Places / Scottish Islands

Weekend break in the Isle of Arran

Back in January, when the Christmas break was over and we trundled ourselves back to work with bellies full of turkey, cake and Celebrations, I was in need of something to look forward to. And that something was a weekend away to the Isle of Arran.

The Journey to Arran

To get to Arran, we had to catch the ferry from Ardrossan. Ardrossan is about a 45 minute drive from where we live so it’s not far at all. I’ve been on a ferry to Cumbrae before but as this would be a longer journey, we were anxious to get to the ferry port with enough time to spare. Turns out we were very early and just missed an even earlier boat. The ferry terminal at Ardrossan has a passenger waiting lounge with toilets and a little snack shop. You can also walk from the terminal to the local Asda to get some last minute supplies.

The journey on the ferry was very smooth, it takes just under an hour to get to Arran but once we’d admired the view, ate some snacks and went on our phones, it was time to get in the car and drive out onto Arran.

On the ferry, with Arran in the distance

Arran is described as a miniature Scotland, and I had very dreamy visions of it being a magical enchanted place. I’m so glad my visions were correct, there’s just something about the atmosphere there that I could get hooked to. As we were only staying for one night, we spent most of the weekend driving around the whole island which I would 100% recommend. Even though it’s a small island, the landscape changes so dramatically when you go from the quaint coastal towns of the South to the majestic hills and purpley forests of the North.

Magical Lochranza
Misty Catacol

Two deer in Lochranza on a field in front of some houses
Deer wandering around Lochranza
A sheep looking at the camera with its sheep friends grazing
Sheep in Catacol

The Glenisle Hotel

Some accommodation can be quite expensive in Arran which is another reason why we wanted to go off peak. We chose the Glenisle Hotel as it had a cosy double room for a really good price and it was also awarded 2018 Scottish Romantic Hotel of the Year. The room was small but it fitted two people perfectly and it felt like a luxury getaway. Our room had a little window seat with binoculars so we could get good views out onto the Holy Isle. Guests staying at the hotel also have access to a lounge with board games and books.

We had breakfast in the hotel which was a mix of help yourself and table service. We also ate dinner there which was very nice, there was a good selection of pub food.

The hotel’s location is excellent with brilliant views of the Holy Isle. Down one end of the street there’s a restaurant and a shop and about a five minute walk away there’s a cafe where we scoffed some breakfast rolls. I’d definitely recommend staying in the Lamlash area and it’s not far from Brodick and the ferry terminal.

Brodick Castle

As we visited in January, the castle wasn’t open but we could still wander around the gardens. It’s run by National Trust so handy if you’ve got a membership! The castle re-opened in 2019 with a new visitor centre which tells the stories of the people who used to live there. When you go towards the exit of the castle, keep your eye out for some cute horses in the field next to the road.

The Twelve Apostles

In Catacol, there’s a row of fishermen’s cottages where each top window is different. This is so when the fishermen were out at sea, their wives would light a candle and they could see which house was signalling. Isn’t that sweet!

Arran Aromatics

I thought it was only right to visit the shop in its namesake! Arran Aromatics is next to the Island Cheese Shop and there’s a little cafe which does good sandwiches and toasties. The shop does soap making classes Monday to Thursday between 10am and 12pm and then from 2pm to 4pm.

More things to do

  • Auchrannie Resort – fancy a spa break? This family friendly hotel has 2 swimming pools, 3 restaurants and is situated in Brodick so not far from the ferry terminal.
  • Arran Heritage Museum – Discover what life was like in the past on Arran and trace your family history – they have genealogists on site to help and you can arrange (for a small fee) for them to provide you with family history!
  • Visit Holy Isle – the Centre for World Health and Peace is at the north of the isle where people can stay for retreats. Day visitors can help themselves to free tea and coffee at the centre before embarking on one of the walks.

Things to know

  • There’s a co-op supermarket in Brodick and also a smaller co-op in Lamlash.
  • For cash machines, you’ll find them in Brodick at the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland.
  • Arran is only 20 miles long and 10 miles wide
  • SPT run buses in Arran which tend to coincide with the ferry arrivals. For taxis, there’s Arran Motors.

Each town and village in Arran is so unique, if you haven’t been before I highly recommend it – it’s so much easier to get to than you realise and I wish I had visited sooner because I’m looking forward to going back!