 2-hr.
- Cairnhouse Stables, Blackwaterfoot, ☎ . Open all year. Pony trekking. Booking in advance is recommended.
- Flying Fever, Strathwhillan Farm, Cott 2, Brodick, KA27 8BQ, ☎ . Paragliding courses and tandem flights.
- Bowling Greens, Lamlash and Brodick - Visitors are welcome to these seasonal facilities, you are asked to wear flat shoes. There is normally someone on hand to show you how to play if you've never tried before. The greens are only open in good weather to avoid wear. £3 per adult £1.50 for concessions.
- Go for a swim at the Auchrannie Resort (Brodick) or the Kinloch Hotel (Blackwaterfoot). The minimum ages to swim solo are 12 at the Auchrannie and 17 at the Kinloch.
- Quad biking or Helicopter rides at Balmichael Visitor Centre - by trek.
- Arran Mountain Festival. In May.
- Arran Folk Festival, Various locations around the island. Annual event which has been running since 1990. This popular, well-run festival takes place in the first week of June and attracts some of the biggest names in the Scottish folk music scene, as well as showcasing local artists. The same link also provides information about other cultural events throughout the year.
- Screen Machine. Mobile cinema - a travelling cinema in the back of an articulated lorry that tours the Scottish islands parks up outside the Auchrannie Resort in Brodick once a month.
- Traditional Music Nights. Every Tuesday at the Catacol Bay Hotel and one Saturday per month at the village hall in Pirnmill. Details for the Pirnmill session can be found in the Pirnmill store and on the noticeboard outside.
There are many good eateries on the island. From the 5-star Kilmichael Country House Hotel, the Auchrannie (both in Brodick), the Trafalgar Restaurant (Whiting Bay), the Kildonan Hotel (Kildonan), the Kinloch Hotel in Blackwaterfoot to the Restaurant at the Distillery in Lochranza. Many hotels offer food options (see Sleep).
- Casks Cafe, Lochranza, ☎ . Mar-Oct: daily 10:00-17:00; Nov-Feb: daily 10:30-16:00. From the Arran Whisky Distillery. Offers good meals and, of course, whisky!
- 1 The Lighthouse Restaurant, Pirnmill, KA27 8HP, ☎ . Tu-Su 10:00-16:00 and 17:00-21:00, open on bank holidays. Offers excellent food. People come from all over the island just to eat here! Try a world famous meringue as well! BYOB without corkage fee.
- Shanghai, Brodick (Opposite the small Co-op), ☎ . Su-Th 16:30-22:30; F Sa 16:30-23:00. In summer season: open daily, in winter season: closed on Mondays. Chinese takeaway. Around £6-7.
- The Coffee Pot, Whiting Bay. Snacks and very good light meals - good service, reasonably priced.
- Hooked and Cooked, The Pier, Brodick, ☎ . M-Th Su until 21:00; F Sa until 23:00. The fish and chip shop opposite the ferry terminal. Expect to wait for ages to get a fish!
- Machrie Bay Tearoom, Machrie Bay, KA27 8DZ, ☎ . Winter: daily 10:00-16:00, summer: daily 09:00-18:00. Excellent meals, especially the venison burgers. Breakfast, sandwiches and cakes. Sandwiches £4, burger £7.50.
- 2 The Sandwich Station, Lochranza (Outside the ferry terminal), ☎ . M-Sa 09:00-17:00, Su closed. Offers excellent freshly made sandwiches, snacks and drinks. Around £3-4.
- The Fairways, Blackwaterfoot (At Shiskine Golf and Tennis Club), ☎ . Daily 10:30-17:00 (last food order at 16:00). £4-7.
- Cafe Thyme, Machrie (At the Old Byre Showroom), ☎ . Daily 10:00-17:00. Additionally in summer season: M-Sa evening until 22:00. Serves excellent burgers, chips and drinks. £9-16.
- Coast Café Bistro, Whiting Bay, ☎ . Mo Th-Su 10:00-16:00; additionally on F Sa 18:00-late. Excellent bistro menu, featuring local produce. Vegetarians well catered-for. Delicious chilli. Around £11-15.
- Felicity's at Eden Lodge, Whiting Bay, ☎ . Daily 10:00-late. Scottish food, and home-made pizza. New restaurant that opened in 2015. They used to run the restaurant at the Shiskine Golf And Tennis Club. Dinner mains: £9-18.
- 3 , Lochranza, ☎ . Mon closed at lunch time, Wed closed all day. Breakfasts, lunch and evening meals, all home-made. BYOB. Main course £10-13.
- eighteen69, Brodick (At the Auchrannie Resort), ☎ . Dinner only. Scottish tapas. Fine dining in casual atmosphere. Dress code: smart casual. Tapas dishes at around £7-8 with 3-4 dishes per person recommended.
- Brambles, Brodick (At the Auchrannie Resort), ☎ . Seafood and grill. Top quality casual dining, excellent food. £15-20.
- Creelers of Arran, Brodick. Seafood restaurant and shop at Duchess Court Shops. Very pricey.
- 4 The Brodick Bar & Brasserie, Brodick, ☎ . Extensive selection on the blackboard Monday - Saturday. Also very pricey.
There is at least one pub in most villages - some have two or more. Some hotels also offer bars and other drinking options (see Sleep).
- Cruize Bar (At the Auchrannie Spa Resort). Daily. Offers a good range of drinks (also serves good food), comfortable surroundings and occasional party nights.
- Ormidale Hotel, Brodick. It has a nice atmosphere (upper part is in former glasshouse), pub quizzes and the most insanley tiled toilet block in the world. Music at weekends. Extensive selection of food.
Food and groceries
Stock up before you come over on the ferry! There’s a Asda in Ardrossan right by the pier.
Brodick has two Co-op supermarkets and Lamlash has one, all open daily from 07:00-22:00.
Whiting Bay has two grocery stores, one at the Gulf petrol station, and one in the village centre which also has hot food to go and a deli. Just outside Whiting Bay, Kirkend Nurseries sells exotic & hard-to-get food and old-fashioned sweets as well as plants.
Kildonan Hotel has a shop selling basics such as bread, milk and tinned food.
There is a “farmers' market” at the Kilmory Community Hall on the last Saturday of every month (and the last Saturday in September is the annual fete).
Blackwaterfoot has a grocery store, open daily (but closed from 13:00 on Wednesday). The Kinloch Hotel Bakery sells pizzas (closed Wednesday and Sunday). Galbraiths are the Butchers Shop here.
Pirnmill Village Store and Post Office has food and alcohol for those on a self-catering budget. Lochranza campsite sells basics.
Arts and crafts
- Old Byre Showroom, Machrie. Great souvenirs can be bought here. A cafe serves some of the best burgers and other meaty meals on the island! They also own the Sheepskin Shop in Brodick.
- Craft shop, Corrie (In the centre of the village).
- The Whins, Lochranza. daily 10:00-18:00. A fantastic little shop that makes and sells the famous 'Arran Stonemen.' Located on the side of the hill on the north side of the bay. Quite a long but interesting walk from the main part of the village, you are likely to meet sheep and maybe deer on the way.
- Pottery Workshop, Kilmory, ☎ .
- ArCaS (Arran Cancer Support), Brodick (Outside the Ferry Terminal in Brodick), ☎ . M-Sa 11:00-16:00. Charity shop.
- Jolly Molly, Shore Road, Brodick, ☎ . Gift shop.
- 8 Isle of Arran Cheese Shop, Home Farm, Brodick, ☎ . Visit the shop at Duchess Court or order Arran hampers online. Among other cheeses they make a delicious blue cheese. They do not offer tours but you can watch the cheese making through a large window.
Hostels and bunkhouses
There are three budget establishments which have dorms.
- Shore Lodge, Brodick, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 14-bed self-catering facility situated beside the Brodick Castle, Garden & Country Park grounds. The lodge is located 2.3 mi (3.7 km) from Brodick by road or 1.5 mi (2.4 km) across the beach on the Fisherman’s Walk (allow 30 minutes walking). Facilities include: sitting room with wood-burning stove, fully equipped kitchen and dining room, drying room, six WCs, free fast wifi. Now only takes bookings for the whole property, not individual beds. from £840 for 4 nights.
- 1 Kilmory Lodge Bunkhouse, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Located on the second floor of Kilmory Hall. Rooms with 3, 4 and 8 beds. Facilities include: self catered kitchen dining room, free wifi, tiny community bar downstairs. It takes approximately 50 minutes to Kilmory from Brodick by bus. £20.
- 2 Lochranza Youth Hostel (SYHA), Lochranza, ☎ . 13 rooms, 6 of which are en-suite. Facilities include: a large self catering kitchen, 2 dining rooms and 2 guest lounges, laundry facilities, a drying room, cycle storage is available. There are 2 computers and wifi available, however costing £3 an hour. During Scottish holiday periods it becomes fully booked early, so if you wish to stay, plan in advance. If you wish to visit during the winter period they are open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Note: there is no shop in Lochranza so stock up in Brodick before you leave. The bus takes roughly 40 minutes from Brodick to Lochranza. Dorms from £14, rooms from £30.
In addition to the sites below, there are many quiet places where you can wild camp legally, thanks to the Right to Access laws.
- Middleton's Caravan & Camping Park, Cordon, Lamlash, ☎ (Mar-Sep), (Oct-Feb). Good facilities, but very midgey at times!
- Seal Shore Camping & Touring, Kildonan (About 12 miles south of Brodick. Follow the main road through Lamlash and Whiting Bay. As you get to the south coast of the island, look out for signs for Kildonan to the left from the main road), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Lovely site with its own private beach. The name is not a misnomer as you can regularly see seals playing offshore and sometimes hauling out to bask on the rocks. The site has a small shop where the site owner (a registered fisherman) sells his catch, and a few basic grocery items. There's a hotel with public bar close by. Decent purpose-built toilet/shower block, laundry facilities, and a covered BBQ area for when the weather isn't so good. As well as the campsite there's also a bunkhouse.
- 3 Lochranza Caravan and Camping Site, Lochranza (Close to the distillery), ☎ (calls between 09:00 and 19:00 if possible). Open from March 20th to October 30th. 9-hole golf course nearby. It also has a small shop selling limited goods and a tearoom which sells excellent home baking.
- Glen Rosa. A quaint campsite with excellent views located a few miles up a paved cart track. Follow signs for Blackwaterfoot (B880) when leaving Brodick and the turn off for Glen Rosa is located on the B880 after the B880/A841 junction. No caravans/motorhomes allowed, but you can make campfires and bring pets. Part of the campsite is prone to flooding. £4 per night.
- Glamping Yurts, Old Manse, Kilmory KA27 8PK (follow lane signed for Kilmory Parish church), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. What it says on the lid: glamping! In Mongolian Yurts! In Arran!
- Auchrannie Resort, Auchrannie Road, Brodick, ☎ . Offers 3 types of accommodation - 5* luxury self-catering lodges, 4* traditional country house hotel and 4* modern spa resort - excellent range of on-site services including 2 swimming pools and extensive health and leisure facilities.
- 4 Clisham B&B, Pirnmill, KA27 8HP, ☎ . 3-star guest house. Open between Mar - Oct. £37 per person per night in double/twin room (£45 for single occupancy), reduced rates if staying three nights or longer.
- 5 Lochranza Hotel, Lochranza, ☎ . Offers varied accommodation all ensuite. The on-site bar has a enviable selection of Scotch whisky offers good value home cooked bar food, snacks, teas, coffees etc. Home of Eason Biorach single malt whisky.
- 6 Catacol Bay Hotel, Catacol, ☎ . This hotel is convenient if you are travelling to/from the north of Scotland, as the hotel is close to the Lochranza ferry terminal. Extensive food list with local dishes at decent prices. They also offer a Sunday Buffet. On most Tuesdays, there is a folk session which you can join in with your instrument. The hotel also has a free courtesy bus service to Pirnmill and Lochranza for 2 people or more, so you can get the first ferry easily if you haven't got a car or if you don't want to get up at 06:00 to catch the bus! High season: £35-65 per room; low season: £30-50 per room including breakfast.
- 7 Best Western Kinloch Hotel, Blackwaterfoot, ☎ . With (rather chilly) indoor swimming pool and great food. 2 Bars. Food is available 12:00-20:30 daily.
- Corrie Hotel, Corrie, ☎ . Good accommodation, with a friendly bar which is also open to non-residents. £38-42 per person for B&B.
- 8 Lamlash Bay Hotel, Lamlash (Directly next to the Co-op supermarket), ☎ . Hotel and restaurant. It also has a unique pizza bar. Open 7 days.
- 9 The Glenisle Hotel, Lamlash, ☎ . Bistro style restaurant. Daily specials. Food: last orders at 20:30. Bar open until 23:00.
- Blackwaterfoot Lodge, Blackwaterfoot, ☎ .
- Jenny & Keith at Seacliffe Cottage, Dippen (Not far from Whiting Bay). A lovely cottage with sea views open all year round.
- Inverkeilor Holiday Cottage, Manse Road, Brodick (300 metres from the beach). A secluded cottage with private garden right in the heart of Brodick, available all year round.
- Firth Cottage, Shannochie (At the south tip of the island), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. A secluded cottage with stunning views over the sea and Ailsa Craig
- Meadow Cottages, Pirnmill (at the south end of the village), ☎ . 4-star, self-catering.
Mobile and Wifi access is decent on the ferry from Ardrossan and around the main settlements of Brodick, Lamlash and Whiting Bay. It becomes patchy further out, and (as of mid-2017) on the west side beyond Blackwaterfoot it’s barely one bar - you'll manage a call but not internet. Enquire ahead about signal strength at your accommodation. If it’s poor, will your life unravel, or will you finally discover what holidays are meant to be like?
Places with public internet and Wifi in Brodick include:
- Library (open Tu 10:00-17:00, Th F 10:00-19:30 and Sa 10:00-13:00) and the Arran Store just outside the ferry terminal.
- Computer Shop, Brodick (To the east of the main Co-op), ☎ . This shop offers a range of computing goods and internet access (£1/hr), also good if you run short of a fuse as nowhere else on the island seems to sell them.
Out of town try the Auchrannie Resort (08:00-late 7 days a week), the Best Western Kinloch Hotel in Blackwaterfoot, the Lochranza Hotel and the Catacol Bay Hotel.
STD code for the island is 01770. There are Post Offices in Brodick, Lamlash, Whiting Bay, Pirnmill and Blackwaterfoot. The village halls in Lochranza and Kilmory and the Kildonan Hotel offer a limited Post Office service on certain days.
Arran is very safe. There’s the expected list of hazards (road traffic, water safety, hill-walking especially if the weather closes in, the occasional aggressive drunk, theft, and so on) but less so than most other places. Common nuisances, here as elsewhere in western Scotland, are sunburn, midge bites, blisters and hypothermia, sometimes all on the same day.
Consider however: you are going to be on an island with no air service. In bad weather the ferries could be cancelled for days. Have you got enough of your regular medications, and how close is your partner to going into labour?
There are three pharmacies on Arran: in Brodick (+44 1770 302250), in Lamlash (+44 1770 600275) and in Whiting Bay (+44 1770 700584). They are all closed on Sundays.
Be reassured that if there is an emergency, the blue-light services and first responders will be well-equipped to deal with it. Don’t be put off coming because you’ve got a dicky heart or similar.
In case of emergency, call 999.
Consider this advice for temporary residents (including tourists).
Simple choice: you either return to the mainland via Brodick, or you cross to Argyll via Lochranza.
Returning by the usual route on the Brodick-Ardrossan ferry, the complete range of destinations lies before you. Close to Ardrossan visit Ayr with its Robert Burns associations, and other Ayrshire sights such as Culzean Castle. Further north and east are Glasgow and Edinburgh: you can’t not see them. Heading south, see Dumfries on the road to England. Note also that if you’re heading for Ireland, you must come this way, as there isn’t a ferry from Argyll.
The path less trodden is via the Lochranza-Claonaig ferry into Argyll. This opens up some intriguing itineraries. Close to Claonaig, within range of a day-trip from Arran, are Skipness (2.5 mi (4.0 km) and its castle, and Tarbert (10 mi (16 km)). Stretching south for 40 mi (64 km) is the Kintyre peninsula, with the Mull seemingly almost within shouting distance of Northern Ireland. From Tarbert there’s a ferry to the Cowan peninsula, a scenic route back to Glasgow, or drive up the west coast of Scotland to Oban, Skye and beyond. Also from Kennacraig a few miles west of Tarbert, ferries run to Islay (which gets you to Jura), and to Colonsay. If you want Hebrides (which in Arran you didn’t get), find them here.
If you don’t have your own wheels, be aware that facilities at Claonaig comprise a bus shelter, a re-cycling bin, and a lane leading away into the hills, and that’s all. Five minutes after landing, the vehicles have all sped away, and it’s a very lonely place. Relying on public transport in Argyll will demand boundless patience and endurance. West Coast Motors run the 926 bus from Glasgow to Tarbert and Campbeltown (five per day, via the A83 main road five miles away) and the thrice-daily 448 bus from Lochgilphead to Tarbert, Claonaig and Skipness; neither runs on Sunday. With your own vehicle, touring is easy but Satnav users beware: there are two places in Scotland called “Tarbert” and one called “Tarbet” (from Gaelic An Tairbeart, a place where you can drag boats from one body of water to another). You’ll be wanting the one that’s 10 mi (16 km) miles away, not the one 50 miles away near Loch Lomond, nor the one 250 miles away on the isle of Harris.