An accidental mountain hike, a ridiculous amount of good food and some serious exploring all went down on my first adventure to the Isle of Arran.
I’m pretty ashamed to admit that I’d never been to any of the Scottish isles until recently. So for Jason’s 27th – eeep, 27! – birthday back in January, we decided to go on an adventure to ‘Scotland in miniature’, the Isle of Arran. Here’s what we got up to, with a wee selection of my favourite things.
We took the ferry over from Ardrossan harbour to Brodick in my little car on a grey and windy Sunday morning. It was absolutely FREEZING as we left our flat in Glasgow to drive to Ardrossan, so I was pretty shocked when we arrived on the island, just two hours later, to discover that the weather on Arran is much warmer than the usual Scottish climes. No complaints – it meant that we were comfortable whilst exploring, and we discovered some beautiful places.
As soon as we got off the ferry we drove here – the island is really small so only took about ten minutes from getting off the ferry to reaching this stunning place.
The castle itself, along with the shop and cafe, is closed until the summer months, but the extensive grounds and gardens are open all year round and house unusual plants and gigantic trees. I felt like I could get lost there for hours, and as we wandered around the estate we found a gorgeous little bavarian summer house which looked a little like Hagrid’s hut.
We snuck in and saw that the interiors were decorated with pine cones in intricate patterns which was really gorgeous – I’m not sure what it’s used for in the summer, but I’d love to go back and find out. It was all very picturesque, with a little rushing waterfall with a bridge over it, an ice house, hills to climb and woodland glens, plus a playpark for the kids (which we definately didn’t play on for at least 15 minutes…)
Look away if you don’t want to read ultimate cheese and probably throw up in your mouth, but I felt very close to nature – I had my hula hoop with me and filmed a few little videos which was fun.
Stocking cheese, chocolate, beer from the local brewery and lots of other delicious produce made on the island, I was so glad we nipped in here. They let you sample all the cheeses (which is obviously where my priority lay) and had some brilliant discounts and offers on them; I couldn’t resist coming home with some chilli cheddar which was ridiculously tasty. Next to this was also the famous Arran Aromatics shop, a buzzing wee cafe and a brilliant gift shop which were all worth checking out, particularly the gift shop; they had great things available like lovely jewellery, fun homeware, DIY craft kits and cute wee postcards, plus absolutely hilarious books.
All the adventuring took us up to 2pm, which meant we could check into our hotel. We were staying in this gorgeous venue for a bit of something special for Jason’s birthday; I didn’t realise how much of a resort it actually is, with two spas including a swimming pool each, and three restaurants – it felt like a proper holiday even though we were only there for one night.
We went to one of the spas in the evening, which was perfect after a long day of exploring – we chilled out in the sauna and steam rooms, which were okay (I think I’ve been spoiled by some other spas I’ve visited), but we each got a back, neck and shoulder massage which was really rejuvenating. The highlight was definitely the relaxation room – I’m a sucker for a place where you can just sit and unwind with a blanket and a book in lovely surroundings, and they even brought me sorbet so I was one happy lass.
Now for the best bit, which was as always, the food. We dined in eighteen69 restaurant, which was simply outstanding.
We’re fans of tapas dining, be it at the Ox and Finch or pop-up offerings, so to stumble across another restaurant that offered this style was an absolute winner. We got the sharing plates of pretty much everything so that we could sample as much as we could, and ended up stuffed – particular highlights were the lamb lollipops and hot and cold cured smoked salmon. Jason also rounded his off with a bread and butter pudding whilst I had the sweetest dessert wine I’ve ever tasted. And we got a cocktail sharing platter too. No judgement – we were on holiday. Housed in a conservatory restaurant which was decked out minimally but traditionally and lit by soft candles, we were surrounded by other couples, small groups of friends and families, making it the perfect place to relax and just have some good giggles and great chat before heading up to sleep like logs in our cosy room.
We started the morning with a little trip to the spa again for a swim and a sauna before devouring a gorgeous breakfast in the Brambles restaurant – they had a big continental selection, as well as a healthy and tasty menu including vegan blueberry pancakes and a vegetarian breakfast. We were also served the biggest pot of coffee I’ve ever seen, which is probably how we managed to fuel an…
We took a drive, not really with a destination in mind, and found ourselves amidst the hills and valleys halfway around the other side of the island. We wanted to breathe in the super-fresh air, so stopped in a random empty car park and decided to get out for a run around it. I saw a little sign reading North Sannox Glen, and a small footpath leading into some heather so decided to go for a wee look. Two hours later and we’d climbed half a mountain. The weather may still have been warm, but it certainly wasn’t dry, so by the time we were halfway up we were drenched – and I mean DRENCHED – but it made me feel the most Scottish I have ever felt in my life.
We were surrounded by evergreen trees, we passed over waterfalls, tracked animal prints, drank pure spring water and got rained on to death but it was the most refreshing experience; every little minor worry and niggle stored in the back of my mind was totally obliterated. It was perfect. Then we trudged all the way back to the car and ate cake. What could be better?
To dry off, we stopped in at Arran distillery for a wee cup of speciality tea and a relax. The cafe was lovely with a nice menu and the distillery looked really informative and professional; we didn’t go round it as we didn’t want to drip all over the floor, but it was gorgeously designed, the architecture of the building was really interesting.
The waiter said he thought we were pretty mental for being out and about as the weather had driven away the rest of the tourists – we didn’t realise how mad it actually was outside as we were having too much fun on our adventure up the glen! We also stopped at Lochranza castle which was an imposing structure, but because we were still soaking, and the weather was now battering us to death, it was just a short stop.
Thankfully, we managed to catch the last ferry back to Glasgow, as lots were cancelled due to the weather. Despite only being away for one night, it felt like a full on break and it was a fantastic introduction to the Scottish isles – I can’t wait to explore more.
- We found it very easy to get around, because we had a car. Jason had been to Arran before and advised me it’s surprisingly easy to get from place to place, but we wouldn’t have seen half the stunning scenery that we did, or had our amazing hilltop hike, had we not had the freedom of a car. Even if you have to hire one, I would definitely recommend it.
- Bring a picnic or stock up on a local selection with a hamper from the cheese shop – you never know when you’re going to suddenly going to be exploring a place you didn’t expect to end up and, if you’re anything like me, you’ve got to have sustenance on hand at all times 😉
- There’s loads of gorgeous places to stay, and I definitely recommend the Auchrannie, but if you’re travelling on a budget then the Lochranza YHA has great rooms and is well-served by the transport links that go around the island.
Where will you go on your next adventure?