In case you missed it, we went to the Isle of Arran and fell completely ankles over teeth in love with both the island and the folk of Arran. We stayed for just one week, we should have booked three. Arran is one of the most beautiful Scottish islands we’ve visited. But it’s not even just that, the people are completely fantastic. There’s a good bit of craic to be found on Arran. Aye, you’ll see what I mean when you visit, but man, the folk of Arran are up there. It’s a right wee melting pot of the best of Scotland and I (and aye) loved it. So here are, based on our experience, 22 amazing things to do in Arran. All the best eats. All the great drinks and all the incredible places.
Where to eat in Arran
I don’t think I’ve experienced food like it. We’ve been all over, but the food on Arran is out of this world. I mean, I’d heard good things from the awesome locals, but like, it’s easy to build up yer island to unsuspecting tourists. But, they were right over and over again. The Isle of Arran is a foodie destination alone. We ate at as many local places as we could during our trip. In hindsight, it’s probably a good thing that we never booked three weeks or I’d have gained 2 stone. But then, I’d have probably walked or swum it all off on one of the hundreds of stunning walks or beaches. If you’re looking for things to do in Arran, start with the food and then book everything else around that.
The French Fox
In a wee blue van lies some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in Scotland. Like, this stuff was completely sensational. My other half and I just looked at each other as if to say, “is this stuff actually for real?” The French Fox does its own wee weekly tours of the island so you’ll have to look them up on Facebook or Instagram to find out where they are going to be, but you will not, even for a second, regret your choices.We wanted a right good taste of The French Fox so we ordered; a Croque Monsieur (which is basically the most incredible French sandwich you will ever eat), pork belly in a cider and leek sauce served with velvety mashed tatties and topped with crispy onions, and bavette steak with Parmentier potatoes, peppercorn sauce and again, topped with crispy onions. Everything should be topped with crispy onions.I can’t say it enough, the food at The French Fox in Arran is out of this world. Don’t believe me? Do it right now. In fact, do it yesterday.
Pretty much the first thing I do when I arrive just about anywhere coastal in Scotland is root out the local seafood. But Arran, again, hits different. Mara Fish is a lovely wee seafood cafe in Corrie, on the Isle of Arran. You need to order in advance because this place, rightly so, is in very high demand.
Mara is up there with The French Fox in its food offering. This is seafood on a whole other level. Both Mara Fish and The French Fox are well beyond their time in the best way possible and both are local treasures.
To get a good taste of Mara, we ordered squat lobster tails in a lime and chilli dressing, mussels in a tomato relish with kimchi, oysters because oysters are THE BEST and a couple of chunks of Blackwater Bakehouse bread. We sat by the shore in Corrie admiring the outrageous view. The tide was rising, the seals were kicking about loving life, as one does when visiting Arran, and the water was incredibly peaceful. Mara Fish man, I can’t speak highly enough.
And then there’s Little Rock. We ate here four times in a week whilst on Arran. Mostly because we boring mainlanders had never had a taste of a Biscoff milkshake and Little Rock doesn’t just “do them,” but it creates literal art with them. Those Biscoff milkshakes are an absolute game-changer. Someone back home said, “if you like them that much, why don’t you recreate them?” and honestly, nothing we could make would come close. Also, Little Rock milkshakes should be an occasion honey.Little Rock is based down in Brodick and does all kinds of food. It is about 5 minutes from the ferry terminal which makes it all too accessible, so it should be your first stop. The bakes are marvellous and the wee deli within the cafe restaurant sells our dog Corries favourite biscuits from the Arran Dog Bakery.
Side note because I have far too many emotions writing this post, I truly fell in love with Arran.
A local recommended The Ormidale to us for a wee bit of local craic. I love a bit of local craic so I had to pop by. The Ormidale is a cracking wee “come as you are” pub in Brodick that does really good, homely, comforting pub grub. You actually can’t beat some decent pub grub in a chilled-out atmosphere. The lady that served us was like an old friend, who was just buzzing to see us. Never knew her, but it didn’t matter. The welcome here was a 10. The steak pie and chips was a hearty 8 and the portion size was a 300. If you’re heading to Arran and want a wee bit of a flair for the local, head to The Ormidale. It was like something out of Local Hero, in the best way possible. I loved it.
Here’s one that could take home trophies for its toasties. Also, Janies is perfectly placed for visiting Arran Sense of Scotland and the Arran Cheese shop. Although I had given each of these places their own day on my itinerary as I hadn’t realised they were right next to each other. Must google addresses next time eh? Ugh, I loved being parked outside Janies in Van Heilan sniffing all my Arran Sense of Scotland wares and waiting for my toastie. With the sun shining down. It was bliss maaan.
Cheese from Arran
Who’d have known that the Isle of Arran is literally a home for good cheese? Like, whaaaaaat? I swear this little island is hitting from all angles. We visited the Arran Cheese shop when we were down in Brodick eating Janies out of toasties, but then we went up to Bellevue Farm near Blackwaterfoot later in the week and honestly, their cheese was insane too. When we eventually got back to the mainland, we just sat in the van in Troon with fairy lights on having the best Arran cheese night ever. Literally making really cheesy memories.
How to drink well on Arran
Look, how else am I supposed to word this? The booze on Arran is a cut above. We could be all classy about it and say “ah, I was partial to a small beverage during my time on the island.” But, I know you wanna know the real craic, and that is, loosen your belts my dears because there is an endless amount of locally made, locally sourced, really good booze on Arran. You may even purchase some with the sweet idea of taking it back to the mainland, but only one of my purchases made it here, *as she sits in Inverness eyeing her only surviving bottle of Arran Cassis.” So, here are the places you need to be to experience the best of Arran’s drinks offering.
“Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl…” In case you’re too young, that’s from Barry Manilow’s ‘Copacabana’ and that is exactly the kind of (albeit, slightly more Scottish) vibe I’m getting from Arran Botanicals. For the record, I did really good with my timing here, it was 24 degrees and I was very smug. Arran Botanicals is the most amazing little beach shack I’ve ever seen in Scotland. In fact, it’s an absolute lifestyle. I could easily see myself living here, to be honest, wonder if they’d have me?Arran Botanicals makes Arran Gin, Arran Cassis, and more recently, the only beer I’ve ever half enjoyed, a pilsner. Random, but fantastic. The brilliant Stuart of Arran Botanicals did a wee tasting with me during my visit and he is an absolute credit to the island. He has achieved something very special with Arran Botanicals, from the foraging and use of locally sourced ingredients to create amazing local produce, to creating the coolest little hangout on Arran. If you haven’t been to Arran Botanicals, you best do that because this is one of the coolest places on Arran.
Arran Whisky at Lochranza Distillery
And it wouldn’t exactly be an Aye Life visit if there wasn’t whisky. So we did whisky right at Lochranza Distillery. I’ve seen a fair few whiskies in my time, and a fair few bonnie distilleries. But of all the ones I’ve seen, I don’t think many match the phenomenal scenery at Lochranza Distillery. The mountainous backdrop is dramatic and inherently Scottish, the whisky inside is also dramatic and inherently Scottish.We had a fantastic wee tour, followed by a whisky and chocolate tasting with Peter, the distillery manager. Peter is a tonic, if you happen to meet him during the visit, you’ll love him. He was so welcoming and patient with me. Patience with me is recommended, especially when whisky is involved. I’m nae as much of an avid whisky drinker as my other half, but I love a tasting. Paired with James of Arran chocolates, this tasting was fabulous. Arran Whisky is fantastic at sharing stories of old, and the history of smuggling on the island, I absolutely loved Lochranza Distillery. The gift shop is dangerous though, prepare to leave with a couple of bottles of Arran Gold at a bare minimum.If you are looking for things to do in Arran that revolve around history, whisky, and good craic, get yourself up to Lochranza Distillery for some whisky and chocolate pairings. Life. Affirming.
On the other side of the island from Lochranza Distillery, lies its sister, Lagg Distillery. Lagg is a shiny new distillery that specialises in peaty whisky. This initially gave me the fear because “I don’t like peaty whisky.” Ha, what a laugh. It isn’t like I was enjoying every second of comparing peaty whiskies at Lagg Distillery… Who knew? If you “don’t like peaty whisky,” I recommend visiting Lagg Distillery. Your tune will soon change.Lagg was a really good introduction to peaty whisky and made me realise that what I thought was a really peaty whisky, is in fact, very palatable and barely peaty. Yes, Lagg messed with my head, but I enjoyed every minute. I also don’t know what I thought I did about peaty whisky. As Lagg is still a very young distillery, it has a very exciting future ahead and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us.
We picked up a bottle of Arran Gold when we were visiting Arran Whisky in Lochranza. It makes all the sense in the world to pick up a bottle of this stuff when you see it because it is utter perfection. Arran Gold is a beautifully creamy liqueur, similar to Baileys but better. It is made with cream and Arran Whisky, it smells like toffee, and it tastes delicately chocolatey. This is one of the best cream liqueurs on the market but, be warned, it is very easy to drink. Very. We picked up one bottle on Arran, thinking we would take it back to the mainland and it would last many wintery nights by the wood-burner. It didn’t even make it back on the ferry. So, stock up on Arran Gold.
Must-Visit Things to do in Arran
Asides from basically everything I’ve mentioned so far falling into things to do in Arran in their own right, there are also some other lovely things to do on the island (we’ve barely scratched the surface too). Arran really has it all. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time when visiting this diverse Scottish island, as you will leave wanting to come back.
Arran Sense of Scotland Factory Tour
You simply cannot visit the Isle of Arran without visiting the Arran Sense of Scotland shop. It helps that it is conveniently located right next to both the Arran Cheese Shop and Janie’s Cafe. You could easily spend a morning doing all three. But Arran Sense of Scotland hits different. That shop really is an island paradise; between the luxurious scents and palette of uplifting colours, the aptly named rich lotions, washes, and candles, each representing a slice of Arran, and the lovely staff on hand to help you, you could really go wild in here. There is also a handwashing station where you can test a variety of scents. Which I really did.I was lucky enough to make it into the factory for a wee tour. Hairnet donned and curiosity becoming of me, I headed in for a look behind the scenes of Arran Sense of Scotland. What surprised me, for such a renowned Scottish brand, was the amount of work still being done manually by folk on the island. The factory isn’t big, or not as big as I expected, but the production that takes place there is incredible. I knew I was heading away with a few bits from Arran Sense of Scotland, because I love their lotions and potions, but the staff had also put together a goody bag for me, so I was well and truly spoilt. I saw the process through from creation, to production, to shop floor, to my van. Most people would say “my house” at this point but I’ve definitely been erring on the wild side for a good few years now.
If you’re looking for something different to do on Arran, I recommend going on a wee trek with an alpaca at Arran Alpacas. It’s random, it’s different, but it’s such a lovely thing to do. There is a lot more to alpacas than meets the eye and the alpacas on Arran are packed with tons of personality. They’re also super floofy, so if you were wondering whether wee pets were on the cards, they very much are, once you get to know the alpacas that is.I trekked with Lomond, a bonnie white alpaca, and my other half trekked with Gordy, which was pretty hilarious as Gordy didn’t take to Scott initially, so listening to Scott trying to buddy up an alpaca was hilarious. This is a great way to spend an afternoon on Arran, walking around a lovely wee farm with your new Alpaca pal.
Bellevue Farm Tours
We met with Ailsa, a Scotland Food & Drink Ambassador, who has Bellevue Farm near Blackwaterfoot on Arran. Ailsa is an inspiration. Not only has she got an amazing location on the island, but there are lots of different animals there, and when we visited, there was even a baby alpaca! There are also rescued donkeys, lots of goats, pigs, cattle, and even turkeys! She grows and rears all kinds of foods but more than that, she shares her vast knowledge with visitors on her Bellevue Farm Tours, which is becoming increasingly more important as a lot of folk these days don’t know much about farming. I knew bits but certainly nowhere near as much as Ailsa does so it was really fascinating to get that kind of insight.When we arrived at the farm, it was a lovely sunny afternoon, and we spoke all the way along the farm tour about all of the different animals, and the things that the farm does to help create sustainable practice.For me, it was a great excuse to meet lots of lovely animals. I mean, just look how delighted I am here. You can’t buy that kind of joy. Ailsa also has holiday lets on the farm and honestly, what a perfect place to wake up in the morning, before exploring this marvellous Scottish island.
Driftwood Gift Shop
If you’re a coastal fanatic like I am (if you’re on a Scottish island, chances are you’re a lover of the coast), you’ll probably fall head over heels for this adorable little shop in Brodick. It’s right next to Little Rock in Brodick so if you’re stopping by for one of those Biscoff milkshakes, get into Driftwood for a look around. I live in a van, so I have to be conscious of space, but I still walked away with a wooden sealife garland. I could have had everything in Driftwood, their wares are beautiful, and the owner is lovely too.
Must-See Things to do in Arran
Along with endless things to do, places to eat and drink on Arran, and shops to pick up souvenirs, there is, possibly the best part of Arran, its incredible landscape. Often described as “Scotland in miniature,” Arran is just that. It represents much of Scotland’s mainland landscape in a small island parcel. But there is so much to see. We tried to get past as many places as possible, but more so we could plan longer visits in the future. It really is amazing. Check out the places we visited during our trip before planning your visit to Arran.
Lochranza Castle is a striking ruin that dominates the bay of Lochranza. With a backdrop of dramatic mountainous terrain and the rolling seas surrounding the castle, this is one of the most spectacular locations on the island.
Machrie Moor Standing Stones
Walking to Machrie Moor is like walking back in time. The landscape switches from farming to barren moor over 2 miles, and the stones themselves stand on Machrie Moor, surrounded by rolling hills. The landscape includes standing stones, burial cairns, stone circles, and hut circles, all dating to between 3500 and 1500 BC. The stones are associated with religious activity dating back around 4500 years. Cremation and inhumation burials were placed in the circles, years after they were first built. If you are a fan of Outlander, the Machrie Moor Standing Stones are a little like that, but on a whole other level.
Sunset at Imachar
Imachar, on the east side of Arran, faces over to Mull of Kintyre and on a clear night, the sunset can be incredible. The snorkelling on Arran is impressive, with a no-take zone set up by local charity COAST, creators of the Arran Snorkel Trail. Imachar boasts amazing underwater rock formations. I went snorkelling with a friend on the island, the lovely Jess MacDonald who is a local jeweller, and we found what looked like an underwater rock bath. Make sure to check the tides if you are planning snorkelling on Arran.
Kildonan Beach for Ailsa Craig, Pladda and Sanda
Home to the sensational Mara Fish, Corrie is a beautiful little village on Arran. With amazing views from the rocky coast, lots of resident seals, and great food to be found at Mara, it is absolutely worth stopping by Corrie for some R&R, paired with magical island views. We sat and ate our Mara haul on a wonderfully still afternoon, the sea was like a blanket of glass.
Catacol and the 12 Apostles
Catacol is a small settlement on the North West side of Arran, a few miles from Lochranza. The settlement takes its name from Old Norse, meaning ‘the gully of the cat,’ possibly referring to the wildcats that may have roamed there years ago. Catacol is situated at the bottom of Glen Catacol which is a steep valley through which the Abhainn Mor flows.When we visited, it was so I could see The Twelve Apostles, a prominent row of 12 cottages with a very interesting story. These cottages were built in the 1860s to house the people who were cleared from the surrounding countryside to make way for deer and hunting. The idea was that these former farmers that were evicted from their land would turn to fishing, and with this in mind, each cottage was given a differently shaped window on the first floor. This was so the woman of the household could light a candle in the window to signal to their husband who was fishing on the Firth of Clyde. They would know it was their wife by the candlelit shape they could spot from the sea. In reality, most of the crofters moved to other parts of the island to protest their eviction and the cottages stayed empty for years.
There is a small beach in the main village of Brodick, where the ferry arrives and departs from. On a still night, it looks like a picture. It’s also an amazing place to spot the sunset or sunrise, and to watch the ferry arriving from the mainland. If you time it just right, you could visit The French Fox for dinner, and enjoy it on the beach. Make sure to check where The French Fox will be on the island when you are visiting.
Lamlash & The Holy Isle
We had a life-affirming afternoon down at Lamlash on a sunny and still afternoon. The water was like velvet, so the visibility was crystal clear, which made it a perfect time to go snorkelling. The views to The Holy Isle from Lamlash are incredible and they are even better from the water. Be warned though, you might become a full-time mermaid like me.
We loved Arran so much! There is just so much to do on this awesome island, and we barely scratched the surface. I think this post will get bigger over time but at the moment, it certainly gives you an idea of all the fantastic things to do in Arran. If you are looking for further information on planning your trip, check out Visit Arran. If you are a business or activity on Arran and would like to say hello before our next visit, contact us.