Scotland in Miniature - Page 3
|ENERGY-BURNING POTENTIAL: The Kennels, a family-friendly lodge on the Brodick Castle estate, comes complete with a jungle gym in the garden (Takeshi Ozawa)|
The Arran ferry sails from Ardrossan, a somewhat hardscrabble place but a very short 30-minute drive from Glasgow International Airport. Serviced by direct flights from New York and Philadelphia, or charter flights from Boston, Toronto, or Calgary, among others, you can get through customs and begin vacation proper within a short couple of hours. Car rental concessionaires at the airport include Hertz, Avis, and Budget. Visit the airport website for more information (www.glasgowairport.com).
Caledonian MacBrayne operates five sailing trips to Arran Monday through Saturday, departing every two hours and 45 minutes. A late service leaves on Friday evenings to accommodate Glasgow's weekend warriors. A connecting train from downtown Glasgow runs in conjunction with each sailing outing for those without a car. In summer, be sure to reserve tickets ahead of timeyou don't want to be left on the quayside with ornery kids waiting three hours for the next ferry. Additionally, check out CalMac's Island Hopscotch fares if you plan on visiting other islands after Arran, as tickets are cheaper than purchasing single fares. Call +44.8705.650.000 or visit the CalMac website (www.calmac.co.uk) for seasonal timetables and fares.
Where to Stay
A series of small villages radiate out from Brodick, so first check out what each area has to offer. More remote villages like Machrie or Kildonan promise atmosphere but fewer amenities for kids; staying closer to Brodick might mean sacrificing some wilderness for access to mini golf and bike rentals.
The Scottish Tourist Board's Visit Scotland website (www.visitscotland.com) has a searchable lodging database, filtered by size, budget, and even family friendliness. Arran Hideaways (www.arran-hideaways.co.uk) also has an extensive list of self-catering properties, including the Kennels.
Where to Eat and Drink
It may come as a surprise to hear that some of the best food on Arran hails from the other side of the globe, namely China. The Golden Dragon in Whiting Bay (Shore Road; +44.1770.700.489) serves up delicious Hong Kong-style fare in a lovely seaside setting overlooking the Holy Island and Firth of Clyde. A casual atmosphere plus great prices make this a hit with families, not to mention the beach on its doorstep, where fussy youngsters may play to their heart's content.
Serving locally caught seafood, the award-winning Creelers restaurant offers a nice choice for an end-of-vacation splurge (www.creelers.co.uk). Only 1.5 miles outside Brodick, it's literally yards down the hill from the Kennels and Brodick Castle. Parents should check out the smokehouse for organic kipper and salmon, as well as the adjacent Isle of Arran Brewery (+44.1770.302.353; www.arranbrewery.com) for a case or two of its lovely, crisp signature Arran Blonde.
If the weather's good, seize the moment to grill. Check out the local butcher's counter in the Lochranza post office, with some excellent cuts of meat. The Catacol Bay Hotel (+44.1770.830.231; www.catacol.co.uk), on the north end of the island, is also a nice place to while away a lazy summer day. Set on a picturesque hillside overlooking the Kilbrannan Sound and Mull of Kintyre beyond, the hotel serves good pub fare and sterling pizza. The beer garden includes a children's play area. Combine a pub lunch here with a visit to the ruins of the castle at Lochranza (reputedly inspiration for the cover of Hergé's The Black Island, one of the Tintin escapades). Also check out the nearby Isle of Arran Distillery (+44.1770.830.264; www.arranwhisky.com), where lucky grownups can get a mellow snifter of Scotland's newest single malt on a distillery tour.
Outfitters and Useful Resources
The Adventure Centre in Brodick (Shore Road; +44.1770.302.244) rents bikes and kayaks by the half-day, day, or longer. Sign up for organized tours that include hiking, canyoneering (known locally as "gorge walking"), kayaking, mountain biking, and more. Check online for a schedule of upcoming programs, plus rental fees (www.arranadventure.com).
Chances are good that you'll hit upon Arran's varied wildlife at some point during your exploration of the island. To increase your chances; however, consider visiting during the Arran Wildlife Festival (www.arranwildlife.co.uk), which takes place for a week each May. Join experts from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and other local wildlife enthusiasts as they scour the hillsides for sightings of hen harriers, golden eagles, deer, otters, or badgers. Offshore, you've got your pick of seals, guillemots, and even the occasional basking shark.
The Ayrshire & Arran Tourist Board's website (www.ayrshire-arran.com) contains some relatively useful general resources to help orient you on the island, including walking and cycling itineraries or rainy-weather ideas.