Are you planning to travel Scotland but you don't really know where to start because everything looks so fricking beautiful? Go to the isle of Arran. Arran is truly Scotland in miniature as so often described! This little blog post is gonna give you a taste for it and what you can do there.
Where do I even start? First of all, let me ask you something. Have you ever had that overwhelming feeling of not knowing how to process a beautiful landscape? Think about the times you've been on a mountain, a beautiful cliff, surrounded by the sea, or in a forest. Like you just sit there and look around yourself and are so stunned that you don't even know how to process this beauty. That's what Arran felt to me.
So first thing to mention is that my partner and I biked around the isle (around 85 km), which was quite a bit considering that I haven't touched a bike in 12 years! It was intense at times, especially because the isle is very hilly. But I'm happy to have used bikes as our only means of transport.
Leave yourself at least 5 days to cycle around the isle or even a bit longer. Some people cycle the isle in one or two days, but this might could easily get too much if you're not an experienced cyclist.
Anyway, cycling over driving. It's much better for the environment and you'll be able to really take everything in at a whole different level.
We were really looking to make our travels as sustainable as possible by not taking a holiday outside of Scotland but instead discover Scotland. We didn't want to take flights for a short trip in order to cut our CO2 emissions as much as possible, so driving a car wasn't an option either. Instead we took the train, the ferry and bikes. And it was a true adventure! Also, to make our travels as sustainable as possible, we always take our reusable waterbottles, a reusable bag, cutlery and a food container. Arran has so many spots that refill your waterbottle (click here to see all companies that take part in this).
I didn't really know what to expect from a tiny isle like Arran because I've never been on one before. I found that most people on the isle were surprisingly well acquainted with veganism and eco-consciousness (much more than businesses in big cities). The whole isle is very green which is probably due to the fact that people there are more in touch with nature since they are surrounded by it every day and see the beauty of it much more. As Dr Quing Li in Shirin-Yoku explains we need to go to forests more and reconnect with nature. If we are in harmony with nature we are more likely to protect it. We perceive a stronger need for a sustainable system that supports biodiversity. More about Shirin-Yoku here.
So one of the eco projects on the isle is the Arran Green Map that contain all sustainable initiatives on Arran. Another amazing project is the food sharing group created by Eco Savvy in Whiting Bay! They meet three times a week, and everyone can come and collect excess supermarket food (instead of letting it go to waste) - did I mention that I want to move to Arran already? I wanna be part of this pls thanks.
This is a guide for those of you who want to know more about Arran or 'Scotland in Miniature' as some people call it. Arran is charming and this guide will hopefully give you an idea of what to do there when you're not just starring around with an overwhelming feeling of seeing too much beauty to process as well as places to stay, delicious food to indulge in, and beautiful spots to discover (to be honest the entire isle is beautiful, still blows my mind).
We were really lucky with the weather! It felt super exotic like we were on some kind of tropical island that nobody knows about. Even the plants and flowers were a bit different to the mainland of Scotland which I found interesting. To come back to the weather, best time to go is between May and August, I wouldn't recommend going during winter, except if you love super windy holidays where you're constantly in fear to be literally blown away (not even sure whether this is exaggerated). And let me tell you even during spring time or summer the cold or rain could just be around the corner, so I recommend a good raincoat and hiking boots. When we arrived, it was all gloomy and pouring with rain (as it is right now while I'm typing these very words, except that I'm in Luxembourg where it might rain even more than in Scotland). To continue my little story, we were soaked in water before even getting to Glasgow. But after that nasty shower, Arran surprised us with sunny summer days. Thank you Arran!
You can go to Arran from two different places: Ardrossan and Claonaig. The easiest way to get to the isle is by taking a train from Glasgow to Ardrossan and a ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick, the main village on Arran (you get ferry tickets on the day from the Ardrossan ferry station). You can also go to Claonaig and get a ferry to the village Lochranza.
Once you arrive, you can get bikes from Brodick if you don't have your own. I wrote this little list of things to do in the chronological order of how we cycled Arran.
1. Brodick - bikes from the Arran Bikehire (book them in advance), I'd recommend taking a hybrid
- best plantbased ice cream in the Parlour Cafe
- Little Rock Cafe has some vegan options and a vegan chai latte
- 2 co-op supermarkets: get food here if you travel in the Kildonan/ Sliddery direction (you won't find supermarkets there, but some smaller ones in places near Brodick)
- charity shop Arcas has the cutest finds! I got a beautiful quality pair of boots for £4
- there's a castle that you can visit (personally I haven't been there but there seems to be a beautiful garden that's worth a visit)
- supermarket Arran Fine Foods (haven't been there)
- from here you can get to the Holy Isle (check boat times though). It's a peaceful quiet isle inhabited by Buddhist monks. From Lamlash you have a beautiful view at the Holy Isle so it's worth stopping here for a little break
- vegan b&b (haven't been there but need to mention that it exists)
3. Whiting Bay
- Eco Savvy Hub: zero waste store and sustainable events (e.g. food sharing)
- supermarket The Bay Kitchen and Stores (haven't been there because we thought there will be some kind of food shop in Kildonan or Sliddery - not the best decision, but little did we know at that point!)
Right after Whiting Bay you can visit the Giants' Graves
- if you're up for a little adventure and fancy sleeping in an old-school caravan I recommend the Wee Caravan. I wouldn't stay longer than 2 nights because it is super tiny, especially if you want to cook in the caravan, plus you can't get fresh veg from anywhere close by (except if you take a bus), and there is no fridge.
With this link you can get £34 off if you sign up with Airbnb (for free) :-)
- the only store that you'll find is the camping side store which has a limited selection of biscuits, drinks, crackers (not many vegan options unfortunately)
- visit the amazing forest Eas Mor and waterfall Eas Mor & Loch Garbad
- do a beach walk with seals and sheep (don't go that path though if the seals are too close on shore, this might scare them and disrupt their break which can cause exhaustion and be fatal for them). The beach walk leads to the Black Cave (take some time and go to the cave when the tide is low! - check times because you might get stuck there for a whole while if the water's rising)
- the Kildonan hotel has fries and sometimes vegan soups (I don't like the soup but the fries are good)
- between Kildonan and Lagg, there are so many beautiful beaches that you can go to (and even after Lagg you'll find amazing beaches!)
- the Lagg Hotel has the most delicious plantbased meals! They don't have anything plantbased on the menu but are super friendly and willing to veganise their food and to make their well-known vegan chilli. We had a chilli and a butternut squash chickpea bake which were both SO DELICIOUS. Honestly, the best chilli I've probably had in any restaurant!!! I cannot describe how much I loved eating there. All the ingredients felt like they were just picked straight from a garden.
- we stayed at the Cobbler's Cottage - such a lovely place with the nicest owner!
With this link you can get £34 off if you sign up with Airbnb (for free) :-)
- has a SUPERMARKET called A&C Cameron Post Office & Licensed Grocer - yes finally a supermarket! Get all your food there before heading to the supermarket-less road towards Lochranza
- from here, you have the option to cycle through the middle of the island back to Brodick. However, we got told by a local that cars are really fast on that road so it could be a bit dangerous if you're not used to cycling on the road. Also cycling down to Lochranza is just too beautiful and idyllic to miss. We only had a few cars crossing our path down to Lochranza, it was mostly peaceful and quiet
- Slightly after Blackwaterfoot you can see the King's Caves and the Machrie Moor Standing Stones: we managed to do these walks on our "breaks" that we took from cycling. We took around 2-3 hours to visit both points (without the cycling time inbetween the walks). This can be a bit exhausting so really plan your route and the time you'll need to enjoy what you see
- Cafe Thyme: has Turkish style pizzas (some of which are plantbased): make sure you go before 3pm because that's when their kitchen is open. We forgot to check timings and ended up cycling to the cafe just to be told that we can't have any food. As you can imagine, this was a big disappointment after expecting the most delicious hot pizza. Luckily we had some snacks that we ate instead
- the Lighthouse Restaurant has chips as a vegan option (chunky chips with a crusty skin - exactly what we needed) but that was the only thing that you could eat there as a vegan
- the castle ruin is a must see. It was lovely to discover the old ruin (and free)
- the Distillery and Visitor Centre
And then comes the most challenging road but at the same time the most amazing smelling part of Arran. The road goes a steep hill up and then down for the longest time ever and that's when I noticed this wonderful sweet smell of honey, pines and a freshly baked cinnamon apple tart with a hint of orange.
And that's when you reach Sannox!
- Ferghan Mhor: the best ever B&B and it's ALL vegan! A D R E A M .
This was our favourite stay. We stayed for one night but really didn't want to leave the place anymore, we felt so at home and warmly welcomed. The food was beautifully made, and the owners were the sweetest people. They have a whole breakfast menu - make sure to check it out on their website. I truly recommend this place to vegans and non-vegans alike. They even have a post on their website about all the vegan places they've been to on Arran (and there is a lot, I can guarantee).
You can also book them via Airbnb if you like. Use this link to can get £34 off if you sign up with Airbnb (for free) :-)
The photos don't do the place justice! You need to experience it in real life. And we got these amazing homemade Empire Biscuits when we arrived in the evening after cycling all day - the best surprise.
And that's it for now my friends. I hope this gave you a little flavour of the beautiful isle of Arran (and maybe even a craving for more). If you enjoyed this type of travel blog post, let me know in the comments or on Instagram.
I hope you'll have the opportunity to visit Arran and that you enjoy it as much as I did.
Much love, Viki xxx