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With its rich variety of terrains, the Isle of Arran, the Firth of Clyde’s largest island, is often described as a miniature version of Scotland. The island is renowned for its picturesque trails along the coast, cloud-shrouded mountain peaks and diverse wildlife, home to Scotland’s ‘Big Five’ – seals, otters, red deer, golden eagles, and red squirrels. But this rugged island offers more than just natural beauty. The Isle of Arran also serves as a culinary destination with a thriving community of food artisans, restaurant owners, and brewers. Just a weekend getaway will expose you to all the island has to offer, courtesy of a single A-road that loops around the entire landscape.
A 55-minute ferry ride from the Ardrossan mainland port transports you to the island. Car rental services are available near the terminal. However, for an initial feel of the island, consider visiting the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum, a stone’s throw from the terminal. Among its main attractions are a Bronze Age burial site and a 13th-century Viking ship replica.
For a delightful lunch, head over to Mara Fish and Deli, notable for its Saturday barbecues and locally-sourced ingredients. Next, proceed south and west around the island, with a pit stop for a brief hike to the breathtaking Glenashdale Falls.
Position yourself around Blackwaterfoot for awe-inspiring sunsets over Kintyre to the west. The walk from the village to Drumadoon Point is particularly scenic during the golden hour. For lodging, consider the standout Kinloch on this side of the island.
Rise early to navigate around Arran’s north coast and complete the island tour, possibly pausing for a hearty brunch at Café Thyme near Machrie. Afterwards, if you aim to finish the island loop, press on to Brodick Castle.
On clear days, scaling Goat Fell is a must-do on the island. Standing at 874 metres, it might not be a Munro, but it ranks among southern Scotland’s tallest mountains and offers majestic views of the Firth of Clyde from its summit.
The Isle of Arran has garnered several accolades for its local produce. After a demanding hike up and down Goat Fell, quench your thirst with the award-winning Isle of Arran beers, widely available across the country, but best enjoyed at home. For those who prefer spirits, Arran Botanical Drinks offers excellent gin and cassis options.
This piece was featured in the UK & Ireland supplement, distributed with the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Isle of Arran weekend guide
How long does it take to travel by ferry from Ardrossan to the Isle of Arran?
The ferry ride from Ardrossan on the mainland to the Isle of Arran takes approximately 55 minutes.
Where can I find local produce and seafood on the Isle of Arran?
Mara Fish and Deli is a great place to enjoy lunch, where the owners source as much of their produce as possible from the waters surrounding Arran.
What are some attractions on the Isle of Arran?
The Isle of Arran Heritage Museum, Brodick Castle, and Glenashdale Falls are among the key attractions on the island.
What kind of wildlife can I expect to see on the Isle of Arran?
The Isle of Arran is home to Scotland’s ‘Big Five’ wildlife species, which include seals, otters, red deer, golden eagles, and red squirrels.
Where can I enjoy a great view on the Isle of Arran?
For a majestic view, you can climb Goat Fell, one of the tallest mountains in southern Scotland. It provides magnificent views across the Firth of Clyde.
What local beverages are available on the Isle of Arran?
The Isle of Arran is known for its local brewery – Isle of Arran beers. Arran Botanical Drinks also offers excellent gin and cassis for non-beer fans.