The ferry terminal for the island of Arran, found in Ardrossan, is well sign-posted. The town of Ardrossan itself does not have much to recommend. Fill up with fuel before crossing. There are filling stations on the island's main communities but they are more expensive. Bear in mind there is also a summer ferry service from Lochranza on the north side of Arran to Claonaig on the Kintyre peninsula, so it is possible to continue on to a tour of the Kintyre area from Arran.
Arran is the most southerly of the Scottish islands. The Highland Boundary Fault, which passes from Stonehaven to Helensburgh dividing Scotland into the Highlands and the Lowlands, continues through Arran, effectively slicing it in half. The ball-of-wool shaped land-mass is only 56 miles (90km) around the edges, so it is easy to circumnavigate by car during a day-visit.
The south side
Brodick is Arran's largest population centre. Its wide beach extends around Brodick Bay. Its location at the mid-point of the east coast of the island makes it a good base for exploring further afield. There are a few gift shops and a Tourist Information Office situated near the pier.
The town's main tourist attraction is Brodick Castle overlooking Brodick Bay. The earliest portions of this kidney-coloured, sandstone pile date back to the thirteenth century although a Viking fort previously stood on the site. The contents are worth seeing particularly the superb silverware, porcelain and sporting trophies.
Returning to the town of Brodick, the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum is on the left just before entering the town, an eighteenth century croft farm. The interior displays give an insight into the islander's way of life for several centuries with artefacts set in an old smiddy and stable block. The nearby cottage contains a variety of items from around World War I. There are several good retail outlets here.
South of Brodick, the neighbouring hamlet of Lamlash is only 3 miles (5km) away. As you descend the hill into Lamlash you can appreciate the splendid view across Lamlash Golf Course and Bay to Holy Island. It was in this sheltered bay that the Viking King Hakon returned after his woeful defeat at Largs.
Holy Island has been purchased as a Buddhist retreat and is not open to the public. Lamlash is a fairly secluded little village, ideal for a restful stay with sea-angling or strolling the main occupations unless some folk entertainment is arranged in one of the several welcoming pubs such as Andy's Place.
Whiting Bay, the southernmost of Arran's three main east coast villages, appeals to keen fishermen but make note that there is no fishing on Sundays. It is also a popular holiday village with cottages and hotel rooms for rent. Facilities are plentiful but it perhaps lacks the repose of other Arran locations.
Kildonan, on the southern tip, is more rustic. There are the ruined medieval Kildonan Castle standing out on a craggy spit, sandy beaches, and views of the tiny island of Pladda with its lighthouse and the Christmas pudding shape of Ailsa Craig on the horizon. Colonies of seals inhabit the more remote rocky shoreline.
The west side
The villages of Lagg, Sliddery and Corrie Cravie on the south-western side are noted for their tropical vegetation due to the warming effects of the Gulf Stream. The Lagg Hotel in Kilmory has one of the best restaurants on the island and is also very comfortable to stay in.
The village of Blackwaterfoot is less a resort and more a genuine Hebridean fishing village. Visitors here for a few days seem to enjoy this side of the island for its fresh breezes and refreshing views over to the Kintyre Peninsula. Two miles (3km) north of the village past the unusual and highly regarded 12-hole Shiskine golf course is King's Cave where Robert the Bruce supposedly watched the spider which inspired him for future battles against the English.
It is possible to take the String Road, the B880 directly back to Brodick from Blackwaterfoot, but the circular tour continues following the coast road north. On the desolate Machrie Moor and around the abandoned steadings of Moss Farm just north of Blackwaterfoot is a remarkable collection of stone circles and cairns from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.
The omnipresent peak of Goat Fell looms larger as you near the island's north tip following the coastal route overlooking the Kilbrannan Sound to the Mull of Kintyre. Entrance to the village of Lochranza is heralded by a string of colourful cottages called the 'twelve apostles,' perhaps best appreciated from the ferry which sails between here and Cloanig on Kintyre during the summer.
Set out near the tidal flats is the ruin of Lochranza Castle made famous by Sir Walter Scott in the Lord of the Isles. Lochranza Golf Club is famous for the red deer stags that frequent its fairways, chewing on the sweet, pesticide-free grass. Golden Eagles are sometimes seen over the village.
The Isle of Arran Distillery and Visitor Centre has opened on the east side of the village and will take you through the whisky experience with interactive displays and a 12 minute film.
From the route descending back south to Brodick, sweeping slopes are appreciated and dominated by Goat Fell, the islands highest mountain. This is good walking country and it is possible to scale Goat Fell in a day with the right equipment and map which takes approximately 5 hours from the car park at Cladach or Corrie.
Sannox Bay is a scattering of houses on the eastern
shore with a spectacular 9 hole golf course while the village of Corrie is a photographer
or artists delight, a band of adorable cottages overlooking the pebble beach and
a tiny inlet harbour.
Thursday, December 26th, 2019
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