Often referred to as ‘Scotland in Miniature’ due to the remarkable diversity of its landscapes, the Isle of Arran is the seventh largest, and one of the most southerly Scottish islands, lying in the Firth of Clyde.
Arran has two smaller satellite islands; Holy Isle is a two mile spine almost blocking the entrance to Lamlash Bay, creating a natural sheltered harbour, which houses a retreat and meditation centre for Buddhist monks from Samye Ling in Eskdalemuir. Pladda island lies a mile off Kildonan and is the haunt of seals, seabirds and some rarer migrant commuters.
Arran has been continuously inhabited since the early Neolithic period and the fascinating Bronze Age remnants of the Machrie Moor Stone Circles and surrounding prehistoric burial cairns can be explored on the west coast of the island. From the 6th century onwards, the Irish Scots colonised the island and it became part of the Kingdom of Dalriada. During the troubled Viking Age, Arran became the property of the Norwegian crown before becoming formally absorbed by the kingdom of Scotland in the 13th century. The 19th century clearances led to significant depopulation and the end of the Gaelic language and way of life.
King’s Cave is a seafront cave near Blackwaterfoot which was formed where isostatic change resulted in a raised beach. Robert the Bruce is said to have sheltered here when returning to free Scotland from the English; the cave is also said to have been occupied by Fingal, Fionn MacCaul.
Brodick Castle played a prominent part in the island’s medieval history and is one of Scotland’s most battlescarred castles which has been rebuilt many times. The site of the ancestral seat of the Duke of Hamilton was a fortress even in Viking times. It was captured by English forces during the Wars of Independence before being taken back by Scottish troops in 1307. It was badly damaged by action from English ships in 1406 and sustained an attack by John of Islay, the Lord of the Isles in 1455. Originally a seat of the Clan Stewart of Menteith, ownership of the castle passed through various hands before it came into the possession of the Hamilton family in 1503. The castle is said to have several ghosts, the most benign figure usually seen in the library wearing breeches, a long green jacket and a powdered wig!
The walled garden at Brodick Castle dates from 1710 and has been restored as a Victorian garden; the woodland garden contains one of Europe’s finest collections of Rhododendrons. In the Country Park you can explore the 11 miles of waymarked trails among waterfalls, gorges and wildlife ponds. The castle and grounds, together with nearby Goat Fell are owned by the National Trust for Scotland.
Lochranza lies 2 miles southwest of the northern headland, the Cock of Arran, and is the largest settlement in the north of the island. Lochranza Castle is a romantic ruin on the tidal flats dating from the 13th century and is reputedly where Robert the Bruce landed on his return from Rathlin Island. Lochranza is also home to the only working distillery on Arran where you can enjoy a tour of the visitor centre and tasting of a wee dram.
Arran is renowned for its wildlife and many species are a common sight. Red deer are numerous on northern hills and there are populations of otter, red squirrels and badger. Offshore there are common seals, harbour porpoises, basking sharks and various species of dolphin. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded on the island including black guillemot, eider, peregrine falcon and golden eagle. The warm Gulf Stream gives Arran a rich and unusual plant life and nothing indicates the mild climate more than palm trees thriving outdoors.
Hebridean Princess is due to visit the Isle of Arran on the following cruises in 2017:
Prices from £1090 per person based on 2 people sharing an inside double/twin cabin.