Arran - Scotland in Miniature 2018
‘Scotland in miniature’ might just be the most apt way to sum up the Isle of Arran. Separated into Highland and Lowland, geographically and ecologically diverse, and brimming with history, Arran has more in common with the mainland than you might think. The big difference is its size: all of its charms are squeezed into one bijou package.
Despite being Scotland’s seventh largest island, Arran’s diminutive size means that it’s quite possible to pack a good number of its sites into one day. But why would you want to do that? Instead you can join us on a longer tour, taking it all in at a pace far more befitting of the laid-back Firth of Clyde.
On Arran, picturesque villages show a way of life that still revolves around the sea — such as Sannox with its curving beach and Corrie with its quaint twin harbours. These give way to wide expanses, all waiting to be explored. There are traces of those that have come before too — in the unique windows of Catacol’s ‘Twelve Apostles’ fishermen’s cottages, for example; and in the etymology of towns like Whiting — or ‘Viking’ — Bay. We also explore Arran’s Victorian legacy, in the grounds of Brodick Castle — its walled gardens, woodland walks, and ravishing rhododendrons are truly a joy to behold.
Between these engaging visits, there is ample time to spend at leisure as you wish. Why not join our optional excursion to the beautiful, southerly Isle of Gigha; visit the legendary King’s Caves, or simply take it easy? The choice is yours...
We depart from our designated pick up points and head for Ardrossan in time to catch the afternoon ferry to Brodick, Arran’s capital and main settlement – a short and scenic voyage across the Firth of Clyde. On arrival we board a coach to the south-western village of Blackwaterfoot where our accommodation has been organised at the beach-front Kinloch Hotel. A welcome dinner and drinks are served here this evening.
This morning we embark on a circular tour of Arran, its villages sitting like 'jewels on a necklace'; strung out around 56 miles of coast. From Blackwaterfoot we visit Whiting Bay, Lamlash, Brodick, Corrie and Sannox, which lies under the shadow of Goat Fell. Down the west coast we take in Pirnmill and Catacol, with its ‘Twelve Apostles', 19th-century cottages built to relocate locals from inland homes, and make way for sheep and deer.
We continue to Arran Distillery, the island’s only distillery, for a tour and tastings of their 14-year old single malt. Later we return to our hotel for dinner, and an illuminating talk from a local historian.
Today we are free to relax in Blackwaterfoot and its surroundings. Or for those who prefer more, there is an optional excursion to Gigha. Nestling just off the Kintyre peninsula, Gigha is a gem of the Hebrides often overlooked by the island-hopper.
As part of our trip we visit Achamore Gardens. It was Sir James Horlick (of bedtime drink fame) who established woodland plantings here in 1944. Taking lunch at the Gigha Hotel, we wander Achamore’s highlights, witnessing how Gigha’s mild climate and high levels of rainfall ensure there’s always something blooming.
At the end of the day the group reunites at our hotel for a hearty dinner.
Following breakfast we travel to Brodick Castle and Gardens, which occupy a splendid position, well protected from westerly winds and looking out across the Firth of Clyde. The present garden dates from 1932 when the Duchess of Montrose began an ambitious woodland design with a collection of rhododendrons. From the castle, paths wind downhill towards the seashore. On site we find a delightful Bavarian summer house embellished with panels of pinecones, as well as a restored walled garden, dating from 1710.
The afternoon is free to take in Brodick at our leisure. Later we come together at our hotel for a convivial farewell dinner and drinks.
Alas it is time to head home. Following breakfast, we travel to the ferry port and board the late-morning crossing to Ardrossan. On the mainland once more, we return to our original pick-up points, arriving back before the early evening.