Arran is one of our favourite places. Though not quite the splendid isolation of Corrour, it still feels like a wilderness at times. Even in good weather the peaks around Goatfell are high enough to capture passing clouds, giving the unsettling impression that a storm is brewing. Going there always feels like a proper adventure.
With the weather set fair for the weekend, we were a little dismayed at the sheer number of folk boarding the ferry at Ardrossan. Having previously only visited during the winter months, we’ve become unrealistically used to having the place to ourselves. But in the end, it was amazing how the hundreds of those who disembarked with us at Brodick magically vanished. On Arran , even at the height of the tourist season, it’s still possible to achieve that heady feeling of escape.
Day 1: Brodick to Lochranza via the String Road
Distance: 23 Miles
Terrain: Tarmac road. Mostly level, with 2 mile uphill stretch at the start
Time it took us: About 5 hours – but we did stop to take a lot of photographs, and played on the beach for a while…
At Brodick ferry terminal we turned right, and after 15 minutes on the busy A841, turned left on to the String Road. The short, steep, woodland section quickly gave way to a long uphill through the valley overlooking Brodick. At the top, we took a few moments to enjoy the mountain views, but it was surprising chilly up there, so we quickly moved on to the eye-watering descent on the newly re-surfaced section of the String Road.
Turning right at Shiskine, the road becomes fairly rough and pot-holed, but is quiet and meanders through pleasant farmland and heather-covered hills. After a gentle descent we reached the western coastal section – a picturesque road, bordered with wild flowers and tiny hamlets. The rocky shoreline is a haven for cormorants and sea birds, and I’m sure if you waited quietly for long enough, you might even catch a glimpse of an otter or a dolphin – no such luck for us though. Blue skies, blue sea, white shell-covered beaches and the occasional palm tree made it feel like a Mediterranean holiday.
From there, the road to Lochranza is mostly flat with one very short, but very steep hill, and a lovely corresponding downhill. Not surprisingly, this road is a real favourite with cyclists, so it was nice to enjoy the feeling of camaraderie. It was easy to strike up a leisurely rhythm, and in what felt like no time at all, we reached Lochranza.
Day 2: Lochranza to Brodick on the A841
Distance: 14 miles
Terrain: Tarmac road. Mostly level, with 2.5 mile uphill stretch at the start
Time it took us: About 4 hours – again, we took our time and made plenty of stops
We started early, hoping to avoid the traffic – the A841 is a main route to the Brodick, so it can very busy, especially at ferry times. Midges swarmed us as soon as we stepped outside the Youth Hostel, so we weren’t tempted to take one last stroll around the bay. Luckily, that was our only brush with the nasty little critters on this trip. Almost immediately we were into the first and only uphill of the day.
It was tough, but the climb was worth it. When the road eventually levelled out, we had our first close-up view of Goatfell. We were in sunshine, but the craggy peaks above were atmospherically obscured by clouds. The road is pretty smooth at this point, and the downhill section to Sannox is another exhilarating ride with great views.
The A841 starts to get busier at this point, so a bit of care is needed. The road follows the shoreline, and passes through a series of pretty little villages, each with its own miniature harbour. We spotted a solitary seal basking on a rock near Corrie – something which Arran is famous for (although the southerly end is the best place to see them). It wasn’t long before we found ourselves on the outskirts of Brodick.
After much-needed coffee in the Duchess Court Shops, we spent a lovely hour exploring the Arran Heritage Museum. Established and run by dedicated volunteers, it’s an eccentric collection of farming implements, buildings, and even has a tiny recreation of an old fashioned school room. Definitely worth a visit!
But eventually, and reluctantly, we made our way to catch the mid-afternoon ferry. It’s always so sad to leave Arran, and we can’t wait to go back.
How to get there: 2 hours from Glasgow (train from Glasgow Central then ferry from Ardrossan). Train and ferry times are synched perfectly, so you only spend about 15 minutes in Ardrossan before setting sail.