Isle of Arran – Scotland in Miniature

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Many tourists who visit Scotland will want to spend a few days on one of the islands off the west coast. Known as the Hebrides. The most visited is probably the Isle of Skye (famous for the Cuillin mountains) since it has been connected to the mainland by a bridge since 1995 and it’s a simple matter to drive there.

Travelling to all of the other Hebridean islands requires a ferry crossing but don’t let that put you off visiting them – they are definitely well worth that little bit of extra effort to reach but there is one island which is often overlooked by tourists possibly because it isn’t part of the Hebridean archipelago, situated as it is, much further south.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/In the Firth of Clyde between the mainland and the long, southward-stretching tongue of the Kintyre peninsula lies the Isle of Arran. Scotland’s seventh-biggest island, Arran is also one of the most accessible of the west coast islands being close to the heavily-populated central belt and just a short ferry trip from the mainland. Arran has been continuously inhabited since the early Neolithic period and numerous prehistoric remains have been found. The island once belonged to Norway but is now firmly in Scottish hands!

Rugged and mountainous in its northern half and flat and fertile in the south, Arran is often called ‘Scotland in miniature’. This quirk of geology mirrors the Scottish mainland and is the result of the Highland Boundary Fault, which divides Scotland into the highlands and the lowlands, continuing through Arran resulting in two quite distinct geological zones, just like the mainland – a ‘Scotland in miniature’!

It is possible to fly to Arran but the best way is to catch the ferry from the mainland ferry port of Ardrossan (well served by road and rail links) to Brodick, https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Arran’s main town. The crossing takes just under an hour and if you are travelling by car, advance booking is recommended. During the summer months, you can also sail from Kintyre to Lochranza in the north of the Island, a trip which takes only 30 minutes.

Once on the island there is a wide choice of things to do. For those with plenty of energy there is Goat Fell. At 2886 feet (874m) it’s the highest peak on Arran and all who venture into this dramatic and spectacular landscape are treated to unrivalled views of the island and, on a clear day, all the way across to Ben Lomond on the mainland and the coast of Ireland to the southwest.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/For the less energetic outdoor enthusiasts there is a plethora of paths, trails and walks of all lengths to explore, ranging from short and easy wanders along sandy beaches to longer and slightly more challenging routes. Whichever you choose, remember to dress appropriately and tell someone where you are going – just in case!

Challenging mountain climbs, dramatic landscapes, seascapes and wonderfully scenic walks are not the end of Arran’s attractions. There are no less than seven golf courses, lots of wildlife and local arts and crafts and produce to sample. You can go sailing, sea kayaking, paragliding, windsurfing, pony trekking (or ride a horse along a beach with the spray in your face), go sea fishing, trout fishing, salmon fishing or ride the waves in a rigid inflatable boat.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

For those of a more relaxed frame of mind there are historic castles, museums, two malt whisky distilleries, a brewery and lots more to explore and since Arran is only 56 miles in circumference nowhere is more than a 30-minute drive away from where you are staying.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Speaking of places to stay, Arran offers a wide range of accommodation from basic campsites to youth hostels, independent hostels, guest houses, B&Bs, self catering cottages and a number of excellent hotels all the way up to 5-star accommodation. You can even arrange a vacation stay using Airbnb and, since many people on the island work in the tourist industry you can be assured of a warm welcome.

Scotland in miniature it may be but there’s nothing small about a vacation on the Isle of Arran!

 

YouTube Video:

Website for the Isle of Arran

All pictures, other than those identified on the picture itself, are CC0 and can be used freely without accreditation.

The (Rail) road To The Isles On The Harry Potter Jacobite Train

‘’It’s by Shiel water the track is to the west,
by Ailort and by Morar to the sea.’’

These lines are from a well-known traditional Scottish song ‘’The Road to the Isles’’ describing a weary travellers’ journey and the long road he must travel to reach his home on the Isle of Skye. You can hear this song in a video at the bottom of this article.

Today that journey is far easier and perhaps the best way to see what is surely the most scenic part of that long road home is to take a different kind of track – a railroad track – from the west highland town of Fort William to the west coast fishing port and ferry terminal of Mallaig.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The West Coast Railways Jacobite steam train will take you in comfort from the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, to the mouth of Europe’s deepest sea loch. The only timetabled steam rail journey in the UK, the Jacobite passes picturesque coasts, mountains and glens on its spectacular 42-mile journey west.

It passes through an area which many consider to be one of the most beautiful in the UK (beaches in this area have been used in several Hollywood movies).https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

From Fort William and Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the UK) it passes the southern end of the Caledonian Canal and Neptune’s Staircase, a series of eight locks (the longest staircase lock in the UK) allowing boats down to the sea at Loch Linnhe.

It then skirts the head of Loch Shiel with its monument https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/commemorating the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard to begin the ‘45 rebellion and passes over the imposing 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct (which any ‘’Harry Potter’’ fan will instantly recognise) and on to the small hamlet of Lochailort where commandos were trained during WW2.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Next comes Loch nan Uamh where there is another viaduct to carry the railway over the road and, on the shores of the loch, sits the Prince’s Cairn which marks the spot from where Bonnie Prince Charlie fled to France after the Jacobite army’s final disastrous defeat at the battle of Culloden in 1746.

A short distance further on is the village of Arisaig – another place involved in commando training and from where emigrants sailed to Canada and founded the small village of Arisaig in Nova Scotia in 1785.

Mallaig isn’t far now but before the Jacobite reaches it you can indulge in a little monster-spotting! Loch Morar, to the east of the railway line, is the deepest freshwater loch in the British Isles and is rumoured to have a rival to Nessie, the Loch Ness monster. Named ‘’Morag’’ the Loch Morar monster, is just as much an enigma as Nessie. She has (allegedly) been seen several times but no evidence has ever been found for her existence. Maybe she and Nessie have eloped together!

Finally Mallaig at the end of the railway line is reached but that isn’t necessarily the end of your journey. Mallaig (once the busiest herring port in Europe) is a bustling ferry terminal as well as a busy fishing port and onward travel by ferry is possible to the Isle of Skye, the inner hebridean archipelago of the Small Isles (one of Scotland’s National Scenic Areas) or south to Inverie a village on the mainland which isn’t connected to the rest of Scotland by any road and is home to Britain’s remotest pub. The only way to reach it is by ferry from Mallaig – or a long 17-mile hike over the hills.

As scenic railway journeys go, this ‘’railroad to the isles’’ certainly ranks up there with the best of them and any visit to the west coast of Scotland would be incomplete without a trip on the Jacobite steam train to Mallaig but book early because it is understandably very popular!

Here is the song “The Road To The isles”, sung by Kenneth McKellar: