Isle of Arran

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nick macneill
The Isle of Arran is in south-western Scotland in the Firth of Clyde, which is the broad reach of sea southwest of Glasgow and enclosed by the Ayrshire coast to the east and the Kintyre peninsula to the west. It has a population of approximately 5,000. Arran extends for about north-south and ten miles east-west, with all its settlements strung along the coast road, and a hilly interior. The tourist agency calls it Scotland in Miniature, but if you try cycling the roads over the hills, you might not agree with that term. And if the wind and rain get up, or the ferry crossing turns rough, or the midges attack, the experience will not feel miniature.
Yet that twee slogan is stating an important truth about Arran’s accessibility, scenery and charm. It’s very accessible, being easily reached from England and central Scotland, you don’t have to drive another 3 hours to Oban harbour or beyond. But equally, it’s not too accessible. It’s not blighted by hordes or tacky “attractions”. The one-hour ferry crossing is just enough to feel mainland life slipping away from you, and once you get around to the west side, with the view of Kintyre, you really are in another place. The scenery is Highland, but on a compact scale – it’s sparse and haunting, but not bleak. You can enjoy seeing and doing things, or just chill. You’re not in the remote Hebrides here (they start the other side of Kintyre) and you can always get yourself to Brodick if you’re missing something essential, like dental floss or a mobile signal. If you reckon your busy schedule may only allow one visit to a Scottish island in your lifetime, then you need to come to Arran, perhaps more than you yet realise.


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