12 Top-Rated Things to Do on the Isle of Arran

Written by Brad Lane
Feb 21, 2023
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Author Brad Lane visited the Isle of Arran on an extensive trip through Scotland in the fall of 2022.

The Isle of Arran is a popular holiday destination off Scotland's west coast. The island offers a slower pace but packs a dense collection of attractions and things to do. These islands are home to beautiful landscapes, history, and a culture infused with castles and cheese shops.

View of Goat Fell peak on the Isle of Arran
View of Goat Fell peak on the Isle of Arran | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Most visitors board the ferry from Ardrossan to reach Brodick on the Isle of Arran. The ferry accommodates vehicles and walk-on passengers and is approximately an hour's journey. This constant ferry traffic makes Brodick a common base for exploring the island.

Be sure take some time to visit places beyond Brodick. A well-maintained road circles the island, with the scenic route known as The String crossing in the middle. And waiting at the end of any trip on the island are picture-postcard places, like sea caves, castles, and stunning mountain landscapes.

Enjoy your escape with our list of top things to do in the Isle of Arran.

1. Tour the Brodick Castle, Garden & Country Park

Brodick Castle
Brodick Castle | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Brodick Castle has a long history on the Isle of Arran, with its strategic seat dating back thousands of years. The baronial castle underwent vast improvements over time, all the while overlooking Brodick Bay and the Firth of Clyde. Much of the castle seen today was assembled in 1844 and is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.

Brodick Castle and its grounds are a must-see when visiting the Isle of Arran. The property is less than three miles north of the Brodick ferry terminal, lending easy access by either vehicle or bus. Hikers can also reach the castle by hopping on the Arran Coastal Way walking trail.

The castle's interior harks to an era of 1800s luxury. Victorian furnishings and sports trophies add to this effect, as well as period-authentic rooms, including a Victorian arcade. The castle also features interactive exhibits with sounds and lighting.

Sculpture in the gardens of Brodick Castle
Sculpture in the gardens of Brodick Castle | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Be sure to spend time exploring the castle's vast woodland grounds. Walled gardens and other landscaping highlight the property closest to the castle, with nature trails spanning its edges. Other highlights include a red squirrel blind, a café, and an adventure play park.

2. Explore the Machrie Moor Stone Circles

Machrie Moor Stone Circles
Machrie Moor Stone Circles

The Machrie Moor Stone Circles represent one of the most intact archeology sites on the island. They date to approximately 2,000 BCE and local farmers in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, and they represent only a part of the ancient tributes remaining on this side of the island.

The Machrie Moor Stone Circles are on the island's west side, accessible with a short drive from the ferry terminal in Brodick. Visitors reach the access point for these popular tourist attractions with a drive or bus ride on The String — the only cross-island road on Arran.

The Stone Circles lie near the abandoned Moss Farm. Visitors park in a designated lot of A841 and walk toward the monument on Moss Farm Road.

Expect a round trip of at least three miles to see the stone circles, or longer if venturing to other monuments in the area.

3. Hike to the Top of Goat Fell

Goat Fell
Goat Fell | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Goat Fell is hard to miss when visiting the Isle of Arran. It's the highest peak on the island, and its pyramid shape is easy to spot on the northwest horizon from the ferry terminal in Brodick, though, sometimes the mountain hides behind the occasional cloud rolling over the landscape.

The wilderness walk to Goat Fell's peak is the bucket-list thing to do on the Isle of Arran.

Goat Fell is an impressive 874 meters (2,867 feet) tall. Many hikes to the peak start near sea level, ensuring a hearty walk regardless of the route. One of the most common ways to hike to the top begins near Brodick Castle. This trek is approximately six miles. The tip of the route, at the top of Goat Fell, consists of rocky scrambling.

View from Goat Fell peak
View from Goat Fell peak

Despite its challenging nature, Goat Fell is a quintessential Arran experience for those up to the adventure. Try and time the hike with clear weather, as the views from the top are best presented with clear skies. Hiking to this high elevation in foul weather can also be dangerous.

4. Step Back in Time at the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum

Isle of Arran Heritage Museum
Isle of Arran Heritage Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Isle of Arran Heritage Museum is on the main road a few miles north of Brodick. It provides valuable insight into various slices of island life dating back to the last two centuries. But most artifacts and exhibits tell the story of the island's more recent history, spanning the last two hundred years.

It's worth the small entry fee to explore the museum. The area was originally the site of a small school, which still stands today, and comprises just one of the museum's historic buildings. Other preserved architecture includes a farmhouse, a stable and coach house, and a cottage. Hundreds of artifacts are found throughout each building.

Kids at the museum have several hands-on learning opportunities.

Café Rosaburn also operates on-site, offering light breakfast fare and a full café menu. Expect to spend between one and two hours at the museum, and maybe more with a visit to the café.

Address: ROSABURN, Isle of Arran KA27 8DP, United Kingdom

5. Stroll along Blackwaterfoot Beach

Blackwaterfoot Beach
Blackwaterfoot Beach

Blackwaterfoot Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the Isle of Arran. It's on the island's less-developed west side, accessible from the village of Blackwaterfoot.

The summer is undoubtedly the busiest time at the beach, with the best chance of catching a sunny afternoon on the sand.

The beach comprises long stretches of sand, with rocks occasionally making their way onto shore. There's plenty of room to spread out a beach blanket, though it tends to be a more popular spot for walking along the shoreline.

Read More: Top-Rated Beaches in Scotland

6. Window Shop in Brodick

Shops in Brodick
Shops in Brodick | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Brodick is commonly the first point of contact for visitors to the Isle of Arran. It's where the ferry from the mainland drops off passengers. And this small Scottish community's charming collection of shops and restaurants is well-versed in hosting visitors.

A few notable favorites include Taste of Arran and Arran Chocolate Factory. The first sells isle keepsakes and artisan foods, while the other provides a window into their confectionary process. Between touring these shops and others, it's easy to appreciate the stunning Arran coastline across the street.

Visitors looking for outdoor endeavors should head to Arran Active on Brodick's main strip. This athletic and outdoor store has all the gear needed for adventures on Arran and advice on where to go. Arran Bike Hire also operates next door, offering bike rentals throughout the year.

7. Navigate the Arran Coastal Way

Arran Coastal Way
Arran Coastal Way | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The 105-kilometer (65-mile) Arran Coastal Way circles the island, making The Isle of Arran an ideal place to visit for a walking holiday. This walking trail is one of Scotland's Great Trails and offers several day-hiking trips or multi-night adventures.

The North Coast and South Coast split The Arran Coastal Way, with four sections on either half of the island. Each section spans approximately 6 to 10 miles, with several options for shorter trips. Along the way, the trail navigates next to the water, through verdant woodlands, and near more than one historic castle.

The Arran Coastal Way is primarily done in small sections at a time. Camping and hotel stays are available for those looking to finish the entire trail in one outing. Pitching a tent and making camp should always be done with minimal impact on the surroundings.

8. Visit the Holy Isle

Holy Isle in Lamlash Bay
Holy Isle in Lamlash Bay

Holy Isle is a small island off Arran's east coast in Lamlash Bay. The island is approximately two miles long and a mile wide, and it's been home to a spiritual landscape since as far back as the 6th century. Today, Holy Isle is home to a Centre for World Peace and Health.

Interested visitors board a Lamlash Cruise ferry from the Island of Arran throughout the summer. The ferry departs from Lamlash, a seven-minute drive south of Brodick. The island is a scenic but solemn space, and visitors are asked to follow general visitor guidelines.

A Peace Centre volunteer greets day visitors upon arrival, and they are welcome to navigate the island's collection of hiking trails. The Centre for World Peace and Health itself is reserved for overnight guests. The center offers an array of courses and retreats throughout the year.

9. Hide Out in King's Cave

King's Cave
King's Cave

King's Cave is a storied natural landscape on the island's west side. These sandstone caverns appeared as the sea receded and have long since been tied to the lore surrounding Robert the Bruce, one of the most renowned kings of Scotland. As the story goes, Robert the Bruce hid here in the 1300s and found inspiration from a spider hanging from the cave's walls.

While the location of this longstanding legend is debated, the remaining caves still provide a dramatic landscape to enjoy. Visitors from the ferry terminal in Brodick reach the carpark via the only road to cross the island, known as The String. Public transportation is also available.

It's approximately a three-mile walk down to the sea caves and back to the car. Longer walks are also available. Expect gravel trail conditions and steep sections as the trail descends to the water.

An unlocked gate welcomes visitors to the caves, where the public is asked to tread lightly. Bring a flashlight if you're planning to explore the caves.

10. Feel the Mist of Glenashdale Falls

Glenashdale Falls
Glenashdale Falls

Glenashdale Falls is one of the most famous waterfall walks on the island. It's a manageable 4.75-kilometer (three-mile) round-trip hike through a wooded glen, culminating with an impressive double-cascade waterfall.

A unique set of ancient rock tombs are also along the route, better known as the Giant's Graves.

The route to Glenashdale Falls begins at Ashdale Bridge just south of Whiting Bay, approximately nine miles south of Brodick. Visitors reach the trailhead by either car or bus. The falls are also along the route of the Arran Coastal Way, in the Lagg to Whiting Bay section.

Bring some good hiking shoes and prepare for potentially muddy conditions. The route climbs a moderate 152 meters (498 feet). A viewing platform at the falls makes for easy viewing.

Address: Glenashdale Burn, Isle of Arran, United Kingdom

11. Hit the Links on the Isle of Arran

Brodick Golf Course
Brodick Golf Course | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

A proper holiday on the Isle of Arran includes at least one round of golf. The isle has seven courses varying in length and difficulty, with many including views over the sea. Each course stays popular throughout the year, and each has features that attract a particular type of play.

Brodick Golf Course is certainly popular, closest to the ferry terminal. Shiskine, on the island's west side, is a 12-hole course. And while some consider Lochranza to be one of the trickier courses, it's a favorite for those looking for stunning landscapes to go with the game.

To get a taste of each course, consider opting for the Arran Golf Pass. This affordable pass includes one round at each golf course over a 12-month span. All courses operate throughout the year except for Lochranza Golf Course, which is open between April through October.

12. Stay at a Charming Hotel or Bed and Breakfast

Belvedere Guest House
Belvedere Guest House | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The best way to experience the Isle of Arran is by spending the night. The ferry back and forth to the island makes it easy to stay longer, as does the plethora of accommodation. Many memorable lodgings, from historic hotels to charming B&Bs, add to the experience of island life.

Several of the best places to stay have a significant historical appeal. Places like The Douglas Hotel in Brodick incorporate modern decadence in a building dating to the 1700s.

Other notable hotels, like the Kinloch Hotel in Blackwaterfoot, have been family owned and operated for nearly 70 years.

Isle of Arran also has several hotels that provide a certain charm with more budget-friendly rates. The Belvedere Guest House in Brodick is a great example, featuring a limited number of rooms and a home-cooked breakfast.

The Corrie Hotel is also an excellent choice for value, approximately 6.5 miles north of the Brodick ferry terminal.