Arran is one of my favourite Scottish islands. It has great food, a wide variety of accommodation, beautiful beaches, some great walks, it’s easy to explore and it is oh so family friendly. Arran’s ease of access from Glasgow and the west coast is also part of the appeal. From the middle of Glasgow to arriving in Brodick it’s less than a 2.5 hr journey. That includes the 1 hour 20 minutes on the ferry, which doesn’t really count as travelling because when you’re on it, it already feels like part of the holiday.
We’ve been to Arran quite a few times now with the kids; twice in the past year for a short break, and honestly every time we go I love it more. The walks and activities that you want to do may well depend on the age of your kids. But if you have a whole 48 hour weekend to spend on Arran, here are the things I would try to fit in while you’re there.
See the Machrie Moor stone circles
Time required: Roughly 3 hours if you want to be able to enjoy the walk and explore.
This is one of my favourite things to do on Arran. On this walk you’ll be able to find the remains of 6 sets of standing stones, thought to have been built around 2000BC. The first set of standing stones you’ll come to is a wide circle with stones just over 1m high. In the second set, visible from farther away, only three stones remain standing. But they are up to 5.5m tall and are quite incredible from up close.
There’s something really fascinating about stone circles, so it’s easy to make this particular walk exciting and magical for kids. There are legends of giants and fairies and magic associated with standing stones and with Machrie Moor, so this walk inspired lots of imaginative play as we told them the stories!
The walk to first few stone circles isn’t too long; it took 8 of us ranging from age 3 to 38, around half an hour to reach them, and in total we spent around 3 hours exploring (with snack breaks). A round trip to see all the stone circles is roughly 3 miles long, but you could see the first few and then head back if you were stuck for time or little legs were tired.
Visit some beautiful beaches
Time required: As long as you like! You could stop and just take a picture or spend an hour or two.
Arran has some really beautiful beaches and bays. Some of our favourites are the small but perfectly sandy Kildonan Bay down in the south of Arran, the rocky beach of Blackwaterfoot over in the west, the beaches on the east of the island at Lamlash and Whiting Bay full of shells, and the stepping stones over a Sannox Burn to get to Sannox Bay further up in the north. (Just be careful on the stepping stones – my (very capable) 76 year auntie fell off a stepping stone into the burn and ended up at the tiny Arran A&E.)
Families will love exploring the beaches on Arran. Find some treasure (sea glass) while you’re there, skim some stones, go rock pooling on the rocky beaches and keep an eye out for the seals around the island too.
Tip: If you’ve got limited time, try to make it to Kildonan Bay. It is truly beautiful.
Eat some really yummy food
Time required: As long as it takes to eat!
Cost: Varies from place to place
Arran has some really great kid friendly cafe and restaurants dotted around the island, with delicious food. Our favourite in our last few trips was The Old Pier Tearoom in Lamlash, with the best sausage rolls you’ll find anywhere and some truly amazing bakes too. Cafe Thyme on the other side of the island in Machrie does the most delicious Turkish style pizzas and has a fantastic kids play area outside with swings and building blocks and all sorts of toys.
If you’re around Brodick, I highly recommend heading to Janie’s for lunch or a cuppa and a cake. The staff are so friendly and the food is top notch in here. Janie’s is just a few minutes from Brodick Castle and is right at the Arran Cheese Shop and Arran Aromatics, so it’s perfect if you’re popping into either of those too!
Play at Brodick Castle
Time required: 2-3 hours
Cost: Adult £13.50, Concession £9.50, Family £35. (Slightly cheaper if not visiting the castle itself.) Free for National Trust Scotland members.
Brodick Castle is a great place to explore and play, and definitely one of the highlights of a visit to Arran. We’ve been through the castle itself once and although the kids enjoyed exploring the rooms we definitely did whizz through it. I’d say it’s probably better for older kids who can read and who might be interested in the history of the castle. I really liked the little tour around the castle though!
The castle gardens are wonderful for families to explore. Make sure you head all the way down the hill to the bottom and find the mirror and musical sculptures around the walled garden, and the summer house at the very bottom.
The kids play area at Brodick Castle is absolutely brilliant. The play area is pretty much all made of wood. There’s a huge wooden maze-style area for kids to run around in with tunnels, bits to climb, towers, rope bridges and loads of other things. There’s a tall tower with a big slide, there’s swings, ziplines, there’s a smaller play area for younger kids and some benches dotted around for picnics too. This is one of the most fun play areas around. My kids could easily spend hours here.
Explore the Kings Caves
Time required: Around 3.5 hours to do the whole loop and explore the caves/beach. Less time with older kids who will walk faster!
The Kings Caves walking trail on Arran is great walk for families. It starts as a beautiful scenic walk leading through forest, then along a coastal path with views across cliffs and bays, and to get to the caves it heads down quite a steep hill to the shingle beach.
It’s down here that you’ll find the caves themselves where legend tells that King Robert the Bruce once sheltered. Even if that isn’t totally true, the caves have carvings on the walls, some of which are thought to date back quite a few centuries, possibly even to the bronze age. There are even some medieval inscriptions and some 19th century Christian symbols too in the caves. Make sure you take a torch and you can have great fun trying to spot interesting carvings! (You can find a bit more info about the carvings here.) http://arraninfocus.blogspot.com/2013/01/kings-cave-isle-of-arran.html
The walk is a 3 mile loop, and the path back up from the beach to the forest can be quite tiring for little legs. It is steep and also quite narrow at some points, but our just 3 year old managed the whole walk himself until about 10 minutes before we got back to the car, so it’s definitely doable for little ones.
There’s lots more to do on Arran, but these are some of the things we’ve enjoyed most on our recent trips with the kids. I hope that these suggestions help you plan your itinerary for your next trip to the beautiful island of Arran!