Day two of our trip to Arran, off the west coast of Scotland, began early the next morning, just before the soft amber haze of the rising sun. We were keen to get outside to the lake to watch the sunrise before breakfast. Complete silence greeted us, the long grass blades tipped with frost and the water still except for the swans, gracefully gliding along. That magical golden hour as the sun is rising over the horizon is a photographers dream and we spent a while taking photographs as the orangy light of dawn cast a glow over the surrounding fields and cottages.
With numb toes and icy fingers we headed indoor to the cosy dining room where we were served a delicious breakfast of hot traditional porridge, fruit and hot croissants, followed by a full Scottish breakfast which was more than enough but very tasty all the same and eliminated any need for lunch.
Even though there was a still a slight chill in the air the sun was out and we drove down the west coast of Arran. We stayed overnight at Lochside Arran, a B+B near Blackfootwater and it didn’t take much driving before the dramatic, rough landscape of the north transformed into rolling lush green fields reminiscent of the beautiful Scottish Borders. Quirky little villages with white stonewashed cottages, handmade signs letting visitors know they have eggs for sale, colourful fishing boats sitting idly in the gardens waiting for warmer weather.
We took a spontaneous right turn on the look out for a picturesque beach and like mother nature had granted our wish we were delivered precisely what we asked for. The village of Kildonan, on the south coast of Arran, is named after Saint Donan who is thought to have lived here in the sixth century and is buried there. The remains of Kildonan Castle can still be seen in a garden in the village, albeit ivy-clad and rather unstable. The stunning white sand beach runs the length of the village and has devine views over to the smaller islands of Pladda and Ailsa Craig. With high hills behind you as you stand looking out to sea, with hazel brown and auburn sea cliffs to your right, jutting out into the water, and a seemingly never ending stretch of flawless sand to your left I defy you not to sit on a rock and breath in the salt air, listening out for the water lapping and the not so distant moan of the seals. Mmmm.
A little further along we reached Whiting bay, one of Arran’s main villages (along with Brodick and Lamlash) which has some of the grandest houses on the island. Near the south of the village, over the bridge, is the start of a two hour circular walk which takes you passed the spectacular Glenashdale Falls to the Giants Graves. With two viewing platforms the 130 foot waterfall drops first into a plunge pool before dropping again into the river below. The Giants Graves are further on along a forest path and the walk involves some fairly steep steps but if your able it’s worth the fairly easy hike. Your reward? Two chambers, Bronze aged Horned Galley graves. With the surrounding mound worn away the upright jumble of stones still visible tower over a central depression in the ground, lined with smaller stones. A slightly eerie and mysterious atmosphere was felt that day on top of that hill and I left feeling peaceful and untroubled. The fact I slid on my butt on the way back down rather ruined the moment.
Further up the coast is Lamlash, with another lovely beach, this time with views over to the Holy Isle, which you can visit in the summer by ferry from Lamlash beach.
The relaxing road around this section is hugely different to the north, feeling much more luscious and green and somehow softer.
We stopped in Brodick for a cuppa at Little Rock which looks out over the water with Goat Fell in the distance. The idea of a coffee was swiftly disregarded when I caught sight of the milkshake and hot chocolate menu however and we were treated to what can only be described as heaven in a glass. I indulged in a steamy, thick hot chocolate topped with fluffy mini marshmallows and a chocolate twirl while my daughter feasted on a chocolate milkshake topped with chocolate and toffee sauce and chunks of delicious twix biscuits. Modern and new this cafe has beautiful views of Goatfell, contrasting comically with the palm trees lining the waterfront. After a quick look around the independent shops we decided to head back to Arran Aromatics. I’d heard rumours of a sale and wouldn’t be able to forget it until I checked it out for myself. Lucky for me the rumours were true and I walked out with some soapy goodness at a quarter of the price!
After spotting some seals earlier that morning we had another encounter with one of Arran’s “Big Five”, this time in the form of two very cute baby red squirrels. As my daughter is quite the wildlife fan this was a continuous theme of our time in Arran. Unfortunately the golden eagle and the otters were nowhere to be found but as we drove once more around Lochranza, then past the Distillery we were thrilled to see the mighty stag, chomping at the neatly kept green by the golf course.
This island really does feel like Scotland in miniature. With just enough to see and do to keep everyone enthralled but not enough to make it seem touristy, this gem of an island has shot to the top of my list of places to return to. The short ferry time, the great range of accommodation and the ease of navigating the island itself mean if you want to get away for a few days or if you want to add an island into your Scottish Itinerary I can highly recommend Arran.
You can read about the first part of my Arran trip at Part 1