THOUGH it is known as “Scotland in miniature” and certainly has the hills, lochs, glens and coastline to back up such a claim, Arran has a personality of its own, too.

The charm of the place hits you the minute you get off the ferry in Brodick, the island’s main hub. Overlooked by Goatfell, the highest peak on Arran, the town is both the perfect base for exploring the island and a lovely destination in itself, with great places to eat, shop and stay.

Historic Highlights

Thought to derive from the Norse for “broad bay”, Brodick’s small population - under 700 - swells with visitors at weekends and during school holidays.

Arran has been occupied since the Iron Age, and a fortress is believed to have been on the site of Brodick Castle since the fifth century. The island was part of the Gaelic-Norse kingdom till the mid-13th century.

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Gaelic was widely spoken on the island up until the early 20th century and the last native speaker died in the 1970s.

Brodick castle, a seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, was built in 1510 and is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland.

Tourism is the town’s main industry with farming and forestry also employing local people.

What to do

Due to reopen at Easter after an internal refurbishment, Brodick Castle and Country Park is a must. A favourite destination for families, with plenty to see and do inside and out, you can easily spend a whole day here.

The treasure-packed castle is wonderful, while the grounds are something else, encompassing both formal gardens and the UK’s only island country park, stretching from shore to woodland to mountain.

There’s also a fabulous kids’ play area. Arran Ranger Service runs a full schedule of nature events in spring and summer, including young naturalists club, badger watching and bird box making. See for details.

Just north of Brodick, situated in a former croft and smiddy, is the lovely Isle of Arran Heritage Museum, which tells the story of the island and its people. Child-friendly and hands-on throughout, there’s also a smashing garden with picnic area and play area. Open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday till Easter, then every day. Go to

Beer drinkers will want to quench their thirst with a visit to the Isle of Arran Brewery, just outside Brodick ( As well as being the best place to buy the full range of local beers and ales, you can take a tour and get a tutored tasting.

If the weather is wet and you have youngsters to entertain, the Playbarn at Auchrannie – part of the holiday resort - has three tiers of soft play, a big screen TV, juke box and wifi. There’s also a teen zone, and if the weather improves you can head outside to the outdoor play and picnic area. Go to for details.

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Auchrannie is also home to Arran Adventure, which offers activities such as archery, gorge-walking as well as segway and bike hire.

Following a colourful refurbishment, Brodick’s crazy golf course is more fun than ever. You never know, you might even get a hole in one on the Forth Bridge.

More serious golfers, meanwhile, won’t want to miss a round at the town’s welcoming golf club ( Just a short stroll from the pier, it offers spectacular views from every hole.

Where to eat

Arran fans Anna Cook and Stephen Naysmith both recommend the bistro at the Douglas Hotel, which offers great food and beautiful views. “The cheeseboard is excellent,” says Stephen. “I only had the single one - there is also a sharing plate for two people - but it was very generous.” The baked Arran brie starter is a moreish treat.

Anna also recommends the Little Rock Café, which serves great coffee and some of the best scones on Arran. The lemon drizzle cake is delicious – somehow even tastier with the stunning sea views.

The Cullen skink at Janie’s café is also a treat, while the amazing choice of traybakes, cakes and scones makes for a tricky decision.

It might not look like much from the outside, with you’ll get a top fish supper at Hooked and Crooked at Brodick pier. The pizzas aren’t bad either.

Next to Arran Brewery is The Wineport (, which offers seasonal local produce – including excellent seafood - in cosy surroundings. The extensive outdoor seating makes it particularly popular in summer.

Where to shop

Stephen recommends keeping an eye out for the Real Food Shop, a mobile food van brimming with locally-grown organic vegetables and meat, run by a local farmer. There’s also a carefully chosen selection of international foods.

“The pork sausages are great,” he adds. “If you’re self-catering, it’s a great way to dine off local produce.”

The van comes to Brodick – either at Auchrannie Road or Ormidale Park – on Saturday mornings from 10am – 1pm.

Taste of Arran on Market Road ( also showcases local produce, including cheese, chocolate, jam, ice-cream and oatcakes.

For bags, scarves, jewellery and gifts, try Red Door, housed in one of the cutest cottages in town.

The Book and Card Centre also has a fine array of gifts, as well as postcards, books and stationery.

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Where to stay

Resort living: Auchrannie ( has hotel rooms, lodges and luxurious couples’ retreats to choose from, as well as a lovely spa and three restaurants.

Sea views: The aforementioned Douglas Hotel (, offers comfortable, generously sized rooms from £86. There’s also a self-catering lodge for rent.

Traditional: Rowanbank Holiday Cottages (, overlooking the golf course, offers four well-appointed holiday homes sleeping two to six. The Cottage sleeps two and starts at £60 a night.

What to do nearby

Climb Goatfell. Offering magnificent views across Arran and beyond, this is an accessible climb for the reasonably fit that takes five to six hours in summer.

Take the boat to Holy Isle from Lamlash and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this tiny island, which is owned by a Buddhist community.

Based in Lamlash, Mogabout Safaris take you off the beaten track to some of the more inaccessible parts of the island, in a comfy 16-seater. Along the way you’re guaranteed stunning scenery and – if you’re lucky – its wild inhabitants.

Over on the west of Arran, a 40 minute drive from Brodick, Machrie Moor Standing Stones offer an insight into Neolithic life on this ancient isle.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be visiting Banchory and Anstruther. Send your hints and tips for what to do and where to eat, stay and shop to me at