Scotland | 20 Things to do on the Isle of Arran

Over the last few years, we've made an effort to visit more of Scotland's islands. We started with the ever popular Isle of Skye, then the Shetland isles in the far north, and last year we enjoyed a late summer jaunt to the fantastic Isle of Arran. As the largest island in the Firth of Clyde (and 7th largest in Scotland), it's a popular weekend holiday destination due to it's ease of access and close proximity to Glasgow. Often described as "Scotland in miniature", because of it's position on the Highland Boundary fault line, meaning it has mountains in the North and lowlands in the South, the island is ideal for any outdoors enthusiast. Cyclists will enjoy the Arran circular which is a complete loop of the island's coastal road, or if you're a keen golfer you'll be pleased to know it's home to a whopping 7 golf courses! With it's rich and fascinating history, and spectacular geology, there's lots of things to see and do on the Isle of Arran. Here's my top 20!

View towards Goatfell from Brodick

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1. Hike up Goatfell - As the ferry sails closer to Arran from the mainland, the outline of Goatfell, the island's highest mountain, is a welcome sight on the horizon. At 874 metres, it's just short of Munro status, and is therefore classed as a Corbett. Don't let that fool you. The walk to the top through the grounds of Brodick castle, is easy to follow and extremely popular with tourists, but this relentlessly steep hike is tough! Luckily the breath taking views, and feeling of accomplishment at reaching the highest point on Arran, make it worth the effort. Park at the Cladach Centre, head towards Arran Brewery and follow the signs for Goatfell. Allow 3-5 hours for this walk.

Alternative routes were recommended to me as quieter and more scenic, however they are longer and less direct. My top tip? Don't underestimate this peak, whichever route you take - wear good sturdy hiking boots, and pack plenty water!

Cloudy views of the surroundings mountains from the top of Goatfell

2. Grab a beer at Arran Brewery - The Isle of Arran Brewery is located at the foot of Goatfell, making it the perfect post hike pit stop. They've been brewing beer since 2000, winning many awards along the way, with their Arran blonde a particular standout. Gordon's favourite was the Arran Dark. Grab a bottle from the shop or enjoy a tour and tasting in the visitors centre.

Isle of Arran Brewery, Cladach, Brodick, Isle of Arran, KA27 8DE

3. Visit Arran Cheese Shop - Probably one of the island's most well known products is Arran Cheese, with non other than comedian Kevin Bridges declaring Arran chilli as his favourite cheese on Twitter! The Isle of Arran Cheese Shop, just north of Brodick, is a lovely little deli selling an array of their own flavoured cheddar, alongside other local products such as Wooleys of Arran oatcakes, Arran mustard and James of Arran chocolates. A great place to pick up a wee gift for the foodie in your life, you can also catch a glimpse of the cheese making process thanks to a window overlooking the dairy. I recommend the oak smoked or whisky cheddar!

Arran Cheese Shop, Home Farm, Isle of Arran, KA27 8DD

Arran whisky cheddar, and oak smoked cheddar, from Arran Cheese Shop

4. Explore Brodick Castle - If hillwalking is not your thing, you might enjoy a gentle stroll around the National Trust owned castle and country park. Dating back to 1844, Brodick Castle was the seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, originally serving as a military fortress. You can explore the castle itself with it's Victorian artefacts, wander through the formal gardens or venture further afield to discover ponds and waterfalls on the woodland trails. The "Isle Be Wild" adventure playground looks great fun for kids! Entry costs £13.50 for adults, with family tickets from £25. 

Brodick Castle, Brodick, Isle of Arran, KA27 8HY

Mara Fish bar and deli sign among green foliage

5. Eat delicious food at Mara Fish Bar & Deli - If you can only eat at one place on the Isle of Arran, this is it. Mara comes from the Scots Gaelic word for "the sea", and the clue is in the name. These guys specialise in fresh, sustainable seafood, sourced locally and cooked to perfection. The menu changes daily and, due to covid, they're currently operating as a takeaway only, with online ordering. We enjoyed Skipness smoked whiting mac and cheese, with a bacon and cheddar crumb, along with mussels in white wine, with chorizo, garlic and Arran cherry tomatoes, and shared the fish tacos with a herb and garlic sauce, which came in what I can only describe as a savoury pancake rather than a traditional taco shell! Each dish was flavoured exquisitely, and I'd love to go back and try more of their unique dishes.

Mara Fish Bar & Deli, Corrie, Shore Road, Isle of Arran, KA27 8JB

Mac & cheese, fish tacos & mussels from Mara Fish Bar

6. Stroll along the Silver Sands of Kildonan beach - Ask any regular Arran visitor their favourite beach and they'll likely tell you Kildonan, which lies right at the southern tip. This was the most recommended beach on the island, and it's easy to see why with it's pale, soft sand and views across to the little uninhabited island of Pladda and it's automated lighthouse. Access the beach from the steps down the cliffside, or from the nearby campsite. Look out for seals basking on the rocks!

Kildonan, Isle of Arran, KA27 8SE

7. Try water sports - If a walk on the beach isn't enough, why not get out on the water? Take a full or half day sea kayaking trip with Kayak Arran, or Otter's Tail Adventures who are based at Lamlash Bay. There's a good chance of spotting seals, otters or dolphins around the coast. You could even kayak across to nearby Holy Isle and spend a few hours exploring the nature reserve before you return! For something a bit different, check out SUP Arran who offer stand up paddleboarding starter lessons, tours and supervised board hire at various locations around the island.  

Booking is essential. Find more information here.

A boat out on Loch Ranza

8. Find peace and tranquility on Holy Isle - Home to the Centre for World Peace and Health, Holy Isle is a 3km long island just off the coast of Arran in the Firth of Clyde. Founded by Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, the centre aims to provide "an ecologically sustainable environment" where people come to find inner peace. Spiritual retreats are run throughout the summer months, when the island is also open to visitors for day trips.


I recommend exploring Holy Isle with a walk to the summit of Mullach Mor  (a 314m Marilyn, and the highest point on the island), keeping your eyes peeled for some unique animal species such as Eriskay ponies, Soay sheep and Saanen goats. The land here is treated as a nature reserve - native trees have been planted to create biodiverse habitats, and the animals are free to roam, undisturbed by people. 

The 10 minute ferry to Holy Isle sails from Lamlash Pier, between April and October, weather dependent. 

Gordon, looking small, among the Giants Graves

9. Walk to Glenashdale falls and the Giants' Graves - A fantastic route leading from Whiting Bay, uphill through the woodland to a viewpoint overlooking the cascading silver water of Glenashdale Falls. From here take a left to head towards the Giants Graves site, and admire the views across to Holy Isle along the way. Finally you'll reach the Giants' Graves - or what's left of them. Local legend says the giants buried the bodies of their victims here, however they're actually Neolithic burial chambers! These would have been used several times over many years so were never sealed shut.

The walk takes about an hour and a half, with parking available by Ashdale Bridge. Across the road you'll find the route's starting point.

Gordon on the viewpoint overlooking Glenashdale falls

10. Try Turkish pides at Cafe Thyme - Perhaps the last thing that would spring to mind when you think of a Scottish island, is Turkish food. This cafe in the Old Byre Showroom at Machrie goes against the grain, with chef Hamza drawing on his heritage to bring something a little different to Arran. Their Turkish style pizzas (pides) are made fresh each morning and fired in a wood burning oven, with an array of toppings to choose from. Their salads and herbs are all homegrown too! Why not marry the two cultures together and try the haggis and cheese pide?

Old Byre Showroom, Auchencar, Machrie, Isle of Arran, KA27 8EB

11. Marvel at the Machrie Moor stone circles - A must visit on Arran (especially for any Outlander fans!), the stones at Machrie Moor date back to around 3500 and 1500 BC. Not just one but six stone circles exist here, alongside standing stones and burial cairns, with the most impressive reaching 5m high. There's certainly an air of magic and mystery on the moorland, with Scotland's moody weather creating the perfect atmosphere when we visited. 

Access to this historic location is free and open year round. The walk from the carpark (5km north of Blackwaterfoot), up a farm track through fields of sheep, to the standing stones and back takes about an hour. Please remember to close any gates behind you!

An Outlander moment - looking up at the huge Machrie Moor standing stones

12. Treat yourself at Arran Sense of Scotland - Now that you've acquainted yourself with the island, you're going to want to pick up a little souvenir. Arran Sense of Scotland's range of cruelty free bath and body lotions and home fragrance, inspired by the island, are ideal. I'm a big fan of the grapefruit scented Glenashdale collection, and you'll find their wild gorse reed diffuser in my bathroom at home. A browse in the flagship store on Arran will send you into a well perfumed spending frenzy, but at the very least I recommend picking up some of their aloe vera infused hand sanitiser. Great place for gift shopping!

Arran Sense of Scotland, Home Farm, Brodick, Isle of Arran, KA27 8DD

13. Have a dram at Arran Whisky distillery - Visit the home of Arran's single malt whisky, distilled with the purest water from the island, at their Lochranza distillery. An award winning brand, this is one of the few independently owned distilleries in Scotland. Tours are currently on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but you can still pop into the shop to browse their range of whiskies, and even try before you buy. Official tastings must be booked in advance. If you're not a fan of "the water of life", give the Arran Gold cream liqueur a try instead! You can also visit Arran Whisky's recently opened second distillery at Lagg.

Isle of Arran Distillers, Lochranza, Isle of Arran, KA27 8HJ

Arran whisky distillery nestled among the hills of Lochranza

14. Discover Lochranza Castle - On a narrow peninsula jutting into Loch Ranza in the north west of Arran, sits this 13th century hall house, said to have been visited by Robert the Bruce and used as a royal hunting lodge. It was converted into an L-shaped tower house in the 1500's, abandoned in the 18th century and is now cared for by Historic Environment Scotland. Entry is free but even if you don't go inside the castle itself, it's a lovely location for a little loch-side stroll. You might even spot a ship called Dignity...

Lochranza, Isle of Arran, KA27 8HL

Ruins of Lochranza Castle

15. Go wildlife spotting - I can't even tell you how much wildlife we spotted on Arran, without even trying! From the pod of dolphins swimming alongside our ferry, to the elusive red squirrels in the woods, seals basking on the rocks and majestic red deer roaming freely around our accommodation. Imagine what you could see if you took a purpose built tour? That's exactly what Arran Wild Walks aims for with their wildlife watching tours. A coastal wildlife wander will give you the chance to catch a glimpse of otters and seals, and sometimes even basking sharks, or you could head to the glens and look out for birds of prey. Golden eagles are apparently often seen soaring above the Lochranza whisky distillery!

Prices start from £35 per person and you can book here.

Deer grazing among the tents and campervans at Lochranza campsite

16. Camp among the deer at Lochranza campsite - For another chance to be among the local wildlife, spend the night at Lochranza campsite, just across from the distillery. We paid £30 a night for a basic wooden camping pod, with electricity, lighting and heating - and actually got upgraded to a bigger pod, with a fold out bed, much to Gordon's delight. You still need to bring your own sleeping bags and pillows, but think of it as guaranteed dry camping. 

Toilet facilities were well maintained, with social distancing measures in place, and the hosts were incredibly kind. Red deer roam freely in the hills surrounding the campsite, venturing down among the tents and tourers during the day. At night we sat on the porch of our hut, toasting marshmallows and sipping Arran beer, with a colony of bats flying high above. 

Find more information about the accommodation options at Lochranza campsite here. KA27 8HL.

Rowan camping pod at Lochranza in the north west of Arran

17. Wild swim in the "Blue Pool" of Glen Rosa - Immerse yourself in the beautifully rugged landscape of Glen Rosa to reach this secluded wild swimming spot. Well maintained paths through the glen can lead you onto the mountains of Goatfell or Cir Mhor, but you want to follow the Glen Rosa water until you reach the blue pool, easily recognisable thanks to it's brilliant hue and the large boulder next to it. This is the perfect plunge pool with water splashing in from the wee waterfall at it's head, making it a chilly but refreshing dip. 

You can either complete a circular route from the Cladach Centre near Brodick, or follow this trail from the Glen Rosa campsite.

18. Eat Arran Ice Cream - Handmade in small batches, using Arran Dairies' rich and creamy milk from their herd by Brodick Bay, you can't come to the island without sampling Arran Ice Cream. They produce a range of flavours, from classics like strawberry and chocolate, or my personal favourite Scottish Tablet and even an Arran Gold blend, mixed with the distillery's cream liqueur! We picked up some mini tubs to enjoy by the sea from a local shop at Blackwaterfoot, but pop into The Parlour in Brodick to find the full range on display. "Machrie s'mores" ice cream? Yes please!

The Parlour, Shore Road, Brodick, Isle of Arran, KA27 8AJ

Scottish tablet flavour Isle of Arran ice cream by the sea

19. Explore the King's Caves - One of my favourite walks on Arran was the two hour King's Cave circular route near Blackwaterfoot. Taking you through the forest and down to the shore, with some steep sections, this trail leads you to a series of caves set in the sandstone cliffs, said to be where Robert the Bruce had his legendary encounter with the spider! The "King's cave" is guarded by a great iron gate, originally intended to protect pre-Christian carvings found here, but it's now open to explore. Keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels in the woods!

There is a signed forestry car park at the beginning of this walk, nearest postcode KA27 8DX.

Looking up towards the caves from the shore on the Kings Cave walk

20. Stay at the luxurious Auchrannie Resort - Fancy a little island luxury? Auchrannie Resort on the Isle of Arran houses a number of plush accommodation options from it's 4* hotel rooms, luxury lodges sleeping up to 8 people, and little chalet retreats with fire pits and wood fired outdoor tubs. Tuck into some delicious grub at one of three restaurants (Cruize Bar and Brasserie, Brambles Seafood Grill or Eighteen69 Scottish Tapas) or treat yourself at the spa. There's two swimming pools, a sauna, gym and a games room! You can even hire segways or try archery - there is literally something for everyone at Auchrannie. The perfect place for a special occasion or romantic weekend. Book your escape here.

Auchrannie Resort, Auchrannie Road, Brodick, Isle of Arran, KA27 8BZ

View of the islands in the Firth of Clyde, from the Giants Graves walk

Surely now you'll agree there are plenty things to do on the Isle of Arran? I'd recommend spending at least 3-5 days on the island, longer if you can, to really get the most from your trip. Getting to Arran is easy, with CalMac Ferries running daily from Ardrossan to Brodick. The journey takes just 55 minutes, and advanced booking is highly recommended. We paid less than £50 for a return ticket for two people, with a 4x4 car - seriously good value, if you ask me. It's important to book your accommodation before travelling too, especially under the current circumstances. Bare in mind that many businesses may be operating differently due to the pandemic, so check in advance and always stick to current government guidelines.

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  1. Arran looks incredible! The scenery is unreal! I especially love the look of the view from Goatfell. The Moon Stone circles looks so intriguing too! I'd have to skip the seafood but I'd definitely try the cheese! Thanks for the great guide! I hope I get an opportunity to go soon!

  2. Oh my, your photos are amazing. They scream "come to Arran!" Mara Fish Bar and Deli would be on my list, along with camping among the deer. Thank you for introducing me to a place worthy of joining my travel list.

  3. Doing a long road trip in Scotland is definitely on our travel wish list. But I now see I need to add more of Scotland’s Islands. We did a short stop on the Orkney Islands. But there look like some great reasons to visit the Isla of Arran. Beer, cheese and hiking will all be big draws for us. Looks like a lovely spot. Linda (LD Holland)

  4. Okay, so I have to admit, you had me at the hike up Goatfell! It is amazing that you can reach such a fantastic view in 3-5 hours! I would love that even if it is steep/tiring. :)

    The incredible stone circles, food, camping (and a bit of whiskey) make Arran sound like an epic holiday destination. I would LOVE to visit.

  5. OMGOSH are you kidding me, that view from Goatfell IS SPECTACULAR 😍😍😍😍😍