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Published October 1st 2016
Come Visit Scotland in Miniature
The isle of Arran sits off the west coast of Scotland in the Firth of Clyde and is home to around 4.5k people. I've been lucky enough to spend working there and managed to mix business with pleasure on my last trip and took LT along for the ride.
Arran is often referred to being 'Scotland in miniature' due to the fact that it is also split into highland and lowland areas, just like the mainland. It can be accessed from the West coast town of Adrossan, where a regular ferry service departs to sail you across the water and deliver you to the lovely town of Brodick.
Arran has long been a haven for outdoor sports enthusiasts, with walker, climbers and sailors making it a regular destination. Even I managed to spend an afternoon kayaking around a bit of the island, although I'd like to point out that it was to enable me to inspect an activity provider, rather than it actually being something I willingly paid for do. It was cold, knackering, and far from my idea of fun. Still, the scenery was spectacular.
Isle of Arran Ferry
If you're more outdoorsy than me (and that wouldn't really be much of an achievement), you can indulge in a range of independent activities, such as climbing the mighty Goal Fell or sailing around the coast. If you'd like something a little more organised, you can head to Arran Adventures and try out some target practice, mountain biking, gorge scrambling (sounds like that would take *so* much effort, doesn't it?) or simply go walking in the countryside.
Arran Alcohol: If you're not into being quite that active, you can still take in the scenery while doing something a little less, well...tiring. If you like whisky (and if you don't, then what's wrong with you?), you can pay a visit to the home of the award winning Arran Single Malt at the Isle of Arran Distillery in Lochranza. Not only can you warm your cockles with a wee dram in the tasting bar, you can also take a tour or just relax in the beautiful Cafe/Restaurant, while admiring the view from the picture windows.
Arran's Brewery is located in the main town of Brodick and also offers tours. It's a much smaller operation, so the tour is pretty quick although every bit as interesting. They also have a great little shop where you can go stock and taste the goods before stocking up on a range of speciality beers and ales. The Arran Blonde is my personal favourite; It's quite addictive.
Castles and Cattle: Brodick Castle and Country Park are in the care of the National Trust for Scotland and, while the country park is accessible year round, the Castle is open on a seasonal basis and the Walled Garden is open from around 10am-3pm, depending on the time of year. A classic Victorian castle, Brodick stands in the shadow of the mighty Goat Fell Mountain, which is the highest peak on the isle.
If you travel further round the island, you can also visit the gorgeous castle ruins at Lochranza. This is my favourite of the two, mainly because it sits right on the water and the area surrounding Lochranza is far quieter. Lochranza is the most northerly village on Arran and, apparently, has the fewest hours of sunshine of anywhere in the UK. What a claim to fame. Luckily, what it lacks in sunshine, it makes up for in peace and tranquillity.
Shopping and Fake Sheep: Back down towards Brodick, you will find various outlets to indulge in a spot of shopping. From Arran Aromatics factory and shop, where you can pick up a range of gorgeous smelling toiletries, to the Arran Cheeses, chocolate, jams, marmalades, chutneys, haggis and seafood, to name but a few. Arran has a richly deserved reputation for producing fine foods. And, should you like bread and cakes, then hit up Wooleys of Arran for some amazing treats.
If you head along to the beautiful harbour at Corris, you can have a wander around the coast and say hello the wonderful stone boat moorings which are in the form of some lovely (and very docile) sheep. They could be doing with a coat of paint as they're obviously exposed to the elements, but I loved them and couldn't resist popping out of the car to take a few shots.
Who could resist docking their boat in Corris Harbour?
So cute...and no bleating
Sunsets and Sausages: In honour of taking LT to Arran with me, it seemed unfair not to let him try out some camping. You know how much he loves starting fires and outdoor cooking. Luckily, Arran produce some kick ass meat products so, armed with some Arran sausages and a bottle of wine or two (because, obviously), we booked up a slot at Seal Shore Camp Site and pitched our tent after a long day of sightseeing. It was £12 for the pitch and the site will allow you to bring your own cooking apparatus (as long as it's raised from the ground). Seal Shore also offers immediate access to the beach and is a lovely, out of the way spot for a bit of relaxation. The sunsets are also pretty impressive and we enjoyed this one from the comfort of our tent.
Wildlife and Water:
Being an island, Arran is, quite obviously, surrounded on all sides by water. It's pretty much everywhere you go and it's beautiful and clear. If you like open water swimming, be my guest and dive right in. If you prefer the relative safety of a boat, you can go wild sea kayaking around the island. Not the whole island, you understand, because that would take a very long time. I went to Corris, grabbed a canoe and headed out around the coast, all the way to Lochranza. It was the singular most tiring thing I think I've ever done and I was beat after it that I almost couldn't muster the strength to open my wine bottle later that night for the massive blisters I managed to develop on both hands. I was thoroughly enjoyable, though, as it's a view of the island that you can't otherwise experience. If you fancy the outing, you can book through the 5 star Arran Adventures.
Arran is teeming with wildlife. From land animals, like sheep, red squirrels and majestic red deer, to water beasties like seals, otters and the odd basking shark. Always be armed with your camera as you never know when you'll meet someone you want to take a selfie with. We didn't quite manage to get close enough for a selfie, but we did spot a herd of deer, lazing around on the land opposite the Distillery. Or at least I *think* they were lazing around. They're Scottish, so they might well have been drunk. We also met some swans. who would have benefitted from a drop of whisky as they were quite cranky.