As I write this article on where to eat on Arran, I’m sitting at a picnic bench in a wee Arran settlement named Corrie (like our dog). I have a sparkling creeping tide to the left of me and colossal and magnificent hills to my right. Here I am, stuck in the middle with words. Words that no matter how hard I try, cannot do the Isle of Arran enough justice. Of all the Scottish islands we have visited, Arran is one that we could really see ourselves settling down on. Visiting during the Arran Festival of Food and Drink and trying out some of the best places to eat on Arran, has only added to our love for this historic and geologically fascinating Scottish Island.
Places to Eat and Drink on the Isle of Arran
Go to Arran for the magnificent views, incredible geology, mountain and coastal walks, crystal clear swims and snorkels, but stay for the amazing food and drink scene inspired by the natural beauty and escapism of a landscape millions of years old. The Isle of Arran is often referred to as “Scotland in Miniature” as, like mainland Scotland, the Highland Boundary Fault has divided the island into Highland and lowland areas.
Arran just has so much to offer! The people are grand, the landscape is outrageously beautiful, the island’s entrepreneurial spirit is in full flow and the clarity of the water for snorkelling and diving is but a dream. But Arran really comes to life in its iconic food and drink scene. Whilst we covered some of the many things to do on Arran on our last September visit (getting to be a tradition you know), this time we visited the island during the Arran Festival of Food and Drink and here are 19 of our best places to eat on Arran.
Mara Fish Bar & Deli, Corrie
Go here for fresh, local, Scottish seafood with creative twists around every corner, and lovely coastal views. The first stop on our grand tour of places to eat on Arran, for the Arran Festival of Food and Drink, was Mara Fish Bar & Deli.
How often do you get stuck into a king scallop paired with orange caviar and a dashi broth? I mean, seriously. Mara’s offering for the Arran Festival of Food and Drink was a seafood platter featuring locally landed, Scottish and island seafood, exotically paired with flavours from around the world. We enjoyed mussels topped with Nduja sausage and rosemary, potted langoustines, Arran scallops, oysters from the Isle of Gigha, lobster Thermador (but not as you know it), house-cured mackerel and the finest chips there ever did was!Mara Seafood has become a true Arran establishment with locals’ eyes lighting up at the sheer mention of it. When we first visited and enjoyed squat lobsters with the best of Arran’s baking from Blackwater Bakehouse, on the calmest late Summer night, I knew we were destined for each other (aye, me and the fish, nae me and my OH, but that applies also, awww).
For kicking off our week of Arran eating, we have to give Mara a 10 for its creativity and attention to sustainability and locally sourced seafood. Get booking folks as Mara has to be one of the best seafood places to eat on Arran.
Auchrannie Resort, Brodick
Go here for cosy comfort food with a touch of sophistication in plush Scottish surroundings. Auchrannie is Scotland’s first employee-owned hotel which further adds to the strong sense of community on Arran.
If you’re looking for places to eat in Brodick, try Auchrannie for size. The resort has two restaurants; Brambles Seafood and Grill, and Cruize Bar and Brasserie. We had breakfast in Cruize and I fell in love with a simple locally-sourced breakfast on the balcony after a swim in the spa resort pool.During the Arran Festival of Food and Drink, we attended Auchrannie’s Rising Stars, an ode to Scottish hospitality and its endless opportunities, and to engage the younger generation to get hands-on and consider a career in Scotland’s ever-growing outstanding food and drink scene. We enjoyed our meal in the Auchrannie House Hotel which is beautifully decorated in a traditional Scottish country lodge manner. Featuring tartans, cow skin and antler lamps, majestic artwork, and plush seating throughout.
Rising Stars saw students of Arran High School take over one of a number of the Auchrannie kitchens to serve a crowd made up of absolutely beaming parents and random folks like us. Proceeds went to the Arran Youth Foundation and Arran High School and they raised just under £1400.
We enjoyed crowd pleasers such as Haggis Scotch Eggs with a Honey Mustard Mayo and Chicken Supreme with potato fondant and foraged wild mushrooms. We noticed that right across the board, Arran restaurants were honouring seasonal ingredients. Dessert was an oozy chocolate brownie with Arran Dairy Crème Fraiche ice cream and honeycomb. This was a cut above Home Economics in my day, which makes me wonder… If we could give more young folk these opportunities, could we cultivate the next generation of legendary Scottish chefs? At a time when Scotland’s hospitality industry is facing increasing challenges, this seemed like a great way to engage young folk in this country’s fantastic food offering.
Blackwater Bakehouse/The Bread Shed, Blackwaterfoot
Go here for the best pastry you’ll ever have in Scotland and I’m going to die on that hill.
I’m going to recommend you get an almond croissant because those things are outrageous, and a cinnamon knot is bang tidy ‘n all, but if you really did come to play, you’re going to need to get your “pains” on an almond pain au chocolat. You’re going to want to enjoy this warm, straight out of the oven, so be there for opening time. I think I cried. They are glorious. It’s kind of making me doubt the idea of settling down on Arran because I would need to be physically restrained most of the time. The Bakehouse is one of the best places to eat on Arran, grab yourself a pastry and hit the beach.Having recently travelled to Paris and having visited one too many a boulangerie, I can confidently say that Blackwater Bakehouse rivals even the best Paris-made pastry. Named a Travellers Choice for 2021 by TripAdvisor for a reason, Blackwater Bakehouse makes its home in Blackwaterfoot on the South West side of Arran. They are open from Tuesday to Saturday from 11am until they’ve sold out and operate The Bread Shed which works similarly to an honesty box.
This is another must-visit Arran establishment that seems to put a twinkle in a local’s eye. Blackwater Bakehouse can do no wrong. We picked up an array of goodies following a successful cheese and wine night in the van near the Arran ferry port in Ardrossan last year which heavily featured Blackwater Bakehouse. Don’t ask, random but class.
Café Thyme, Machrie
Go here for a burst of Turkish flavours, a colossal tea selection and magnificent views of the Druid Standing Stone, the sea and the Mull of Kintyre.
Cafe Thyme, owned by Lorna and her husband Hamza, is another great eatery with sustainability and creativity at the heart, but this will become clear when you visit Arran. Amongst the many amazing things to do on the island, you’ll find that the food on Arran is quite literally, a cut above. Cafe Thyme is yet another example of this. Tucked away in an unassuming location on the west side of Arran, you’ll find Cafe Thyme at The Old Byre, perched in amongst rolling green hills with classic sea views. The Old Byre has a showroom, shoe shop, play park and cafe.But this is a far cry from the standard “soup and a toastie” you might expect from a Scottish country showroom (no offence to the soup and toasties). Cafe Thyme admittedly dares to be different, a dare that pays off in a creative and enticing menu. Hamza has hand-built a Turkish wood-burning pizza oven and in there he makes some of the finest flatbreads and “pides,” or Turkish pizzas, we’ve ever known. If you like a thin and crispy stone-baked pizza, well, let’s just say this place will open your eyes to new possibilities. We enjoyed the Arran Festival of Food and Drink favourite, Haggis and Cheese, but the chicken, thyme and vegetable pide was elite. The pides also look like boats. And I like boats.Lorna and Hamza grow their own vegetables and salad and use Scottish produce as much as possible, they also have a vast selection of ethically sourced teas, which is a lovely touch. Find classics such as spiced chai and nettle and unique flavours such as spiced pumpkin pie.
The French Fox, Everywhere
Go here for the best food van experience in Scotland, challenge me, I dare you.
I am still waiting for the day that The French Fox gets something wrong because seriously, their food is one of my top 10 foodie experiences in Scotland. And all out of a van… You’d be amazed at the ingenuity that can come out of a van these days. The French Fox is a wee mint green Peugeot J7 van that cruises around Arran creating some of the best France-meets-Scotland food than there is on this here earth. We’ve made their Croque Monsieurs an actual tradition. We also visited Paris recently and at no point did we find a Croque Monsieur that had even 10% on The French Fox. Honestly, a thing of beauty is a joy forever. They also do beautiful beef, pork and veggie dishes and the best profiteroles going.
On this particular trip to Arran, we enjoyed a Croque at Bellevue Farmers Market (which was also a class act) but honestly, if TFF needs a roadie, I’m down. If you are planning on visiting The French Fox for some of the finest Arran food, make sure you check them out on Facebook or Instagram as they have wheels and you don’t want to miss out.
Arran Botanicals, Cladach Beach House, Brodick
Go here for foraged spirits and beers, uninterrupted coastal views, beautiful cocktails on a sandy beach or coorie nights in by a cosy fire.
We love Arran Botanicals and their fantastic and unique approach to island life. This is so clear across all of the great places to eat and drink on Arran. You will never find one like another, they are all different, inspiring and exciting. Arran Botanicals is on a beach with an immense view of the sea, and the folk that own it are pure salt of the earth, quite literally, as they forage for the ingredients to make their gin, cassis and beer. You might spot the Arran Botanicals crew out on the road with their horsebox bar, say hi, these folks are some of the good guys and have created something both sustainable and unique on the diverse Arran Coastline. This is one of the best places on Arran to drink delicious and inventive cocktails, admire the sea views and, well, to just be. We paired our visit to Arran Botanicals with a Number 16 Arran pop-up for the Arran Festival of Food and Drink.P.S. Did I mention cocktails on the beach? No? Well, cocktails on the beach.
Number 16 Arran Pop-Up, Everywhere
Go here for casual fine dining with original concepts and creativity.
If you happen to be visiting the island at a time when Number 16 Arran is doing a pop-up, it’s apparently sacrilege if you don’t go. I don’t know who is more proud of Number 16 Arran, Number 16 or the locals. Number 16 Arran has earned itself a sterling reputation for its imaginative approach to food and it’s safe to say, it has a solid fanbase. And rightly so if our cocktail and canape night at Arran Botanicals was anything to go by.
Number 16 also has a much-loved restaurant on Glasgow’s Byres Road offering creative fine dining. The owners Joel Pomfret and Gerry Mulholland are both originally from Arran so they’ve brought a bit of Number 16’s fine dining to the island with pop-ups and home deliveries. We just missed a Number 16 Arran pop-up last time we visited the island but managed to swing by for canapes this time. Hoping by the time we return next year we will catch a starter and then by 2024, the main course. From what every other person I’ve spoken to says, it’s worth the waiting.
Go here for a modern approach to Scottish traditions in both whisky and food.
Our tour at Lagg was great, we did the tasting last year, but this year was a tour of the working distillery, a film projected onto the floor depicting Arran’s incredible geology and history, a wee taster of the new make spirit and then some tastings of Machrie Moor made at Lagg’s older sister distillery in Lochranza. We were a few days too early for a Lagg release tasting but I’ll happily sail off with a bottle in hand.It is well worth visiting both Lagg Distillery and Lochranza Distillery, both are in the same league but with totally different experiences. We enjoyed a fine lunch in Lagg Distillery as did we have a lovely lunch at Lochranza last year. My September’s are turning into an Arran dedication and really, I’m so okay with this.
As I write this part of our Arran Food and Drink guide, I actually have one eye on the lorry that’s just arrived at Lagg distillery with Lagg’s first release whisky. We finished our tour with a cool 6 hours free (rare) so here I am, sitting in my pyjamas, on the bed in the van, watching the minutes roll down to 6.30pm so I can haul myself into Lagg for a bottle of first release Lagg whisky. I am so excited! The funny thing is; that we have picked ourselves up some pretty cool bottles this year. Firstly, a Singleton special release to mark the opening of the DIAGEO Home of Singleton, then the first release of Islay Rum in the distillery and now the first release of Lagg bourbon-casked whisky. Feeling pretty smug if I do say so myself. There is nothing better than a good bottle of Scotland and if my job happens to fall in line with Scottish spirits investment then that will just have to do.
The Douglas Hotel, Brodick
Go here for award-winning but casual fine dining, marvellous views, and seasonal and locally-sourced produce.
I ordered the seafood linguine for my main with a lovely glass of Chardonnay and the most carbs I’ve eaten since April but oh my, was it worth it?! The linguine was gorgeous, with lovely seafood; squid, mussels and prawns caressed generously in a creamy sauce with a chilli oil hit. My other half had Piri Piri glazed Hake which was beautifully cooked, tender and sweet with a spicy kick. The staff at The Douglas Hotel were lovely too. But the problem is, now I need to see the rooms. Because if the food is anything to go by… We did, however, make the mistake of ordering steak-loaded fries, I mean, not my worst mistake, but the portion was the size of the actual table and we were already a starter down with our mains plonked next to it. We could have held off on the fries, but they were so good that I’m glad we never, catch 22 really. Would I take it back? Would I ‘ell. Besides, none of our leftovers went to waste, turns out our dogs love Heritage carrots… provided they’re doused in a jus. Posh dogs putting us to shame.We loved The Douglas Hotel and are itching to stay there, it really is an island getaway yet only a stone’s throw from the ferry terminal to the mainland and the food, like Arran does so well, was fabulous.
Blackwaterfoot Lodge, Blackwaterfoot
Go here for quality pub grub with the locals in a village with a belter of a beach and bakehouse.
Looking for somewhere to eat on Arran that’s a bit more casual with that local feel? Try Blackwaterfoot Lodge for size. We headed along for their Battle of the Burgers event during the Arran Festival of Food and Drink and really Blackwaterfoot Lodge is all you need for a full belly, a smile on your face and a reason to return. We got stuck into Korean chicken burgers; crispy twisty battered chicken with a sweet sauce and those baked burger buns that look a wee bit golden and crunchy. Could be mistaken for brioche, maybe they were, but I’m not sure because Arran does baking way better than me.
We met up with our friend Jess at Jess MacDonald Brass for a cheeky wee nightcap in one of the lounges. I said it then and I’ll say it again, I could have easily stayed in that lounge chucking the world to rights with a fine Arran gin or two. For more relaxed places to eat on Arran, get along to Blackwaterfoot Lodge, a class wee hotel with fine pub grub.
The Glenisle Hotel, Lamlash
Go here for a pint in the beer garden overlooking the Holy Isle and hearty comfort food in Scottish surroundings.
Sticking with those chilled-out vibes on where to eat on Arran, we have The Glenisle Hotel in Lamlash. The hotel enjoys front-facing views of the Holy Isle, a picturesque harbour and the sea. The Glenisle Hotel itself has been renovated in recent years and you can tell. With multiple cosy wee reading nooks throughout and a coorie Scottish interior, the Glenisle is a grand place to spend an afternoon, come rain or shine. They have a lovely beer garden too, as we Scots know how to celebrate the sun. We didn’t see the rooms but have heard good things from folk on the island; the OG Arran ambassadors.We headed along to the food festival’s beer and BBQ event and enjoyed sitting out in the beer garden with a fine view, a grand Arran gin and a cracking feed off the BBQ. Seagate Brewery was also there and hot on the samples with their foraged and collaborative range of island beers.
Brodick Brasserie, Brodick
Go here for fantastic fine dining (island style), seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients and the best Autumn/Winter cocktail you ever did see.
Before we go any further, I think we need to discuss the absolute requirement of ordering a Heavenly Angel cocktail. Disaronno, vodka, nutmeg, cream and desiccated coconut flutter together in a land of dreams with this winter warmer. I haven’t had a better Autumn/Winter cocktail, but I’ll wait. I enjoyed this beautiful cocktail before I even ordered my starter and what a cosy way to start a meal in coorie surroundings with a great feed ahead. We had intended on ordering the Arran Festival of Food and Drink’s tasting menu, but they were sold out when we arrived, which I think is more a testament than I could ever give you.
Instead, I enjoyed a beautiful halibut dish, sourced from the Isle of Gigha and paired with pea and truffle puree, leeks, morels, pea gnocchi, dill split butter, Granny Smith apple and a crispy oyster. This was a perfect marriage of textures with a gentle but alluring sophistication found in only a confident and forward-thinking chef. My better half ordered the fillet of beef with celeriac and truffle puree, Lanark blue mousse, pommes Anna and a red wine jus. Both courses were fantastic, comforting and accessible, but again, forward-thinking and using sustainable ingredients.
Dessert was a mascarpone & Grand Marnier mousse, honey, dill, orange, and almond ice cream paired with a Grand Marnier Mimosa, supreme.Head chef Timur Unal recently won the Most Inspirational Young Person Award from Scotland Food and Drink. How he can be in his 20s and have that level of knowledge and incredible way with flavour, defeats me. We can’t wait to see what’s ahead for this talented young chef.
We loved what the Brodick Brasserie had to offer both in terms of its menu and the overall welcoming feel of the restaurant. Although fine dining, it still felt somewhat relaxed. The staff were lovely and couldn’t have done enough to help. I’ve added Brodick Brasserie’s eating experience to one of my all-time favourites and one of the best places to eat in Arran, whether the Heavenly Angel had anything to do with it, well, we are just going to have to go back and find out.
The Shack, Everywhere
Go here for another great food van but not as you know it. These food vans on Arran are doing bits.
This was a new one for us but I swear we scoured the length of the island and every second person would say, “oh have you been to *insert food*?” and we would check our itinerary of 1 million places to eat on Arran and low and behold it didn’t cover their suggestion. This good food on Arran just goes on and on and on! So we were like “FFS, here we go” and would then map out yet another amazing place to eat to add to our itinerary so that it got to the point we ate in at least 5 extra places cause the locals loved them and I’m the one who is supposed to be an influencer. Influencer, my backside, the folk of Arran are the real influencers, and without even knowing it, ambassadors for their island. And I love to see it.
We ordered king prawns in chilli jam from The Shack at Bellevue Farmer’s Market and when I say this was far more incredible than we thought it would be, I really mean it. It sounds kind of simple, but sometimes the simplest foods are the best and in this case, wow. Absolute marriage of flavours, hats off to The Shack who we couldn’t resist, no matter how hard we tried.
Bellevue Farmers Market, Blackwaterfoot
Go here because this island farmers’ market could warm the cockles of even the coldest heart. This was so wholesome, but also just really good and stinking of community spirit. I felt proud to be an Arran-er and I’m not even from Arran.
Found out upon leaving Arran (I’m moving back), that Bellevue is hosting a barn dance as part of the festival and bless my soul, I am so ready for a barn dance. All these years of not barn dancing but watching barn dances on American TV Shows, I feel like I’d kill it. Stone dead. But what a time I’d have trying. My other half described Bellevue as a mini Highland (or island) games and I’m inclined to agree. Alongside The Arran Pipe Band and the Arran Youth Pipe Band (which were fabulous, but remind me to stop crying when I hear either Highland Cathedral or Flower of Scotland), there was also an omelette contest and a turkey race. Yes, a turkey race. Along with lots of local stalls selling crafts, doggie sweeties from the Arran Dog Bakery, beers and fresh produce. I bought a beanie with wolf ears on it from Gleann Co and I’m not sorry. Even if it was a child’s size. Because why be average when you can be a wolf? A-woooooo.
Bellevue is the product of Ailsa Currie who is a Scotland Food and Drink Ambassador and from visiting Bellevue both for a farm tour and again for the farmers market, we could really see why. She is a champion of sustainability and educational farming and she rears and sells her own meats, including goat. But you’ve goat to see it to believe it. Ailsa is an inspiration in her work, but she doesn’t know it, which makes her more of an inspiration. Team Ailsa FTW.Attending the Farmers Market were The French Fox (Croque’s from the gods), The Shack (champion of chilli jam prawns) and Arran Botanicals (don’t tell anyone but you’re my favourite ;). Robin Gray’s island cooking was also there but I didn’t have either room in my belly or cash. Something to look forward to on a return trip methinks.
The Parlour, Brodick
Go here for elite pizza and 700 flavours of Arran Dairy ice cream (not 700 but you only need 3 because Arran Dairy is the one)
We had to include this one, even though we have zero photos because we ate it on a bench in the dark. Long story. The Parlour wasn’t in our original plans but the lassie from Crofters recommended it and we couldn’t really let her down now, could we? Also, a tip for going anywhere; listen to what the locals say. Our itinerary for visiting the island pretty much covered around 14 different places to eat so we were pretty much running around the island with a camera swinging from one hand, a drone from the other and crumbs from the last eatery adorning our coats, but we did have an extra day with a ton of van-based work to do so we picked up some Parlour pizzas. Remind me to stop justifying myself ffs. But… the pizzas were unreal and just as Arran does well, creative. The waiting time was steep, and we booked in advance, but the pizzas were worth the wait. We shared a Bianca white pizza featuring more of those wild Arran mushrooms, and a pepperoni. Both pizzas were unreal. Just if you’re passing…
Go here for the Scottish island pub and restaurant you’ve been waiting for since you first discovered Skerryvore.
Ocht, stop it. As if this could be any further up my alley. I’m sorry if you’re reading Arran business folks, but Crofters did for me what jam does to a cocktail, sweet distraction. The food at Crofters was cosy, warming, flavoursome and comforting but the atmosphere was a 10. Considering we visited on a Monday afternoon outwith the school holidays, I’d say that is no mean feat. Perhaps it was the Skerryvore, the Skippinish and the Tide Lines, perhaps it was the fact that we were greeted with the resident collie (be still, I nearly had another dog) or perhaps it was the young lassie behind the bar practicing her hand at a funky cocktail or two, but I loved Crofters. This doesn’t discount the rest of the eateries on Arran, it’s just that Crofters has my vibes. I do love a wee Scottish tune or two and a dog, so they had me from the get-go. Crofters is definitely one of the best places to eat on Arran for folk music lovers.Crofters also makes its spirits and jam and lots of other bits and bobs on site and that’s cause if you visit Arran then you can hardly leave without a Crofters jam. It would be an affront to Scottish tourism (a joke, this is a joke, we welcome all tourists). Long live Crofters.
The Old Pier Cafe, Lamlash
Go here for rockstar cakes with a belter of a view.
You can hardly visit Lamlash without both a snorkel in the No-Take-Zone and a coffee and “fine piece” (spikkin the Aberdonian there), in The Old Pier Cafe. You don’t have to be mad enough to swim in the No-Take-Zone but take it (or don’t take it) from me, there is a world of colour under there that is truly beautiful. The more I write, the more I’m convincing myself that I love Arran, although I didn’t need much convincing.
When I grew up in the Highlands, I’d maybe get a Victoria Sponge or a fancy crispy cake from a local cafe. I used to get them after my Highland Dancing competitions if I didn’t arse-up the Highland Fling. True story. But Arran’s cafe’s hit different and The Old Pier Cafe is the same drill. We actually visited last year for the pure joy of it. Their cakes are a warm hug on a day for coorie-ing as much as they are the perfect picnic for a sunny day. Head here to start, end or sweeten up your day.
Go here for hefty portions of pub food and rock and pop bingo with the locals and discerning tourists.
I could hardly write up a best places to eat on Arran post without including The Ormidale now, could I? We didn’t get the time to visit on this trip because we were eating the island dry, but we did visit last year on the recommendation of a local (they know the script folks) and the food was a class act. Simple, effective pub food in big portions tasting, to quote my Aberdonian pals, “affa fine.” They also do a rock and pop bingo night which is exactly how it sounds, folk get right into it though, and it’s a laugh, something different eh?
Don’t miss out on The Ormidale, it’s a traditional Scottish pub with comfort food and local banter.
Places to Eat on Arran
If, after reading this article on where to eat on Arran, you’re still stuck, then I am afraid there’s no hope left for you. Only kidding obv, but I did dedicate over a week to eating Arran out of house and home, so you don’t have to (but you really should). It’s a tough old job so it is. But I couldn’t really pick a better Scottish island to enjoy both Scottish island life and modern, creative and sustainable food.
The Arran Festival of Food and Drink opened my eyes to the incredible food and drink offering on the island but the wifey on the ferry gave me 6 more recommendations and so, I’m just going to have to go back. Suits me, I’ve always fancied winter in the van on Arran anyway. Give me all that Arran Gold and a fire in the stove, and I’m well and truly cooking, just not as well as they do on Arran.
I can only but sing the praises of our marvellous hospitality industry. I don’t think Scotland has ever just stayed still. The covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns were felt across the industry and across the country, as are the current hardships challenging the industry. Although the future is uncertain, Scottish hospitality will always find engaging and invigorating ways to attract crowds. As a Scottish person, I am increasingly proud of our resilience in the face of adversity. When it comes to Scotland, run and you might catch up.
We would like to express our thanks to Cameron at Arran’s Food Journey, Ailsa from Bellevue Farm, Sheila at VisitArran and Kerri-Anne at CalMac for helping us organise this fantastic trip and for showing us some of the best places to eat Arran. We would also like to thank all of the businesses that hosted us, looked after us and offered us the best island hospitality.