Given its plethora of landscapes, it’s easy to see why Arran, the largest island in the Firth of Clyde, is regarded as a sort of Scotland in miniature. From fog-wreathed peaks to scenic coastal paths, it has something for everyone. And with Scotland’s ‘Big Five’ (seals, otters, red deer, golden eagles and red squirrels) all in residence, its wildlife is no less diverse. But there’s more to this jagged isle than crumbling cliffs and rare birds of prey — the Isle of Arran is also something of a gastronomical hub, boasting a proud community of artisans, restaurateurs and brewers. With a single A-road forming a loop around the island, a weekend getaway gives you the chance to experience everything Arran has to offer.
Travelling by ferry from the port of Ardrossan on the mainland takes just 55 minutes. You can hire a car near the ferry terminal, but to get a sense of the island before exploring on your own, visit the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum, a short walk from the terminal. Among its highlights, there’s a Bronze Age grave and a replica of a Viking ship, which was constructed on the island in the 13th century.
There’s an excellent lunch to be had at the Mara Fish and Deli (look out for the barbecue on Saturdays) where the owners source as much of their produce as possible from the waters surrounding Arran. From there, head south and around the island to the west coast, stopping for the short hike to the beautiful Glenashdale Falls en route.
Base yourself around Blackwaterfoot to see sensational sunsets dipping below Kintyre to the west. The walk from the village to Drumadoon Point is especially scenic at this time of day. The stand-out accommodation on this side of the island is the Kinloch.
Have an early start to get around Arran’s north coast and complete the circumnavigation of the island, perhaps stopping for a hearty brunch at Café Thyme near Machrie. From there, if you want to complete the loop of the island, it’ll be time to push on and all the way back round to Brodick Castle.
If the weather is fair, climbing Goat Fell is one of the most popular activities on the island. At 874 metres, it’s just short of being one of Scotland’s famous Munros, but is nonetheless one of the tallest mountains in southern Scotland and offers magnificent views across the Firth of Clyde from its peak.
Produce on Arran has been winning awards for several years now, but after a long, hard hike up and down Goat Fell, the ones you’ll perhaps crave are made in the local brewery — Isle of Arran beers are available around the country these days, but this is their home. For non-beer fans, nearby Arran Botanical Drinks will have you covered for gin and cassis.
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