By Sophie McNaughton
While most of us jet off to hot climates, go to festivals or set-off backpacking during the summer, we often forget to be tourists in our own country, and we don’t realise how many great little sea-side towns, islands and hidden gems are on our own doorstep. This summer, make a note in your calendar to drive down to Ardrossan and jump on the ferry to discover the beautiful Isle of Arran.
A return ticket on the CalMac ferry will only set you back £7.50, or £45 if you want to take your car. With a plethora of activities on offer from sports and arts to food and heritage, there’s something for everyone.
Only a short walk from the ferry terminal at Brodick is The Auchrannie Spa Resort which has everything you need for a good pamper. With the Cruize Bar and Restaurant, Brambles Seafood Grill, two indoor swimming pools, fitness suite and studio and children’s play area, there’s plenty to keep the whole family happy. Prices for a stay at the luxurious hotel start at only £75 per person per night.
The Great Outdoors
If you’re the outdoorsy type, love climbing and have a decent pair of hiking boots, this is the activity for you! At a staggering 874m high, Goatfell is Arran’s highest peak and with a spectacular view (you can see the whole island, Ben Lomond, Jura and even the coast of Ireland on a clear day), reaching the Goatfell summit is definitely worth the climb. Just make sure you have appropriate clothing and footwear, you won’t get very far wearing denim shorts and flip flops!
A visit to the Isle of Arran Cheese Shop in Brodick is a must! Here you will find a varied and experimental array of cheeses produced on the island with the wacky flavours including: chilli, garlic, caramelised onion, claret, whisky cheddar, mustard and even raspberry infused cranberries!
If you’re a Willy Wonka fan you simply must visit James of Arran, the island’s own chocolate factory! The confectionary shop offers chocolates and sweets of every shape, size, colour and flavour. And you can watch the produce being made by hand with the finest local ingredients in both the Isle of Arran Cheese Shop and James of Arran.
To really immerse yourself in the miniature Scottish-ness of Arran, head to the Isle of Arran Distillers and Visitors Centre in Lochranza to find out how the custom single malt is crafted and enjoy a wee dram or two. From £6.50 (and free entry for under 18s), you can have a tour of the distillery with a guide who’ll tell you the tricks of the trade and you can learn all about the whisky production process. Then browse in the Arran Distillers shop to find everything whisky themed including single malts, blends, cream liquors, accessories, clothes, souvenirs and a special collection of Robert Burns whiskies.
For a fun way to see all the island’s sights, you can jump aboard Arran’s Mogabout 4×4 Safari. The 16 seater Mercedes Unimog provides an affordable and exciting way to tour the island for £25pp for children and £35pp for adults. Get ready for an access all areas rough ride where you will discover a magical mix of Arran’s mountains, beaches, lochs, forests and castles.
With breathtaking views of mountains, beaches, islands and the sea, Arran is a photographer’s dream. Arran Photography Workshops offer lessons and advice for both beginners and experts on how to capture the perfect photographs of the island’s landscapes and wildlife, including highland cows and red squirrels (a creature which we mainlanders sadly don’t see anymore). With Arran photographer Andy Surridge as your teacher, you’ll be able to see the island’s best beauty spots and be snap happy in no time!
So this summer, explore the beauty spots closer to home. Take a trek, browse in the shops, be pampered, sample the produce, be wowed by the outstanding scenery and have an adventure on Scotland’s Isle of Arran.