Arran and Cumbrae

The Isles of Arran and Cumbrae make an excellent choice to see what has been described as the miniature Scotland. The highland boundary geological fault which runs from Stonehaven to Dumbarton and right through Arran gives the island its unique character. Arran is around 20 miles long and 10 miles across at its widest point.

Take the 55 minute boat trip from Ardrossan on the ferry and approaching Brodick see the northern high stony peaks rise abruptly from the sea and the outline of the island southwards as the mountains give way to the rolling foothills and undulating moor that falls away to the coastal plain with its rich farmlands and forests.

While on the island visit Brodick Castle which started with a 13th century fortification and finished with the Victorian wing built in the 1860’s. The island is littered with prehistoric monuments, many of which date from the Bronze Age, around 4,000 years old. Perhaps the most impressive are the standing stones of Macrie moor. The highest peak Goatfell is a challenge to hikers. I remember well the lengthy climb on a visit to Arran as a schoolboy.

King Haakon of Norway anchored his fleet near Lamlash before sailing on to the battle of Largs in 1263. Other Royal visitors have left their mark on Arran. Robert the Bruce is said to have sheltered on the island while fleeing from his enemies. The fugitive king is said to have been inspired by the efforts of a spider in a cave located between Slackwaterfoot and Machrie. Bruce’s descendants, the Stewart Kings of Scotland, set up a hunting lodge on the shores of Lochranza.

Lochranza Castle is a romantic castle with its dramatic lochside setting backed by towering hills. The island bus tour is perhaps the best value for money with stops being made at Blackwaterfoot for lunch and a stop at a cheese making plant to sample the world famous Arran cheese. Seal’s can be seen basking on the rocks of the shoreline and the famous red deer of Arran can also be spotted on the mountains. The beaches around the island are very popular, be warned, it’s a wee bit cauld for the auld yins.