The Isle of Arran’s attractions are so varied and diverse you won’t be lost for things to do or places to see. The island is about 4 hours away from Edinburgh and 2.5 hours away from Glasgow so it can be a good day trip from both cities. It is sometimes called a mini Scotland because it pretty much has a lot of what the mainland has to offer, from rugged mountains, scenic forest trails, stunning waterfalls, picturesque castles, as well as one of the best long distance walking routes in the world. It even has its own holy isle, a cheese shop, and distillery. Your visit to Arran is bound to be jampacked, so here’s a list of the best things to do in the Isle of Arran, Scotland.
12 Things To Do in the Isle of Arran, Scotland
The highest point on the Isle of Arran at 2,866 ft (874 m), Goat Fell is an incredibly prominent part of the island’s skyline, with its jagged summits and ridges. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to make the most of your stay in Arran as well as see it from one of its top attractions, then hiking up Giatfell is right for you. You can start near Brodick Castle, or take an alternative route leaving from the village of Corrie or from the north via the Cioch na h-Oighe ridge. This challenging climb rewards you with stunning scenery along the way, as well as panoramic views of the island and the sea. On a clear day, you can even see all the way to Ireland!
2. The Arran Coastal Way
The Arran Coastal Way is one of the world’s best long-distance walking trails. Circling the island that covers 65 miles, the paths in this trail are well-marked. There are also sections to suit every ability. One of the best activities to do in Arran,
you could just choose small sections if you fancy a walk or tackle the full route over a week if you are feeling adventurous. You can complete the Arran Coastal Way with or without climbing Goatfell. Along the way, you will pass through 12 villages where there are facilities, cafes, accommodation and the enchanting scenery of the island.
3. Lochranza Castle
The picturesque Lochranza Castle sits on a gravel spit, jutting out into Loch Ranza. Originally built in the 1200s by the MacSweens, it is one of the more interesting places to see in Arran as it looks quite mysterious. It was founded at a time when the whole of the Western seaboard was being fought over and the Norsemen took ownership in parts. Ownerships changed over the centuries and the castle went through reconstructions as well. Lochranza Castle is now managed by Historic Scotland and it’s open to the public for visits. Lochranza is also one of the best castles in Scotland.
4. Glenashdale Falls
The magnificent Glenashdale Falls is also known as Eas a’ Chrannaig in Gaelic. This is made up of two huge thundering waterfalls with a combined height of 45 meters. It has a cleverly situated viewing deck which juts out over the water.
One of the best things to see in Arran, you can reach Glenashdale Falls by taking the 3-mile circular route which begins just south of Ashdale Bridge in Whiting Bay. The walk offers some stunning views and also takes in the Giant’s Graves which are two Neolithic chambered cairns that are in ruins now but still fascinating.
5. Beach Hopping
A good way to relax in between exploring a locale is by enjoying some quiet time near a body of water. In Arran, there’s going to be plenty of opportunities for you to do that as it’s got a number of pristine beaches.
In the very south of the island, looking out to Ailsa Craig, is the picture-perfect Kildonan Beach. Sannox Beach, meanwhile, is a few miles north of Brodick, is small and pretty secluded as it’s surrounded by little sand dunes and amazing mountain vistas. There’s also the Pirnmill Beach, a long stretch of beach in the north west of the island, which is even more stunning at sunset.
6. Machrie Moor Stone Circles
A must visit in Arran is the incredible Machrie Moor Stone Circles. It is located in an area that boasts of more archeological wonders such as burial cairns, standing stones, hut circles, monuments, and cists. The site at Machrie Moor is thought to be at least 4500 years old, set in the western part of Arran. This place is made up of six stone circles that tells so much about the history, culture, and spirituality of the people that lived here thousands of years ago.
7. Brodick Castle
One of the most popular things to do in Arran is a visit to Brodick Castle. The castle is home to formal gardens, woodlands, waterfalls, and an adventure playground, all whilst offering spectacular views over Brodick Bay and across the Ayrshire coast.
An opulent, baronial castle in the town of Brodick, no one would guess that this grand structure had a turbulent past. It has been damaged by battles a number of times; then rebuilt, repaired and extended over the years to become the grand stately home that it is today.
The castle is presently managed by the National Trust for Scotland.
8. King’s Cave
Whether or not they once sheltered Robert the Bruce, the King’s Cave on Arran’s west coast still make for an impressive sight. One of the best things to do in Arran, the hike starts in the forest car park. A circular route that’s almost 3 miles long, it’ll take you 1 to 2 hours to reach the cave. The trail takes you through a nice walk in the forest, then clearing with fantastic views. It then gets steep and slightly precarious when you reach the coast where you’ll find a series of caves. Here you’ll enjoy scenic views of the Kintyre Peninsula and Drumadoon Point.
9. St. Molios Church
Also known as the ‘red church’, St. Molios is thought to be named after Molios, a hermit who lived in a cave on the Holy Isle. He was born around 570 AD and said to have a royal lineage. When he died, his body was buried at Clachan Church, while his effigy was moved to the present church in 1889.
Inside, the church has dark wood ceiling and pews, deep red alter carpet, carvings and Romanesque window arches. It’s quite a pretty church to visit and one of the more unique things to see in Arran.
10. Isle of Arran Distillery
Located in the north of the island, near Lochranza, the surrounding scenery in the Isle of Arran Distillery is stunning. One of the places to visit in Arran, the distillery is open all year round. It is the only working distillery on Arran and has been here since the 1800s, so you can expect a wealth of interesting history and trivia when you tour the facility.
The water used to create the whiskey comes from the mountains to Loch na Davie. The whiskey is made traditionally, before being stored in oak bourbon and sherry casks. The best part? You get to sample their fine whiskey at the end of the tour.
11. The Holy Isle
Situated just off the Isle of Arran is the Holy Isle, an ancient spiritual heritage site that dates back to the sixth century. One of the best things to do in Arran on weekends is enjoying some quiet time here, and you can reach the isle by taking the small ferry from Lamlash Pier which only takes 10 minutes. Once there, you’ll be greeted by a volunteer and take you on a tour while talking about the history of the island and tell you all about the retreat. The retreat offers courses in Buddism, Meditation, Yoga, and Mindfulness, taught by experts from across the world.
This sacred site is dedicated to peace and wellbeing, as well as the home of the Centre for World Peace and Health located at the north of the island.
12. Arran Creamery Cheese Shop
Located in Kilmory on the southern end of Arran is the Arran Creamery Cheese Shop. One of the top places to visit in Arran, the Creamery has been operating since 1946 and producing a variety of homegrown and handmade dairy goods. A must-try when you visit is the Arran Dunlop Cheese, which is their specialty. You can also watch the cheese-making process, guess the age of the cheese on offer and enjoy some Arran Oatcakes.
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