One of the things that kept me going with my dissertation was knowing that I could take time off as soon as I handed it in. I didn’t even have to wait a day, no, I could jump straight on a train, plane or boat to get away from that evil place called uni library as quickly as I could.
Yet, when the day came, I decided to catch up on all the sleep I had missed out on. Two days of doing nothing and I felt I had been home for a month; thus the holiday planning began: I had wanted to spend time on Arran for ages and this was a great chance. Only 2 hours by train and ferry from Glasgow, it was one of the best destinations for someone who didn’t have a car but a love of nature. Despite the short notice, I found a lovely self-contained annexe at the Glenartney Guest House, overlooking Brodick Bay – how lucky was that?
Arriving at four on the first day and leaving late in the afternoon on the third, this was the perfect long weekend get-away. One downside (or upside?) was that my phone heard me complain about wanting time off – it died as soon as I stepped off the ferry. The hosts, Angela and Robbie were super helpful, though and thanks to their help I managed to let my family know that I hadn’t fallen off the ferry.
Seeing that I arrived quite early the first day, I scoped the area and walked to Brodick Castle. Most of Arran is ideal for walking, and the beach around Brodick was a delight. Arriving at the castle grounds, I made my way through the gardens, seeing several (!) rainbows. In fact, I constantly saw rainbows somewhere, for as long as I spent time on the castle grounds – the castle itself had already closed and I wanted to see ALL of the gardens. The hydrangeas were in full bloom, as was much of the walled garden, with Brodick Bay offering a stunning backdrop for the colourful flowers.
The next 2 days I made my way around the island by bus and on foot. Taking public transport around Arran isn’t exactly easy, make sure to have a timetable with you wherever you go and plan ahead. Luckily the drivers were happy to help whenever I wasn’t quite sure if I had planned for enough time at the different locations. A good example is my plan for the day: I wanted to see Lamlash, the Holy Isle, Whiting Bay and then make my way along the South Isle to the Machrie Moor Standing Stones. That didn’t work out because I was oblivious to the bus timings; up to 3 hours between buses made it impossible to stop that often and walking from Lamlash to Blackwaterfoot was a good day’s walk.
Whiting Bay and the Stone Circles were amazing, yet once again, my timing was off: my guide book said it would take 2 hours to walk from the car park to the stone circles and back – it took me 1. I’m still thankful for the couple that picked me up and took me back to Brodick, otherwise I would have sat in the rain for 2 hours.
The next day was spent around the North island, with much better planning. I took the bus to Catacol to see the 12 Apostles, then walked back along the street and beach to Lochranza to see the castle and distillery – in the pouring rain. It was fun, and I had some of the best scenery I could have ever imagined, so I really recommend it. A big plus around Lochranza is the likelihood of encountering deer – full herds of them, right in front of you, in the middle of the day!
All the blogs, articles and advice I had found for Arran before my trip was that it’s a foodie’s dream. As someone who doesn’t like getting souvenirs that only catch dust, this was perfect. During my time, I got some absolutely amazingly tasting souvenirs – you can easily find some of them markets around Scotland, too. I highly recommend Arran Mustard and obviously the Whisky. My personal favourite was the Whisky cream liqueur – hmmmm, so much better than Bailey’s.
So, despite planning everything short notice, things were happily affordable. Train tickets cost £7.50 for a single, same for the ferry, the port also offers left luggage facilities if you need them. At £6.50, bus day tickets were great as well, if you can plan around the timetable. I recommend checking possible walking routes between places, unless you bring a car. As always, the locals were super helpful, so don’t hesitate asking for help and recommendations.
Have you been to Arran before? How did you get around?
See you around,
Arran is beautiful anytime of the year and especially suited to everyone interested in walking and good food. Brodick is the main town and offers a range of accommodation as well as a visitor information centre. You can get to Arran by train from Glasgow and then by ferry. A single ticket costs £7.50 for the train and so does a passenger ticket for the ferry. If you decide to not take a car, make sure to take a bus timetable with you at any time and plan your days. Otherwise you might get stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Visiting Brodick Castle Country Park and the walled garden is free but admission to the castle itself is £12.50 | Concessions £9 | Free for NTS members. You’ll find the castle closed between late October and early March with opening times outwith these months being 11am to 4pm.
Arran Distillery‘s Visitor Centre offers tours for £7.50 with 2 tastings included | Concessions £6.50 | £15 with 4 tastings included. The distillery is open 7 days a week between March and October, with tours running every 1 1/2 hours from 10.15 am until 4pm.
Lamlash, the Machrie Moor Standing Stones, Catacol and Lochranza Castle are not dependent on opening times and free to visit.