Arguably the most beautiful island in Europe, the isle of Arran is Scotland’s most southerly and accessible island. The Island of Arran is a 55 minute ferry crossing from Ardrossan in south west Scotland which is less than a one hour drive from Glasgow.
The moment you step aboard the ferry to Arran you will start to experience that strange but pleasurable sensation known as ‘Island time’ wash over you and take effect. As you set foot on Arran you will feel a million miles away from the stresses of everyday life as a feeling of relaxation, belonging and well being takes hold. You’ll meet likeminded visitors and locals and experience events, attractions, activities and produce unique to the island of Arran.
Arran’s permanent population of around 5,000 islanders includes people from many different walks of life, which makes for a diverse and interesting culture.
The arts are hugely popular on Arran, with no shortage of painting, woodwork, jewellery, glasswork, knitwear and photography on display and for sale. Similarly, music is celebrated widely and the isle has its own folk club
, which arranges regular concerts including the Ceilidh Trail taking place at various venues in the summer. You can even purchase your own set of bagpipes - handmade the traditional way by local craftsmen.
Don’t forget the Highland Games at Brodick
, where you can see the locals testing their might and muscle the traditional way - as well piping, highland dancing and plenty of tartan!
Even though Arran is only 20 miles long and 10 wide, you’ll find a diverse range of places to visit - with the landscape dramatically changing in character as you travel around the isle. From the towering, craggy mountains like Goatfell in the north, to the fertile valleys and meadows of the south, you’ll discover something different with every mile.
Arran has a history that dates back as far as the Stone Age, perhaps as far as 7000BC, and today we can still see some of the structures created by its earliest inhabitants.
Arran was part of the kingdom of Dalriada through the Bronze and Iron Ages - with Gaelic speaking inhabitants being ruled from Ireland. In the 6th century, Christianity arrived on the island with the founding of a monastery by St Brendan at Kilpatrick. As the years passed, Arran fell into the hands of Viking invaders, the Celts, the English, and the Stewart and MacDonald Clans. Like so much of Scotland, there is a rich heritage of feuds, battles and complex politics to be found on Arran!
Arran has always had a small population, but the imposed evictions of the Highland Clearances in the 1800s meant that many islanders had to set sail to North America in search of a better life. However, the introduction of regular ferry sailings meant that Arran gradually began to build a reputation as a holiday destination by the early 20th century.
You can find out much more about Arran’s fascinating history at the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum
, just north of Brodick.
Visit Arran and you’ll soon discover an island of contrasts. Split by the Highland Boundary Fault (an ancient geological ‘tear’), Arran has rugged mountain scenery in the north and temperate lowland landscape in the south.
The result is an island packed with variety.
When walking through the northern glens, it’s not uncommon to come across red deer, red grouse, or very rarely a ptarmigan - a bird normally found further north in Scotland. There are no grey squirrels on Arran and consequently we have a healthy population of the increasingly rare red squirrel; you’re bound to catch sight of a few when you take a walk around the leafy grounds of Brodick Castle
With so many resident wetland species, Arran is also an excellent choice for birdwatching. Heron, mallard, merganser and eider are visible all year, and are joined in the winter months by widgeon and golden eye. Further north, the mountains are home to a variety of majestic birds of prey - buzzards, peregrines, kestrels, hen harriers, sparrowhawks and, occasionally, golden eagles.
For the committed ‘twitcher’, there are boat trips
to Ailsa Craig - the unmissable rocky island to the south of Arran - where you can see thousands of gannets and even some puffins each summer.
As Arran is an island, you’re never too far from the sea. So, be sure to keep an eye out for seals, porpoises, basking sharks and even dolphins. And in the south coasts and shores, you may be lucky enough to see an otter or two - dusk and dawn are the best times to spot them.