Scotland is brimming with brilliant islands, and they’re all great places to visit.
But of them all, Arran might just be my favorite. Small, varied, easy to access, and easy to explore, it’s packed with fun stuff to do, and I absolutely love this place.
So in this article, I’ve brought you the top 14 reasons to visit the Isle of Arran. I’ve included historical oddities, excellent outdoor adventures, villages, viewpoints, and plenty more.
Pack your bag and jump on the ferry—we’re just about to leave!
1. Because It’s Scotland in Miniature
I know I sound like I’ve made that up, but I promise I haven’t.
Genuinely (and of course colloquially) known as ‘Scotland in Miniature,’ Arran is a big lovely combo of all the brilliant things that Scotland is famous for.
Charming villages? You got them! Challenging hikes? Yep! Incredible beaches? More than you can count. Wildlife? Endless packs, herds and flocks of the creatures and critters, across the entire island. Historical sites? You bet!
If you want to feel like you’ve (sort of) explored all of Scotland, but without actually exploring all of Scotland, visiting Arran is a brilliant choice.
2. To Wander Along the Coastal Way
I’m a massive pedantic completionist, and I absolutely love multi-day walks.
If both of those things also apply to you, here’s some good news…
Arran is home to many wonderful hikes, and one of them is the Arran Coastal Way, a multi-day hiking trail that runs around the entire perimeter of the island. Measuring in at 65 miles (that’s 105km), it’s an incredible way to see (or at least feel as if you’ve seen) the whole island. I honestly think it’s the best way to experience the place.
Along the way, you get villages, cliffs, caves, historical sites, endless bays and beaches, and plenty more. If you like long-distance adventures, you’ll absolutely love it.
And best of all, because it’s not too long, it’s totally manageable and achievable.
3. To Zoom Around on a World-Class Road Trip
Alright, let’s say you like the idea of exploring Arran’s entire perimeter, but you can’t be bothered to walk it all.
If that’s the case, you can do it on a road trip instead. This route is a little shorter than the walk, measuring 56 miles (90km), but it takes you to all the best parts of Arran, and it introduces you to basically the entire island. It’s one of my favorite road trips in Scotland.
Top tip: there’s also a (relatively) major road that cuts the island in two, running horizontally across pretty much the center of the island. Add that road to your trip to make it much better.
4. For a Surprising Amount of Hiking
Considering Arran is relatively small, there’s a massive amount of walking to do on the island.
The place’s most famous wander is up Goatfell, the highest peak on the island (with a summit measuring in at 874 meters/2,870 feet). But apart from that, there’s loads more roving-related fun, including walks to secluded bays, tiny farms, diminutive settlements and ancient ruins.
You can stroll over beaches, through bogs, past peaks, across barren moors, and plenty more.
Whatever type of hiking you like to do, you can do it on Arran—we’ve covered the island’s best hikes in much more detail here.
5. For Endless Bays and Beaches
Arran is an island, so it (obviously!) has a massive coastline.
And that also means lots of great beaches, dotted around the island’s shores.
Some of Arran’s best beaches include Brodick Beach (really easy to access, though often pretty busy), Blackwaterfoot Beach (tucked away on the western side of the island), Cleat’s Shore (the only designated naturist beach in Scotland), and popular favorites Kildonan and Pirnmill.
No matter what type of beach you like, you’ll find it on Arran, so make sure you pack a towel or two.
For much more information, check out our bumper guide to all of Arran’s beaches here.
6. For a Couple of Castles
Like all of Scotland, Arran is home to some excellent castles.
At Brodick Castle, you can explore the elegant interiors, learn all about Victorian life, and wander around the park, woodland and garden. At Lochranza Castle, there’s not much to do, but it’s perched right over the sea, and it’s one of the most photogenic castles in the nation.
And in the south, you have much-less-famous Kildonan Castle, a tiny but atmospheric ruin surrounded by peaceful beaches and beautiful views.
7. To Chow Down on Some Tasty Treats
Arran is home to loads of independent and artisanal eats and treats—some foodies reckon it’s the best gastronomic island in Scotland.
The Tartan Tablet Company make traditional tablet (a strange but tasty sweet treat), the Isle of Arran Coffee Company churn out some of the best coffee I’ve ever slurped on, and Isle of Arran Milk is available from vending machines around the island(!).
And on top of all that stuff, you get local meat, cheese, ice cream, and various drinks.
For chewing and chomping, there aren’t many better locations in Scotland.
8. For Endlessly-Endearing Villages
For good villages, I think Scotland might be the best place on the planet.
And Arran is home to loads of them.
Brodick, the biggest settlement on the island, is my favorite (what a cliché). It has lots of restaurants, pubs and cafes, and loads of family fun.
You also get ridiculously-cute Lamlash (the tiny administrative center of the island), Lochranza (little more than a campsite with a couple of houses), Blackwaterfoot (the biggest place on the west of the island, with a lovely harbor), and the tiny twin villages of Sannox & Corrie.
The whole island is home to around only 5,000 people, which tells you how small (and charming) all of its settlements are. If you like exploring quiet and quaint places, you’ll want to stay on Arran forever.
9. For a Lovely Little Ferry Ride
Unlike Skye, you can’t reach Arran by car.
Instead, you need to take a ferry—and everyone likes taking a ferry.
No matter where you depart from, it’s a lovely journey, and a lovely way to reach the island.
Most people take the ferry from the western mainland port of Ardrossan, on Scotland’s southwest coast. This ferry takes you right to Brodick.
But it’s also possible to ride ferries from mainland Campbelltown, Tarbert and Claonaig, all of which lie on the strangely-shaped peninsula of Kintyre.
10. Because You Can Camp Whenever, Wherever and However You Want
Thanks to Scotland’s incredible Right to Roam Act, wild camping is completely legal in Scotland, and you can do it wherever you want (well, apart from in someone’s garden, or on the floor of a restaurant or whatever, but I’m sure you get the point).
Throughout Scotland, you can take your tent and your sleeping bag any place you like, and feel absurdly free. And because there’s so much wilderness on the Isle of Arran, it’s one of Scotland’s best places to be all free and easy.
11. To Stand at Some Stones
That terrible title is a poor pun on the Machrie Moor Standing Stones, a strange set of ancient UK Neolithic standing stones on the western side of the island.
The area is home to six stone circles, and some parts of its history date back to 5,500 years ago (or likely even more). According to researchers, they were used for burials, cremations, everyday rituals, and midsummer celebrations.
I’m not into all that Neolithic stuff (we’ve all seen stones before), but they’re great if you are. And even if you’re a miserable little cynic like me, they’re located on a barren and remote moorland, so it’s a nice place for a wander. It’s also a very popular place for photographers.
12. To Get All Holy
Arran is home to the surreal and strange Holy Island, a little place measuring in at just over 1 square mile (around 3 square kilometers).
Sitting off the southeastern coast of Arran, the only way to get there is by taking a boat from Lamlash. The place is popular with hikers, solitude-seekers, and animal fans who want to see the island’s free-roaming sheep, ponies and goats.
If you like exploring remote wilderness with very few people, you’ll absolutely love the place.
Fun fact: the island is home to a bunch of Buddhist monks. The previous owner of the island was (apparently) visited by a vision of the Virgin Mary, who encouraged her to hand over the island to one of those monks. Or so she says.
13. For Making Friends with Endless Animals
Because Arran is remote, diverse, relatively quiet, and surrounded by water, you can see a surprising amount of brilliant wildlife.
My favorite Arran animals are the wild red deer. Go to the big campsite in Lochranza, walk towards the sea, and you’ll likely see loads of the guys.
You also get otters, red squirrels, eagles, ospreys, dolphins, porpoises, seals, minke whales, basking sharks (the second-biggest shark in the world!), and loads more.
For much more information, check out our guide to all the wildlife on the Isle of Arran.
Top tip: if you want to see a particular animal, make sure you visit Arran during the right season!
14. Because It’s the Perfect Size
If you want to visit Skye, you need at least a couple of weeks to really see everything. Same with the Shetland Islands, and the Orkney Islands, and Lewis and Harris.
But if you want to feel like you’ve explored the entirety of an island in one measly week, Arran is perfect. So if you’re the type of person who likes ticking absolutely everything off, Arran is genuinely the perfect size.
And on top of that, because it’s in the south of Scotland, and it’s not too far from the mainland, it’s pretty easy to access—so you don’t need loads of time and planning to get there, or get around.
Final Thoughts and Further Reading
There they are—the top 14 reasons to visit the Isle of Arran! Get yourself there as soon as you can, and don’t be surprised when you fall in love with the place.
Thanks for reading, make sure you stick around for plenty more, and we’ll see you next time!