The last time I wrote about the Isle of Arran, I bemoaned the fact it’d been a while since we visited. That changed last weekend when we sailed out of a rainy Ardrossan and less than an hour later, arrived on sunny Arran to stay at Auchrannie Resort.
As soon as our feet hit Arran soil, we set off in search of somewhere remote to walk. Glen Sannox fitted the bill perfectly. We hadn’t been walking long when we reached a small cemetery. Inside was a grave connected to a Victorian tale of murder.
In 1889 a Scotsman and an Englishman arrived on Arran together, to climb Goatfell. The Scotsman returned from his hike and promptly left the island. The Englishman lay dead near the summit of the mountain, hidden under a large rock. The islanders buried him at Sannox under a large rock – somewhat ironic. The Scotsman was caught and spent the rest of his life in prison.
Glen Sannox was stunning, but we seemed to have arrived on the island after a week long monsoon. The ground was drookit (Scots for wet). You may remember, Mr G and I have an aversion to bogs and wet feet. It sends us into a bog jumping frenzy. As we navigated the glen, we must have looked like a deranged hiking version of the Lords a Leaping from the song ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’.
After leaping around Glen Sannox we headed to Lochranza. Lochranza is home to an imposing castle ruin and the Isle of Arran Distillery.
A copper still outside the distillery was glowing in the late afternoon light, contrasting beautifully with the surrounding hills. I’d be sampling some of the distillery’s heaven in a glass (Arran Gold) later at the hotel.
Before checking in at Auchrannie Resort, I wanted to see if we could find some of Lochranza’s most majestic residents – red deer stags. It didn’t take us long to locate some in a nearby field. One in particular really stood out, as he had an impressive set of antlers. I counted 14 spiky doo dahs or tines as they’re more commonly known. He wasn’t quite a Monarch of the Glen, but he was still an imposing beastie.
Our room at Auchrannie Resort
Auchrannie is a spa resort, located on the outskirts of Arran’s main settlement, Brodick. It consists of two hotels, luxury self-catering lodges and several on site restaurants and bars. It sits in extensive grounds, against a backdrop of rugged mountains.
On arrival we were greeted with a warm welcome and given directions to our room in the newer spa hotel.
To say we loved our room would be an understatement. We absolutely ADORED it. It was a huge two bedroom suite, tastefully decorated and with quality fixtures and fittings throughout. The complimentary toiletries were made by Arran Aromatics – a quality brand, with the most amazing smelling products.
Our room came with access to an executive lounge, complete with a terrace, hot tub and an unlimited supply of jelly beans and Tunnock’s Teacakes – woo hoo.
I’ve stayed in some amazing hotel rooms over the years, but this was by far my favourite to date.
Dog friendly dining at Auchrannie Resort
That evening, we dined in Auchrannie’s dog friendly Waterside Bar, which is part of Brambles Seafood & Grill. The place had a really relaxed vibe and the staff were lovely. The food was excellent too and I struck gold with a delicious potato & leek soup starter. I have a thing for soup.
The boy snoozed lazily behind my chair as we ate – only springing into action when a prawn escaped from his Dad’s plate. He gave the monkfish & Prawn scampi a big paws up.
It was the perfect end to a perfect day – it got even better when Mr G nipped to the bar to get us an Arran Gold nightcap each.
Day 2 – Isle of Arran
The next morning we were up early for breakfast. It was buffet style which I love, as it lets you mix continental with cooked. I dined on an eclectic combination of Ayrshire bacon butty, Arran Oaties with Arran Cheese, plus Nutella from a teaspoon – class personified.
We made it as far as Lamlash (a whopping four miles), before we stopped to watch the sun rising over Holy Isle.
I’d picked us a walk at Whiting Bay on the pretence that it looked like good exercise. I mumbled something about a hill and a lovely view, but omitted to mention it wasn’t exercise I was interested in. It was the Giants’ Graves – a pair of 5,000 year old Neolithic burial cairns.
Luckily, the cairns were reached via a path which twisted and turned its way steeply uphill, meaning we got a decent walk and I got my history fix.
The view from the cairns over Whiting Bay and across to Holy Isle was gorgeous.
Although the cairns have been much disturbed over the years, they’re still an impressive sight. An on-site information board shows a fascinating reconstruction of how they would have looked. It really brought the place to life for me.
It was turning out to be a lovely day, so we decided to extend our walk to the nearby Glenashdale Falls (Eas a’ Chrannaig).
I wasn’t prepared for how impressive they’d be – plunging 140 feet into a deep gorge below. There was a small viewing platform, perched precariously over the gorge. I stepped onto it and shuffled nervously to the end to take a couple of photos. My hands shook as I tried to steady my camera for a non-blurry shot.
I left feeling like a hero after confronting my fear of deep gorges. It’s a rational fear really, as falling into a gaping abyss probably isn’t anyone’s idea of fun.
We finished our walk chattering away happily about the sights we’d seen. As we descended into Whiting Bay the sky was getting bluer by the minute. The gorse was beginning to bloom yellow and wood pigeons were cooing lazily nearby. Then, nestled by a small stream I spotted snowdrops.
Hooray, spring was on its way.
We decided to let the boy cut loose for a while, so headed to the lovely sandy bay at Kildonan. The light over Ailsa Craig and the small island of Pladda was magical. It looked surreal, like a watercolour painting.
The wee dug gave it laldy with some very impressive fast running and was soon completely puffed out.
I’d chosen this lovely spot because I knew there was a castle ruin nearby. Sadly, a close up inspection of the ruin eluded me. The path to reach it led off into long, golden grass which looked warm and summery. It turned out to be wet and boggy. We leapt out of it, as if the ground was opening up beneath our feet.
Before leaving to find somewhere dug friendly for lunch, we had a wee go on some swings by the beach. It was great fun. Mr G declared himself better at swings than me. He felt his technique gained him more height. I’m sure when swings becomes an Olympic sport he’ll be invited to captain team GB.
We enjoyed a tasty lunch at the Kinloch Hotel at Blackwaterfoot. Over lunch Mr G suggested we visit Machrie Moor next. I looked at him as if he’d just sprouted a second head. Was the Husband I thought I knew well, suggesting we visit ancient standing stones?! He was, but it turns out he was only looking for somewhere scenic to walk off lunch.
Hike – Machrie Moor
Despite it being a lovely day, Machrie Moor was a quagmire of mud and boggy puddles. Mud and boggy puddles may be my outdoor arch nemesis, but I’ll walk barefoot over hot coals for a standing stone. I once dragged us into a beezer of a bog on the Isle of Jura when I spotted one in a field – Mr G was not impressed.
The stones at Machrie Moor are some of Scotland’s finest.
It’s not every day you get to see them reflecting in big, boggy puddles either – so our visit was well timed.
As we wound our way back round the island towards Auchrannie, we stopped at the tiny village of Catacol to admire a pretty row of cottages there, known as the 12 Apostles. They were built as fishermans’ cottages to house crofters cleared from the land to make way for deer. The crofters failed to embrace a new career in fishing, and most moved elsewhere on the island in protest.
We didn’t quite make it back to Auchrannie Resort without further stops, as Lochranza Castle was casting a stunning reflection in Loch Ranza as we drove by. ‘STOP, REFLECTION’ I shouted, and all three of us piled out of the car for the umpteenth time that day.
The boy, wet and muddy from his day out donned his monogrammed purple drying robe. He looking like a canine version of Hugh Hefner as he swaggered into the hotel.
We left the boy sleeping off the 23,000+ steps he’d walked that day and headed to the Cruize Bar & Brasserie for another delicious Auchrannie dinner. The restaurant was really busy, yet the service was quick and efficient. Our dinner felt intimate and relaxed, despite the number of other diners around us. We decided to indulge ourselves with a celebratory bottle of champagne, to toast a wonderful trip.
After dinner, I couldn’t resist the lure of the hot tub again.
As I lay in it, looking up at the moon it made me think about Arran’s Neolithic occupants, with their stone circles and burial cairns. It was funny to think that once upon a time, they too would’ve looked up at that same moon. I could picture them on Machrie Moor, gazing skywards.
Auchrannie Resort’s slogan is ‘Beware Auchrannie is addictive’. Never has a slogan summed up a place so well. Auchrannie is very addictive.
What’s so good about Auchrannie, is that it has a wide appeal. It’s brilliant if you love the great outdoors and want an activity packed break. It’s also perfect if you’re looking for somewhere to relax and unwind.
What we loved best was how wonderfully dog friendly Auchrannie Resort was. From tasty doggy treats in rooms, to dog friendly wining and dining, a special VIP entrance (very important pooch) and plentiful towels to dry the paws of muddy island explorers. Dogs aren’t just tolerated at Auchrannie, they’re welcomed as one of the family.
All three of us were sad to leave, but happy to have found a fabulous new home from home on the beautiful Isle of Arran. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we return.
We stayed at Auchrannie Resort on a complimentary dinner, bed & breakfast basis, however all opinions are entirely my own.
Until next time …