My parents have a story about the Isle of Arran. It involves a BnB, in the middle of nowhere, a screaming woman in the middle of the night, and suspiciously silent breakfast. I’ve heard this story many times over the years and it always sends a chill up my spine. I knew it took place in the UK somewhere but wasn’t sure where – if my parents said Isle of Arran, it meant nothing to me before. It wasn’t until we took a day trip to Isle of Arran that I thought to ask my dad if he’d ever been. When he responded with that infamous story, I can’t say I was surprised. While Arran is easily reached via a train and a ferry from Glasgow, it felt like a world away.
The ferry was an adventure itself. Up top, there’s the main floor with a bar (of course), cafe and restaurant with an assortment of vegetarian options and a couple vegan options. Despite not being interested what they had on offer, it was still impressive nonetheless. This wasn’t part of some huge sightseeing company or Disneyland. It was the mainland ferry to an island and they offered vegetarian breakfast sausages.
The people we were house sitting for generously lent us their bikes to use. I had read that the Isle of Arran is a cycling destination, what I didn’t realize was that “cycling destination” meant more for the people that suit up to go biking in sponsored spandex gear and funny shoes. I’ll fully admit that I underestimated the mountains on Arran. If you do decide to try cycling on the Isle of Arran though, the Arran Bike Club’s website has detailed descriptions of many routes as well as recommended experience levels for each.
One main road runs along the perimeter of the island. We opted for a 30 mile (15 up and back) trip, so we could see the old castle in the town of Lochranza. The route passes by beachy spots, long stretches of road with sheepies and goats, along with little villages, each with their own accompanying shops and restaurants.
Before reaching Lochranza, you pass through a big uphill section of Highland high hills and mountains, covered with more sheepsies. If you plan on ascending this incline, a local worker on lunch break suggests getting a motor.
The castle was old too, as it no longer had a roof and only parts of the walls. The only occupants were wily islander children, taking full advantage of the defensive upper hand against rival tribes.
We had packed a picnic lunch and assembled sandwiches as we stretched our legs.
A castle, mountains, and a waterfront for a lunchtime view?
That’s just Scotland.
You could feel the island rhythm in the quiet roads and stoic little houses.
If you’d like to get all up in Arran culture, there’s plenty to do and see. The Arran Heritage Museum is an open air museum with a variety of traditional houses exhibiting traditional life on the island. They often have special events so check their calendar! The nearby Brodick Castle dates from the 13th century and is a National Trust listed building. It’s also on the 20-pound notes printed in Scotland.
For other things to do and explore on Arran, the Isle of Arran tourism website is immensely helpful.
Day Trip to Isle of Arran: How To Get There
We were amazed at how easy it was to get there and how uncrowded it was.
There are various trains that go from Glasgow Central Station to Ardrossan Harbour, where the ferry to Brodick on the Isle of Arran departs from. This handy chart lists the train times lining up with the ferry times so you can plan your journey accordingly. The train takes about an hour and the ferry (7.50 return) takes another hour. While two hours on each end may seem like a lot for a day trip, it’s all part of the journey. The ferry itself especially is part of the experience of visiting the island. Just make sure you catch the last ferry back unless you plan to stay overnight!
If you arrive by car, you can take your car on the ferry and drive around the island that way. While we enjoyed biking and we met another couple on the ferry back that had visited the island solely via bus, a car would be the most flexible option. But gas up before you head over – gas is expensive on the island.
Extending Your Day Trip: Where to Stay on the Isle of Arran
While you can get a good feel for Arran in a day, staying overnight gives the immersive experience of falling asleep and waking up on an island. There are plenty of BnBs and small hotels to choose from, but if you’re traveling in the high season, it’s best to book in advance. Here’s a selection of veg-friendly spots to stay on Arran:
Brodick is the gateway to Arran as the town where the ferry from Ardrossan Harbour on the mainland stops. It’s a pretty large town with everything an info center, grocery store, shops, restaurants, and places to stay, all lined up along the waterfront.
Belvedere Guest House – historic house and BnB and they make their own homemade veggie sausages for breakfast!
With a whopping 1000 residents, Lamlash is the largest village on Arran. It’s just a few miles south of Brodick.
Stonewater House Bed and Breakfast – Cozy Bnb that makes their own vegan haggis! Full vegan/vegetarian breakfast on offer as well. They don’t accept kids at the BnB so if you’re looking for an extra quiet spot this is your place.
Glenisle Hotel – an award-winning boutique hotel that will make special breakfast (included in room price) for vegans, whee!
There are plenty of other places to stay, this is just a sampling. For more listings on the Isle of Arran click here.
What’s your favorite island?