The Island That Has It All – A Breakdown Of Arran’s Sights

17 January 2022

Often dubbed ‘Scotland in miniature’, Arran is an island with a surprising variety considering its size.

It features most of what makes Scotland so famous: Rugged mountains, serene beaches, lonesome roads perfect for road trips, and the odd ancient standing stone.

Still, nothing about Arran’s presence is miniature – the island has no business hiding in the shadow of some of the more famous Scottish destinations.

Come with us on a weekend to Arran and experience its unique nature.

Brodick or Lochranza?

Two very popular villages on the island. Most visitors coming from Glasgow will be dropped by the ferry in Brodick, Arran’s main town.

There’s a lovely beach here, where you can spot seals if you’re lucky, and a wide range of accommodation.  

Small but atmospheric, Lochranza is a great option if you’re less dependent on the services that Brodick offers.

The soaring mountains around and castle ruins in the middle of a sea inlet make Lochranza a magical place to stay.

Drive along the coast

Arran is perfectly sized for a road trip day around the island.

While the actual drive will only take between two and three hours, there are lots of sights on the way.

Most of them are in the south, so if you’re starting in Brodick, it makes sense to go around the island clockwise.

Glenashdale Falls and the Giant’s Graves

Arran is home to stunning waterfalls such as the Glenashdale Falls which can be reached from Whiting Bay, a short drive south of Brodick.

Depending on your fitness, either start directly in Whiting Bay or cheekily drive halfway up – leave the car by the road and walk the rest.

It’ll be 30 minutes to one hour of well-signposted walking to the viewing platform where you can see the falls in all their glory.

From here, you can extend the walk to also see the Giants Graves, an ancient burial site with a great panorama on Holy Island and sits impressively just off Whiting Bay.

Eas Mor and Kildonan

A few minutes along the road from Whiting Bay, you’ll reach Kildonan, a small village on the beachy southern shore of Arran.

The view of Pladda and Ailsa Craig, two smaller islands in the distance, make a scenic stroll here especially worth it.

Walk along the beaches under the cliffs east of Kildonan and you’ll have a good chance of spotting some seals resting on the rocks.

Driving inland again from Kildonan, you’ll find a car park for Eas Mor, another glorious waterfall.

Although it might not have the same pace of Glenashdale Falls, its location is dramatic, with rocky outcrops and an outlook on Pladda and Ailsa Craig in the distant sea.

King’s Cave and Machrie Moor

After this, you’ll drive a longer section to Blackwaterfoot, another small settlement on the island from where it’s just a short detour to magnificent Drumadoon Point if you fancy more beach walks.

If you haven’t yet, consider grabbing some lunch here or in Café Thyme a bit further up the road.

Between Blackwaterfoot and Café Thyme, you’ll find two more sights that are not to be missed.

A 30-minute-walk from the designated car park, King’s Cave is a beautiful rock shelter with a stunning outlook on the sea and Kintyre in the distance.

The walk is magnificent and quite different to the sandier beach walks in southern Arran.

Not much further up the road, you’ll find the car park for the Machrie Moor standing stones. A short walk past grazing sheep and you’ll reach the mysterious circles.

There are lots of them and they vary in stone size, amount, and arrangement.

Just as extraordinary as the circles themselves is the wide Machrie Moor facing Arran’s mountains in the north.

Whoever set up the stones clearly had great taste in picking out the location!

The mountains in the north

Once you’re done at Café Thyme, the landscape becomes more and more rugged, and you’ll leave the green pastures of the south behind you.

Driving on the empty roads between the sea and the steeply rising mountains is a delight for every serious road tripper, and surely a highlight of the day.

Lochranza makes for a great cake stop before completing the loop back in Brodick. There are fewer sights in the north worth stopping for, so sit back and enjoy the spectacular drive.

The mountains are best explored on foot anyway, which we’ll leave for the next day.

A walker’s paradise

Hiking on Arran comes in all shapes and sizes. From a seven-day loop around the island to strenuous mountain walks, the island never disappoints.

Here, we’ll describe two walks of easy to moderate difficulty and then a combination of the two which includes a more difficult, but nonetheless astonishing ridge traverse.

The endless slopes of Glen Rosa

A day-filling, but largely flat and beginner-friendly walk leads through magnificent Glen Rosa.

Briefly head north from Brodick along the road and then right onto a smaller road passing some cottages. Soon after, you’ll reach Glen Rosa with only vast empty insight.

The glen is barren, spare some little streams and waterfalls, and with the impressive peak of Cir Mhor ahead of you, the views are sublime.

Today’s destination is the end of Glen Rosa, the saddle between Cir Mhor and North Goatfell. From here, you’ll have an incredible panorama on more of Arran’s mountains, the sea, and the Scottish mainland beyond that.

Return the same way you came, as the descent on the other side, is very steep.

Scrambling up North Goatfell

For more ambitious walkers, the saddle is merely the starting point to summit the Goatfell range. A clear path leads up to North Goatfell, noticeably becoming steeper and rockier.

The summit area of North Goatfell is a little trickier to navigate – especially in sub-par weather conditions. You may find the path is harder to spot and involves some light scrambling.

With some steep drops, be careful and take your time finding the way.

The ridge to Goatfell might look intimidating, but past the North Goatfell summit the trail becomes much clearer, making the traverse easier than expected and probably the finest part of the walk.

Summiting Goatfell

Soon you’ll stand on the summit of Goatfell, Arran’s highest mountain at 874m. Whichever way you look, the vistas are breathtaking.

From here, you can take the main path back to Brodick to finish your day of walking.

In case you only want to summit Goatfell without the ridge traverse, you can use this well-marked trail for both ascent and descent for an easier, but also less exciting walk.

Still, the Goatfell summit is worth the trip.

Back in Brodick, let your feet rest and get a good night’s sleep before catching a ferry back to the mainland, ending your Arran adventures.