Arran, Scotland in Miniature
Ross McEwen, July 19, 2011
The Isle of Arran lies in the Firth of Clyde, nestled on the west coast of the Scotland. Often described as a “Scotland in Miniature”, Arran’s geography mirrors the Scottish mainland with a geographical split between farmland in the south and mountains in the north, a total spread of nine golf courses and a capricious microclimate. The compact nature of the sparsely populated island makes it ideal for a range of day adventures.
A circumnavigation of the island is 60 miles, and the mountainous roads and inevitable headwind provide a challenge for even the most competent roadcyclist. The Ross (header image) and String roads pass over the spine of the island, and test the legs as they wind their way from sea level to over 1500ft . The labyrinth of forestry roads and single track that cover the island are ideal for mountain bikers of all abilities.
For triathletes, the Arran Man triathlons take place in mid-June, with options those keener on running or swimming only.
Goat Fell is the highest mountain on the island at 2866ft, and views are afforded all the way to Ireland on a clear day. If you’re looking for a taste of Arran adventure racing, the Goatfell Race starts from sea level and races to the summit and back. The north of the island offers easy access to a glaciated network of corries and spines, even including some rock climbing for those seeking an adrenaline rush. The Forestry Commission has put a lot of work into mapping and marking the trails that snake their way across the island.
Being an island, open water swimming opportunities are abound. Lamlash Bay is on the West coast of the island is often sheltered from the gusting winds by Holy Isle. Holy Isle serves as a convenient objective for the ambitious swimmer, at approximately a mile offshore. The route isn’t protected so you’re best off seeking accompaniment with a sea kayaker if possible. Even when the water is warmer in the summer months, a wetsuit is advised, owing to the large quantities of jellyfish that share the water.
Getting there responsibly
From Glasgow Central take the train to Ardrossan Port. The ferry takes an hour to cross the First of Clyde and reach Brodick, the main settlement on Arran. Buy train tickets at thetrainline.com and ferry tickets from Caledonian MacBrayne.