Isle of Arran: Exploring the delights of ‘Scotland in miniature’

The clear waters of Brodick Bay.

The clear waters of Brodick Bay.

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We set off on our journey having been told to expect Scotland in miniature – and got what we wanted. Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling abroad. The sun, the different cultures, languages and just, well, the change of scene. But my trip to Arran – even in the rain – has made me crave the visual feast that is Scotland’s islands.

Having an early ferry booked we started our jaunt with an overnight at the recently refurbished Seamill Hydro Hotel near Ardrossan. It is going through a multi-million pound redevelopment and our huge room which overlooked the beach had every mod con going. My early morning dip in the revamped pool (complete with colour changing mood lighting), Jacuzzi and steam room was a great way start to the day.

A stonce circle on Arran's Machrie Moor.

A stonce circle on Arran's Machrie Moor.

Our ferry journey was perfect.

Just 55 minutes on a packed CalMac vessel and we arrive in Brodick.

Keen to see as much as possible in our two days we explored the bottom half of the island first.

Whiting Bay was a favourite stop where my partner, daughter and I picked up shells on the beach that we had to ourselves until a lady swept past us on horseback through the sea, like a scene from a Hollywood movie. The air seemed fresher and as the 
sun started to shine after heavy rain, we felt the stresses of city life ebb away. We also liked Blackwaterfoot where we tried our hand at stone skimming.

Next we ventured the 12 miles along the ‘string road’ which goes from just outside Machrie in the east to near Brodick in the west. It reminded me of parts of the West Highland Way, but on a much smaller scale. We finally arrived at our base in Lamlash.

It’s a lovely spot with unique shops – selling everything from gifts, clothes and local produce – and two lovely outdoor play areas and a few cafes and pubs all by the waterside.

Lamlash Bay Hotel, which has also undergone a major facelift, was our home for two nights. The shore-front family-run hotel overlooks historic Holy Isle and our cute duck egg blue room was perfect.

The hotel’s restaurant has a huge and varied menu, with everything from burgers and steaks to wood-fired pizzas and curry and salads.

Owners Serge and Meg – who spent years living in Bahrain – are charming hosts. The hotel is the ideal base for sightseeing and offered incredible comfort and homeliness and our bed in Room One, was not only comfy but huge, with plenty of pillows.

After hearty cooked breakfasts – and specially prepared eggy toast for the wee one – we set off exploring again and discovered Corrie. This was one of the most visually appealing of our stop offs, with wooden boats filled with flowers and old-style red phone boxes. You can see why so many tourists come here for walks or golf (there are seven courses, all with stunning views). We didn’t make it up Goat Fell this time around due to the weather conditions but nothing was going to stop us from visiting the island’s only working distillery near Lochranza. Greeted at the modern visitor centre by colourful information boards, we watched a film about the history of whisky on Arran and the opening of the distillery almost 20 years ago. Sadly, a tour was off the menu as two more stills were being added to the current two. My partner was gutted. But staff, seeing his disappointment, rallied to help and he struck gold. He had a VIP tasting with Master Craftsman James MacTaggart after being ushered away to his special lab where the real magic happens and whisky is perfected.

A few samples later and he emerged the happiest man on Arran. Luckily, the distillery’s Cask cafe has awesome coffee and food (we had the Arran platter overloaded with local cheese, chutney and pates) to keep me busy – and the wee one enjoyed the lovely kids’ play area.

We headed for a walk at nearby Lochranza after buying too many gorgeous gifts in the distillery shop.

With time marching on we headed back towards Brodick, where we took in the home of Arran Arromatics – I have candles, creams and soaps for birthdays aplenty now – then onto Arran Brewery, where my partner enjoyed a few more samples of local beverages. Not wanting to leave our toddler out we headed to Auchrannie Resort – a luxury spa resort – which has a lovely Play Barn for youngsters with inside and outside slides, and play areas. It is big, colourful and noisy and our daughter loved it.

Our final appointment was a dinner reservation at the popular Glenisle Hotel in Lamlash where the fish and chips and braised blade of beef were perfection. We were sad to leave Arran, but we have promised to return. n

A superior sea facing suite room at Lamlash Bay Hotel (01770 600 844, lamlashbayhotel.co.uk) starts from £230 for two nights. Dinner is from £18.95pp for three courses and there is a childrens’ menu at £5.95.

A tour at the Isle of Arran Distillery (01770 830264, www.arranwhisky.com) costs £7.50. A tutored tasting is £15.

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