The Isle of Arran is the ideal place to take a break (regardless of whether you’re a Scottish local or new visitor to the country). Being one of Scotland’s larger islands, there’s plenty of things to do in Arran; with its proximity to the mainland meaning those short on time can visit most of the main attractions without feeling rushed.
As the conversation around climate change increases, we see more and more Eco-conscious explorers looking for ways to minimise their carbon footprint. With that thought, here’s my top recommendations for a several days in Arran; including how to get around, what to do and where to eat …
How to get from Glasgow to Arran
Leave the car at home and hop on the direct train from Glasgow Central station to Ardrossan. ScotRail offer a Rail & Sail ticket, taking you all the way from Glasgow to Brodick. The pass means that you don’t need to queue at the ferry ticket office, and it also saves you a little bit of cash. From Ardrossan Ferry terminal, you simply hop on the CalMac Ferry service across to Arran.
Getting around Arran without a car
Arran is a great place to start honing your Eco-travel skills and enjoy island life at a more relaxed pace. The island has a regular bus service, but for an unrivalled experience, I recommend you try out an e-bike. You can get your hands on one of these from Arran Bike Hire – just a few minutes from Brodick pier. E-bikes come with a battery-powered “assist”, giving you a little helping hand as you explore. I covered the entire island of Arran with mine, including the 200-meter high road from Sannox to Lochranza. The best bit about the bike was the freedom to stop whenever and wherever I wanted to take photos and enjoy the views.
Isle of Arran accommodation | Stonewater House B&B Lamlash
Imagine my delight when I discovered there’s a B&B in Arran that caters to vegans AND aims to minimise its impact on the environment! Stonewater House in Lamlash Bay is a beautiful water side B&B that takes pride in serving up one of the tastiest (and biggest) breakfasts in Arran. Their plant-based menu is served with views overlooking the bay; designed to wow existing vegans and impress those looking to reduce their meat consumption. The owners, Carol and Jules couldn’t have done enough to make sure I was happy. They gave me tons of advice about the area, offered me a packed lunch for my bike trips, and made sure the room was always cosy for my return.
Things to do in Arran on foot or by bike
Castles in Arran |Brodick Castle and Lochranza Castle
History buffs can enjoy a day of castle hunting, starting with an easy coastal stroll in the morning from Brodick Pier to Brodick Castle. A previous hunting lodge, the house hunted so intensely that they famously wiped out the island’s deer population and had to import more from England! The dark ‘trophies’ from these hunts can be found lining the walls of the castle’s interiors.
After exploring the endless gardens of Brodick Castle, hop on a bus (or take your bike) to the ruins of Lochranza Castle in the North. The castle dates back to the 13th century. It is said to have been the spot at which Robert the Bruce landed on his return from Ireland, before heading to make his bid for the Scottish crown.
Machrie Moor Stone Circles
There are 7 sets of stones circles standing across Machrie Moor. The most visually striking set is a group of 3 large stones, reaching up to almost 5 meters in height. The stones themselves date back to around 1800 BC, but there’s evidence to suggest that the starting point for activity here was closer to 3500 BC! It’s been proposed that the circles were the centre for ritual activity in the area. Short on time? There are actually multiple stones sites around the Isle of Arran, including a set close to the road to Brodick Castle and Goat Fell.
Seeking something a bit more unusual? Look out for Pirnmill Church, a little blue place of worship on the road between Lochranza and Machrie. Blink, and you’ll miss it! I actually had to double back to see what it was. This tiny little church (which could be mistaken for a storage container) has an interior lined with boarded yellow pine and provides timber pews for its congregation.
Hiking in Arran| Goat Fell
Grab your hiking boots (you’re going to need them) and get ready to tackle one of Scotland’s favourite destinations for hill walkers and climbers. At 874 meters, Goat Fell is Arran’s highest mountain, linked by wonderful ridges and delivering incredible views across the island. The climb requires a good bit of laboured scrambling at the top, but boy is it worth it! Less experienced ramblers can still enjoy Goat Fell by exploring the green woods and more gentle lower slopes near its base.
Places to Eat in Arran
Some of my favourite vegan friendly food stops in Arran …
- The Pierhead Tavern – A lively island pub serving hot comfort food and traditional Scottish dishes. They have a good choice of vegan options and tend to include a plant-based dish on their special board – I had their vegan haggis lasagne with garlic bread and homemade vegan coleslaw.
- Janie’s – Perfect for a light lunch or coffee. Janie’s is right next to the famous Arran Aromatics, just outside of Brodick, and always have vegan cake up for grabs.
- The Sandwich Station – A little sandwich hut up in Lochranaza. They make all their sandwiches will local bread and always list a vegan option.
- CASKS Café at Isle of Arran Distillery – Serving everything from oatcake platters to hearty bowls of soup with chunky buttered bread. The staff are super friendly and gave me lots of tips about what to see around Lochranza.
What to Pack for Arran
Scotland’s weather can be unpredictable! If you’re planning on making the most of the outdoor activities in Arran, be sure to bring appropriate clothing and footwear! Layers are essential when travelling Scotland, as is a waterproof jacket, waterproof walking boots, a hat, scarf and gloves. My soft backpack was also a must for bike rides and mountain climbing.
This post was part of a paid campaign with Visit Scotland, focusing on sustainable travel and how easy it is to visit (and enjoy) Arran at a slower pace.