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Isle of Arran >  Google™ Map May 2022+  North Ayrshire Coat of Arms

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May 2022+

"One of Scotland's most accessible islands off the stunning west coast", they say.

North Ayrshire Coat of Arms

It's one of Scotland's most accessible islands off the stunning west coast, alright, but more on that in a minute.

Isle of Arran? Do you? Do you love Arran?

SlyBob wouldn't know about that, yet, because SlyBob's not been before despite having seen a fair few other parts of Scotland. Famously described as 'Scotland in miniature', there's a faff on with a ferry to get here so why not just go to proper Scotland? Scotland isn't all that big?

Caledonian MacBrayne Ardrossan Ferry Terminal

It's because there's a faff on with a ferry that makes this a bit of an adventure and you get here from Ardrossan, a place that's best described as, sorry Ardrossan, the place where you get the ferry to Arran from.

  MOKA Ardrossan (Princes Street)

It's not Ardrossan's fault there's not much to it, it's part of a larger, urban area, you see, but can at least claim to have a ferry, which Saltcoats and Stevenston can't.

It can also claim the best coffee in Ayrshire, North, although not all of the others were tested. MOKA's vegetarian and plant-based menu is a surprising treat and these inky hipsters wouldn't be out of place in fancy London, somewhere like Shoreditch, say.

It's just under an hour until you make landfall and halfway into the voyage, the essence of Arran is revealed. Coming at it side-on, the fertile fields to the south and the mountainous tract further north.

Isle of Arran - Outgoing

Goatfell, Arran's highest peak, isn't quite a Munro but it's only 130-foot shy of the required 3,000 so has to settle instead for Corbett status. That's still fairly impressive and if this really was a scaled-down version of Scotland then Ben Nevis would be the height of Everest, or something.

Speaking of Corbetts, 'A cement mixer collided with a prison van on the Isle of Arran. Motorists are asked to be on the look-out for 16 hardened criminals.'

Rolling off at Arran's capital, Brodick, and disembarking from the front or is that the bow? or was it the back and was that the stern?, perhaps it's the dreich but things are understatedly underwhelming.

An inevitable, traditional block of tartan knick-knacks and a contemporary, pre-fabricated parade with a caff that's too wet to sit outside of today.

See also the variety of golf that never quite delivers as advertised so be thankful for a massive outdoors store and by that it's meant what they sell, that is, the store is obviously outdoors.

There are, however, get this, two Co-op™s and it's only at this sight that things are really being realised. The island is delightfully and deliberately 1950s and the camper vans and the odd RV are clearly stocking up before heading off to find their own personal part of Arran with none of that modern nonsense to distract.

It's wondered where that would be, then?

The A841 is the road that, quite literally, rings the island and it's 56 miles round whatever your way. Not that driving for the sake of it should be actively encouraged but with everybody else now clogging the North Coast 500, here's another example of Scotland in miniature.

It's shore-hugging stuff north out of Brodick before the foothills kick in and a rollercoaster ride up and over to Lochranza.

Isle of Arran - Lochranza

It's not a real loch, really, more of an inlet and what's left of a castle is right on it. Largely 1500s although it sits on something much older, they say, and Robert the Bruce is said to have stayed the night, yeah right. The main attraction, however, is provided by nature and a shoreline stroll gets you to the inaccessible headland opposite.

For some people, though, that's not an option and it appears they're desperate to get off! Getting off via another ferry, although this one's smaller, to a just as inaccessible piece of mainland so it's now being wondered just what's going on over there?

  Arran Heritage Museum (Main Street)

There's a concentration of, erm, attractions just north of Brodick. The Arran Heritage Museum is a collection of traditional buildings and associated social history with an even pricier option at Brodick Castle and Gardens.

In between those, however, is the unavoidable retail combo of beauty products and cheese, which made for an unusual-smelling shopping bag. That also meant for a couple of months, at least, there was a whiff of the old sandalwood wherever Bob was around.

The road heads round and south running parallel to the Mull of Kintyre and yes,  that one. Three miles of water but 50 years now separate you from civilisation although a quick scout of Campbeltown suggests that's not strictly the case.

Neolithic stones, an Iron Age fort and Robert the Bruce's encounter with that spider, yeah right, beckon beyond Machrie but there's something equally interesting before they're reached. You thought the combination of beauty products and cheese was random?

Well, how about the pairing of high-end footwear and Turkish pides? The Old Byre Visitor Centre does just that although it's not really a visitor centre, really, more of a small shopping outlet with Mesopotamian pizzas in the caff, obviously.

Isle of Arran - Blackwaterfoot

This island gets madder by the minute and that's meant in a good way, by the way, and besides, it's extremely welcome when this sort of thing is being experienced.

Continuing on through the briefly engaging Blackwaterfoot and there's a huge dilemma to be had. Carry on as you were or head back to Brodick by the only other road of any significance.

There's more rollercoaster fun either way but the long way down and round is past rolling fields and some not insignificant height. That helps with the view south to the offshore lighthouse and beyond to Ailsa Craig, a hardened, volcanic splurge that guards the entrance to the Clyde Estuary, none shown.

Ailsa Craig, by the way, is the source of the granite for Scottish curling stones, rounded and polished from a stock that means they don't mine no more. It's also home to the UK's largest colony of nesting gannets but more on them in a minute.

Things aren't back on the level until Whiting Bay where the road has rewidened to be not so much of a worry. This is now SlyBob's personal part of Arran or rather the seaweed-strewn shore that's now associated but, not just that, but what's just off it.

Isle of Arran - Whiting Bay

Diving gannets, yes, diving gannets. Sure, they've been seen nesting on the cliffs at Bempton but never in spectacular action. A circular glide followed by a torpedo-like dive, you could watch these things all day, at least you can between March and September.

They come here from their nests on Ailsa Craig, remember that, where some of the 60,000+ of the little breeders feed in the offshore shelf fashioned by the island. They're measured in pairs, actually, so that means 30,000+ but you'd never hear...

You were down the pub last night were you? Many in?
About 12. Each with a friend.

  The Shore (Shore Road)

You could watch the gannets feeding all day because the waitress is equally entranced and seems to have forgotten the couple of coffees ordered earlier.

Them and some fantastic cakes, actually, a reward for the pleasant stroll from the available parking and it's the second best coffee in Ayrshire, North, although not all of the others were tested.

There should and would have been an accompanying pic of a pair of gannets but SlyBob don't really do selfies, eh?

While in Whiting Bay, let's go for a wander and, because of the geography, here's the drill... park up as best you can next to the shore and follow the footpath signs inland to get to somewhere roads invariably can't go.

This particular one is to a waterfall only SlyBob's been to Iguazú Falls so isn't expecting anything... WHOA! Who put this here?

Isle of Arran - Eas a' Chrannaig

It's no Devil's Throat, for sure, but at 140 foot it squeezes into Scotland's top 10 and a purpose-built viewing platform allows you to admire its fine, flowing form.

There are Neolithic and Iron Age attractions either side but with every other outdoor type gallivanting up Goatfell, you've got the place to yourselves. Well, not quite...

Isle of Arran - Iron Age Attraction

What's now known to have been a big-wheeled 'Safari' vehicle is bouncing down a muddy track and the whoops and screams are scaring off the squirrels and startling the stags. It's the kind of thing of which Arran has so far been found to be thankfully free. Idiots!

You know when it was said that Brodick is the 'capital' of Arran, that would appear to be in an administrative sense and Lamlash can be considered to be Las Vegas to Brodick's Washington D.C.

Lamlash's strip boasts no fewer than three, yes three, Hotel/Bar/Restaurant combos, an Indian takeaway, should you be self-catering, and the third best coffee in Ayrshire, North, although not all of the others were tested.

It's also within touching distance of Holy Isle, an offshore mound with serious religious history and now home to a Tibetan Buddhist retreat, the Centre for World Peace and Health and who's going to argue with that?

Isle of Arran - Holy Isle from Lamlash

There are two new converts today but not to the retreat just to the Isle of Arran itself.

Isle of Arran? We do now.

  The Drift Inn (Shore Road)

Squat lobsters aren't really a thing because they look like giant woodlice and it's a fiddly business getting at the goodness. You might find them elsewhere disguised as langoustine in a seafood medley but they're presented here as nature intended on the 'Specials'.

The best that can be said, then, is it's good to see best use being made of the local catch but to put that one down to experience.

With fleshpots at a premium, it's easy to understand why this place is jumping all of the evenings and there's a brilliant beer garden within touching distance of Holy Isle. You will, however, have to lighten that dusky pic when you try later to translate how tranquil and transcendental this is, squat lobsters excepted.

  The Old Pier Tearoom

Don't be misled by the name, there's nothing old-skool about the outside or what's going on inside. Homemade sourdough wraps their imaginative fillings, see also their sausage rolls although it's the pastry that's homemade.

The claim above to the third best coffee in Ayrshire, North, was for narrative purposes only and it might just be the best, actually.

What's What
 Arran Heritage Museum
 Arran Sense of Scotland
 Caledonian MacBrayne Ardrossan Ferry Terminal
 The Drift Inn (Lamlash)
 The Old Byre Visitor Centre
 The Old Pier Tearoom (Lamlash)
 The Shore (Whiting Bay)