- For other places with the same name, see Aran (disambiguation).
The Isle of Arran 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. Arran extends for about 20 miles 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 C it was systematically depopulated, as its residents were evicted, or chose to leave for better prospects elsewhere. Tourism developed in the 19th C 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. Late 20th C 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 (see “Get in”). 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, 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 Pirrmill, Catacol, Machrie, Blackwaterfoot and Kilmory, then you circle back through Kildonan into lusher country.
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, and those options are described in the next section. 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. Arran is also visited by other ships in summer, but these are excursion cruises not ferries. For cruises on the Victorian paddle steamer “Waverley”, see www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk – their 2017 timetable is not yet posted.
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 mins, 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.
The Lochranza-Claonaig ferry sails 8 times a day in summer, taking 30 mins. In winter Claonaig jetty is too exposed, so instead there’s a single daily crossing between Lochranza and Tarbert, taking 90 mins. 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.
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 ten miles away, not the one fifty miles away, nor the one 250 miles away.
On summer Saturdays only, the 7 am 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.
Getting to Ardrossan
Reaching Ardrossan by public transport will usually involve travelling via Glasgow. By road with your own car from Glasgow follow M77 / A77 to Kilmarnock. From England take M6 then A75 to Dumfries then A76 to Kilmarnock. All approaches now follow A71 & A78 to Ardrossan harbour. The X36 (Stagecoach West) bus runs hourly (every 2 hours Sunday) between Glasgow Buchanan Street and the Ardrossan dock road, taking 80 mins. Last bus goes around 10 pm from Glasgow, 9 pm from Ardrossan, so it runs beyond the last ferry.
By rail: train to Glasgow Central every 15 mins, taking 45 mins; trains run both ways until after 11 pm. (If your train is delayed, make your plight known to the conductor, and the ferry may be held.) Combined rail + ferry tickets are available. Glasgow Central has trains for Carlisle and down the west coast line to London Euston. For Stirling, Perth, Inverness, Dundee or Aberdeen you’ll have to change stations to Glasgow Queen Street. For Edinburgh, Newcastle and the east coast line to London Kings Cross, trains run from both Central and Queen Street.
Air transport plays a vital role for Arran: it takes everyone off to the Med and beyond for their holidays, leaving the island quiet. Overseas visitors flying into Scotland seldom consider Arran, being dead set on Edinburgh, Skye, and whichever dismal glen their ancestors emigrated from. The best-connected airport is Glasgow GLA, 6 miles west of central Glasgow on the M8. It has flights to many UK and European destinations, and several of the Hebridean Isles have flights only to GLA. There are regular direct flights to Canada, but other long-haul destinations will usually involve changing planes in London or Amsterdam – use Manchester MAN or the London airports for better long-haul options. Travel between GLA and Ardrossan via central Glasgow as above. Prestwick PIK airport is closer but only has Ryanair flights to holiday destinations mostly in Spain; so unless you live in Malaga and want to visit Lamlash . . . bus 585 runs every 30 mins (every 2 hours Sundays) between PIK and Ardrossan, taking 45 mins.
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: Mon-Sat 8:00-17:30, Sun 10:00-17:00; in Whiting Bay: Mon-Fri 9:15-17:15, Sat 9:15-16:00, Sun closed. Car rental is offered in Brodick and Whiting Bay. Booking in advance is recommended.
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.
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. Remember that 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 9 pm. If there’s a group of you, especially with children and baggage, consider booking a bus with MyBus Arran. It’s subsidised by SPT and the British Red Cross and costs no more than the regular bus fare. Call MyBus on +44 845 128 4025 or +44 141 333 4586 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.
- 1 Arran Bike Hire, The Shorehouse, Shore Road, Brodick, ☎ , e-mail: , (mobile)email@example.com. £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).
- 2 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Summer: Mon - Sat 9:00 - 1:00 and 2:00 - 5:00, Winter: Thu - Sat 10:00 - 1.00 and 2:00 - 4:00.
In Brodick itself 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, the island’s principal sight is Brodick Castle. Here too is Arran Brewery, and the start of the easiest hike up Goat Fell (described under “Do”).
- 1 Heritage Museum, Rosaburn, Brodick, KA27 8DP, ☎ . Adults £4.
- 2 Brodick Castle, Garden & Country Park, Brodick, ☎ . Opening hours - Castle: 1 Apr to 31 Oct, Sun-Thurs 11–4.00 (closes 3.00 in Oct); Country Park: all year, daily 9.30–sunset; Reception Centre, Shop and Walled Garden: 1 Apr to 31 Oct, daily 10–4.30, 1 Nov to 21 Dec, Fri/Sat/Sun 10–3.30. Is undoubtedly Arran's proudest and most photogenic historic building. Brodick Castle is featured on the back side of The Royal Bank of Scotland £20 banknotes. It is open to the public seven days a week, although due to constrained finances only (slightly more expensive) guided tours are available inside the castle on Fridays and Saturdays - however these include excellent histories and details from knowledgeable docents. A Brodick Castle Day Out ticket is available from any ScotRail staffed station within Strathclyde or ScotRail Telesales. This ticket includes: Return rail travel from any Strathclyde rail station to Ardrossan Harbour, return ferry travel on the Caledonian Macbrayne ferry from Ardrossan Harbour to Brodick Pier, return bus connection with Stagecoach Western from Brodick Pier to Brodick Castle and admission to Brodick Castle. Adults £12.50, concessions £9.
- 3 Arran Brewery, Brodick (Located at the base of the footpath that goes up Goat Fell), ☎ , e-mail: Sales@arranbrewery.co.uk. Summer: Mon - Sat 10:00 - 5:00pm, Sun: 12:30 - 4:30pm; Winter: Mon - Sat 10:30 - 4:30pm, Sun: closed. 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 not technically holding a licence, you can get away with drinking on the adjacent picnic tables. A brewery tour is offered at 2:00pm every day lasting for about 45 minutes. Adults: £4.00, children: £1.00.
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 Buddhist monastery. It has a visitor centre and café, open in summer more or less whenever the boat trips are running. In winter the monks live in seclusion and you can’t visit. 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. Partially ruined and its setting beside the sea in Lochranza is quite stunning. The interior is accessible: the castle gate key may be obtained at the town hall in Lochranza if the gate is locked. Believed to be a 16th century reconstruction of an earlier building.
- 6 Arran Distillery, Lochranza (Uphill from Lochranza village), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Tours at 11.45am and 2.30pm. Arran's only whisky distillery. Established in 1995. 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.
Arran is dotted with prehistoric standing stones, some very large. The best are at Machrie Moor – watch for the car park sign along the main road, then walk up the track for 20 mins. (Free, always open, but can be boggy, stout boots recommended.) Here find an impressive, rugged circle of cairns, with others here and there across the heath, and often nobody else around. If you were secretly disappointed by “the Stonehenge Experience”, come here to reconnect with your inner Ancient Brit.
From Machrie the String Road goes over to Brodick, or continue south through Blackwaterfoot to Kildonan – another good beach, plus great rock formations and a lighthouse. Just below Kilmory is 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 stony, draughty and without any amenities. The name “Cleat’s Shore” isn’t recognised by Google Map, and the rough, cow-patted access lane has to date repulsed the camera car, so it should be nice and quiet if you decide to get your kit off.
From Kilmory you can either take the scenic Ross Road back to Lamlash, or continue by the coast road which now 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 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 cross to Holy Island, as described earlier, or walk north along the coast to Clauchlands Point. This is 2 miles 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.
A number of walks start from Whiting Bay: the “Giants Grave” (1.5 mile round trip), the Glenashdale Falls (7 mile round trip) and Kings Cross Point (3 miles round trip).
Play golf at one of the island’s many courses:
- 1 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.
- 2 Machrie Bay Golf Course and Tearoom, Machrie, ☎ . Some of the best snacks and drinks around! Also good for a game of golf.
- 3 Lochranza 9 Hole Golf Course, Lochranza, KA27 8HL, ☎ . Normally open from April until mid October each year.
- 4 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 all year (depending on weather conditions), Sun closed. Booking is strongly recommended. £25 for 1h track, £45 for 2h.
- 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 traveling 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, ☎ . Tue-Sun 10:00-16:00 and 17:00-21:00, Mon closed, 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), ☎ . Sun-Thu 16:30-22:30; Fri, Sat 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, ☎ . Open daily. Mon-Thu, Sun: until 21:00; Fri, Sat: 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 9:00-18:00. Excellent meals, especially the venison burgers. Breakfast, sandwiches and cakes. Sandwiches £4, burger £7.50.
- 2 The Sandwich Station, Lochranza (Outside the ferry terminal), ☎ . Mon-Sat 9:00-17:00, Sun 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: Mon-Sat evening until 22:00. Serves excellent burgers, chips and drinks. £9-16.
- Coast Café Bistro, Whiting Bay, ☎ . Mon, Thu-Sun 10:00-16:00; additionally on Fri, Sat 18:00-late; Tue, Wed closed. 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). Open 7 days. 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 Tesco in Ardrossan right by the pier. Brodick has two Co-op supermarkets and Lamlash has one, all open daily from 7:00-22:00. 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 1 pm 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 opened here recently, serving 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. Open from 10am to 6pm daily. 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), ☎ . Mon-Sat 11:00-16:00, Sun closed. Charity shop.
- Jolly Molly, Shore Road, Brodick, ☎ . Gift shop.
- 7 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 / Bunkhouses
There are three budget establishments which have dorms.
- Shore Lodge, Brodick, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 14-bed self catering facility situated beside the Brodick Castle, Garden & Country Park grounds. The lodge is located 2.3 miles from Brodick by road or 1.5 miles 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: email@example.com. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 9:00 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, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. What it says on the lid: glamping! In 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 6AM 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), ☎ . Newly opened hotel and restaurant. It also has a unique pizza bar. Open 7 days.
- 9 The Glenisle Hotel, Lamlash, ☎ . New chef in 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 late 2016) on the west side beyond Blackwaterfoot it’s mostly flat zero. 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 / Wifi include:
- In Brodick: the Library (open Tues 10 am-5 pm, Thurs & Fri 10 am-7:30 pm and Sat 10 am-1 pm) and The Arran Store just outside the ferry terminal.
- Out of town: the Auchrannie Resort (8 am late 7 days a week), the Best Western Kinloch Hotel in Blackwaterfoot, the Lochranza Hotel and the Catacol Bay Hotel.
- 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.
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.
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 miles) with its castle, and Tarbert (10 miles). Stretching south for 40 miles 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.