Scotland in Miniature

On Scotland's Isle of Arran, mountains, meadows, and forests create the perfect seaside landscape for a family vacation.
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Arran Lochranza Ozawa
LONG-WINDED LOCALES: Sailboats and cottages pepper the coast of Lochranza, one of Arran’s most scenic villages  (Takeshi Ozawa)

As a child, Scotland's Isle of Arran coincided with long-winded yarns from my mother about summer traditions in the 1950s and ‘60s. It all sounded very sentimental and wholesome, but somehow the 167-square-mile oval blob off the southwest coast of Scotland was just a little too close to home. Give me exotic Southeast Asian realms and soaring North American mountains; Arran never quite made my life list.

But last year I found myself grown up and standing on the prow of a giant Caledonian MacBrayne ferry as it ploughed across the Firth of Clyde toward Arran. It was one of those blisteringly beautiful summer days—sadly rare in this part of the world—and my youthful preconceived notions about Arran came into shimmering perspective. During the 55-minute voyage, Arran's mountainous mass filled the Clyde like a stepping stone placed between the mainland at Mull of Kintyre and the more remote Hebrides archipelago beyond.

The island, the ninth largest in the waters off the British Isles, stands out for its diverse scenery and accessibility. The brochures proudly brand Arran, "Scotland in Miniature," and even just a few days on the island will convince you of the claim's veracity. Just 20 miles and a ferry ride from Glasgow International Airport, Arran provides the perfect backdoor route to the manageable microcosm of those famous, more northerly Highlands.

The first two sights that jump out at passengers as the ferry sweeps into Arran's Brodick Bay include conical 2,866-foot Goatfell and the majestic red-sandstone turrets of Brodick Castle, in the forested grounds below the island's signature peak. As I marveled at the scenery, my young son squawked with excitement at the outrider seagulls soaring just feet from his face on the port side. No doubt my wife breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn't made her trek to the far reaches of the country for a slice of Scottish life. Here, I began to fill my own scrapbook of family vacation tales.

Published: 22 May 2007 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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Best Hotels in Scotland

$103-$381
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The Scotsman Hotel
$148-$172
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The Knight Residence
$201-$352
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The Howard
$326
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Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh

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