Isle of Arran

For other places with the same name, see Aran (disambiguation).
Brodick bay with Goat Fell in the distance

The Isle of Arran is situated in south-western Scotland, in the Firth of Clyde near Glasgow. Measuring approximately 167 square miles (433 km²) in area, it has a population of approximately 5,000. Arran is the seventh largest island in Scotland, but is not technically one of the Hebrides, being southeast of the Kintyre peninsula, and, in fact, one of the southernmost of the Scottish islands. Widely referred to as Scotland in Miniature, Arran offers visitors a compact and easily accessible island that displays the full diversity of the geology of mainland Scotland, with a sparsely populated and mountainous northern half and a flatter, more populous southern half. Located close to Glasgow and Scotland's Ayrshire coast, Arran is a popular and easily accessible tourist destination.

Villages

Map of the Isle of Arran

Other destinations

Understand

The Isle of Arran is often described as Scotland in Miniature, offering the scenery of the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands on one Island, in the North and South respectively. The northern part of the island is a National Scenic Area and it is easy to understand why!

Note that if the ferry is not running, the shops will not get any newspapers until the ferry starts running again. So, don't ask anyone before 9AM "Have you got any papers?"

There is a tourist information center in Brodick at The Pier (opposite the ferry terminal). Open all year. +44 1770 303774 or +44 1770 303776.

The local newspaper is the Arran Banner.

Climate

Check the Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) for the Western Highlands which includes Isle of Arran.

Get in

By boat

The only practical way to reach Arran is using one of the two ferries operated by Caledonian McBrayne (CalMac). The ferries run between:

This service runs all year (Beginning of April - end of October: summer timetable, end of October - beginning of April: winter timetable). Price for foot passengers: you can buy a 5 day saver return for around £10.50, with single fares being roughly £5.75.
This service runs all year, but changes the mainland port in the later part of the winter schedule (Beginning of April - end of October: summer timetable, end of October - beginning of April: winter timetable). Prices are slightly lower than on the Ardrossan-Brodick ferry, but the saving is not worth it if you are coming up from the south, owing to the long distances involved.

Be warned that services can be cancelled or diverted due to bad weather - the 0700 ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick is frequently cancelled in the winter months owing to the ferry having to dock in Brodick for the previous night. Reduced services run on Sundays and ouside the summer season.

The paddle steamer Waverley also calls at the island 3 times per week from June to September. Services run from Ayr, Largs, Glasgow and other places, check the website for further details.

Arran Power and Sail run two services using RIB powerboats: Largs to Brodick costs £30 each way, and Glasgow to Brodick costs £60 each way. They also operate all the way to Ardrossan on request.

By plane

There is no airport on the island. The nearest airports are Glasgow Prestwick and Glasgow International on the mainland.

Glasgow Prestwick Airport (IATA: PIK) is situated 32 miles to the south of Glasgow. From Prestwick you can travel by train to Kilwinning (en route to Glasgow Central) and change for Ardrossan Harbour and ferries to Brodick. Alternatively bus 585 (operated by Stagecoach Western) travels directly from the airport to Ardrossan Princes Street, a short walk from the ferry terminal (see below). Taxis from Prestwick Airport to Ardrossan Harbour are also available for about £15.

Glasgow (International) Airport (IATA: GLA) is 15 miles west of the city. From Glasgow International a bus operates to Paisley Gilmour Street railway station, for rail connections to Ardrossan Harbour.

By bus

To Ardrossan

The following buses are operated by Stagecoach (West Scotland):

To Claonaig

Tarbert and Tarbet

On the 926 bus service from Glasgow to Campbeltown, there are two stops called Tarbert and Tarbet, the former by Loch Fyne, while the latter is next to Loch Lomond. If you don't make it clear to the driver of the bus, you could be 50 miles away from your destination before you know it!

By train

From Glasgow

Trains run direct from Glasgow Central to Ardrossan Harbour several times a day. Departures to and from Glasgow are timed to connect with CalMac ferries to Brodick (see above). Some trains to Ardrossan Harbour connect with ferries, and both the train and ferry can be delayed if the other is late running. Combined train/ferry tickets to Glasgow can also be bought at the ferry terminal in Brodick, and combined tickets to Brodick can be bought from any railway station, sometimes saving on the equivalent combined cost of train and ferry tickets. Note that the 1650 train from Glasgow splits at Ardrossan South Beach, so you will have to be in the front 3 cars of the train: pay close attention to departure screens before boarding the train.

From Ayr and Prestwick Airport

Trains run frequently from Ayr and Prestwick Airport to Kilwinning, where you can change onto another train for Ardrossan. A few trains per day also come from Stranraer (for Northern Ireland).

From Edinburgh

It is possible to do a day trip from Edinburgh (although staying overnight on Arran will be much more relaxing). Take the first train from Edinburgh Waverley station at around 7:00 to Glasgow Queen Street, walk to Glasgow Central and take the train to Ardrossan. From there take the ferry to Brodick. Bring your bike along, which is free on all trains and ferries. The travel time for one direction is about 3h30min. Leave Arran with the ferry at around 19:00 to make it back to Edinburgh. For exact travel times use the travel planner.

By car

There is no bridge link to Arran, and you must take the ferry. However, both CalMac ferries carry cars (as well as vans, trucks, buses, bikes...), and the paddle steamer Waverley can also carry bicycles. Note there is an extensive long term car park at Ardrossan Harbour, and there is also a small car park in Claonaig. Also note that there is no LPG on the island either.

Get around

By car

There are three main roads on the island: the main road that runs around the coast (known as the A841 between Lochranza-Brodick-Whiting Bay and the C147 between Lochranza-Blackwaterfoot-Kildonan-Whiting Bay), the String Road that runs from Brodick to Blackwaterfoot (the B880) and the Ross Road that runs from Lamlash to a point between Kilmory/Lagg and Sliddery). The latter is mainly a narrow single track road with passing places and not on a standard to allow larger motorhomes on it. Maps are widely available all over the island if you have not got your own. Be aware that there are no petrol stations north of the String Road except in Blackwaterfoot. Also, bear in mind that there is an advisory speed limit of 30 mph between Brodick and Lochranza.

By bus

You don't need a car or bike to explore Arran, with an extensive and fairly reliable bus service covering most of the island (however, be warned that the bus windows can sometimes be filthy and impede your view). Services are operated by Stagecoach (West Scotland), although because of the local authority area it's not unusual to see bus stops and timetables carrying the logo of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), who oversee public transport on Arran. A single day Rover ticket costs £5.60, although beware that fares and timetables change with the seasons.

A full timetable can be found online and printed timetables are available on all buses, on board the ferries, at the ferry terminals and from most of the convenience stores.

The regular services are:

Scheduled round-trips can be made with the following bus route combinations. This might involve changing the bus in Blackwaterfoot:

Seasonal routes are:

Most buses connect in Brodick with the CalMac ferry to Ardrossan. Check timetable notes carefully, as some late evening buses only run on Fridays during the summer. Few buses run after 9PM.

Note that many of the 323 services on Mondays to Saturdays and some on Sundays terminate at Whiting Bay. Check the timetable for details.

Generally, bikes cannot be carried on the buses, but in the off-peak season a friendly driver may let you take your bike on board, but don't count on it.

All buses on Arran are 'Hail and Ride' - you can hail the bus anywhere where there is not a bus stop.

The 324 bus stops in Lochranza once every 3 hours or so in each direction.

The Castle Bus only runs Sunday-Thursday during the summer holidays, and then weekends until the end of October. The Castle is also served by the 324 bus - albeit it does not run into the grounds of the castle itself. Timetables are available locally and on board the Caledonian Isles.

There are also Island Tours that run Mon-Fri only from June to August. They connect with the 09:30 ferry from Ardrossan, and a full day tour connects with the 16:40 ferry back. You can also get a half day tour that gets back to Brodick for the 13:50 ferry back, but you do not get to see the North Island. Timetables are available on the Caledonian Isles and from Brodick Ferry Terminal.

MyBus Arran is an on-demand bus for the entire island (provided by SPT and the British Red Cross). It operates Mon-Fri, schooldays 9:00-17:00; Sat, school holidays 8:00-17:00 (drop off by 17:30). You have to book a journey with this bus one working day in advance (call +44 845 128 4023 or +44 141 352 5570 between Mon-Fri 09:30-15:00 to make the booking or book online). Regular bus fares apply. For general MyBus enquiries call +44 845 128 4025 or +44 141 333 4586.

By motorcycle

Arran is an adrenaline junky's paradise when it comes to motorcycles! The roads are narrow, heavily potholed (so much that Arran is the 'pothole capital' of the UK!) and often you come across 40 ton logging trucks! And after all that, the rewards are magnificent, with breathtaking views during the sunshine! As an added bonus, a motorcycle can be brought over to Arran for half the cost of a car! Even though the roads are "goin' tae pot", it's still a very big adventure for even the seasoned motorcyclist!

By bicycle

Hiring a bike is recommended to travel some routes, such as the Ross, that the bus doesn't take. In Brodick, bike hire is available from

In Blackwaterfoot you can hire a bike from the Kinloch Sports Club. Cycling over the Machrie Moor Road from the String Road to Machrie on a calm, sunny day is not to be missed...

In Lochranza you can hire a mountain bike from The Sandwich Station from £6.00.

Be extra careful when cycling on the narrow Brodick-Corrie road as there have been some fatalities there in the recent past.

By taxi

Taxi services cover the entire island, and you may find that booking ahead is a good idea as they get very busy in peak season. If you are travelling alone it is best to ask for a quote when booking, as prices can be very steep depending on where you want to go - it is actually cheaper to rent a car than get a return taxi fare from Brodick to Lochranza.

By thumb

The road that runs round the perimeter of the island provides great coastal views on a clear day (aside from the rather hilly area between Tomore and Blackwaterfoot). While narrow, it is mostly well paved and easy to navigate. This road is also a good source of cars for hitchhiking. Locals ranging from grandmothers to transit van drivers will try and squeeze you in, and are a great source of information and conversation to boot. Even the police on the island will gladly give you a lift if you are lucky enough (provided they're not busy), so don't be afraid to thumb anything that passes by. There are only a few roads around the island, making hitchhiking from one village to another simple. Be aware that in inclement weather, cars may be few and far between.

See

Lochranza castle

Beaches

Do

Hiking

Arran is a very popular destination for walking and hiking. The breadth of terrain and scenery offers a great variety of different types of walking within a small area.

There are many great hiking suggestions (including GPS coordinates and route descriptions) for the entire island on the Walk Highlands hiking guide.

Golf

Play golf at one of the islands many courses:

Other Activities

Culture

Eat

View across Drumadoon Bay from Blackwaterfoot to the Mull of Kintyre and the island of Sanda.

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).

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

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).

Buy

Food and Groceries

Contrary to older guidebooks, there are no proper grocery stores anywhere else on the island other than the above places.

Arts and Crafts

Others

Sleep

Camping at Kildonan, with Pladda Isle and Ailsa Craig visible in the distance

Hostels / Bunkhouses

There are three budget establishments which have dorms.

Camping

In addition to the options below, there are many quiet places where you can wild camp, legal thanks to the Right to Access laws.

Hotels

Self Catering

Connect

Internet

Post Office

There are Post Offices in Brodick, Lamlash, Whiting Bay, Pirnmill and Blackwaterfoot. The village halls in Lochranza and Kilmory and the Kildonan Hotel also offer a limited Post Office service on certain days.

Stay healthy

In case of emergency, call 999.

Consider this advice for temporary residents (including tourists).

There are three pharmacies on Arran. One in Brodick (+44 1770 302250), one in Lamlash (+44 1770 600275) and one in Whiting Bay (+44 1770 700584). They are all closed on Sundays.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.