Planning on making a weekend adventure? Why not take a bike and tour Arran on two wheels
The largest island in the Firth of Clyde, just off the mainland around 50km to the south-west of Glasgow, the Isle of Arran is often described as 'Scotland in Miniature' due to its varied landscapes. Environmentalist James Bonner gave us his tips on how to plan a cycle tour of the island taking in some of its rich geological, archaeological and natural heritage.
As indicated in one of James' previous posts, sometimes the availability of space for bikes on ScotRail trains can vary, so after booking through ScotRail a few days before the trip, everything was in place, using a Rail & Sail ticket to combine an open return train and ferry crossing to Arran for the pretty reasonable £21 each.
Arriving at the ferry port at Ardrossan from Glasgow, it was apparent that cycling on the island had become a really popular weekend pursuit. In a scene that resembled cycling I'd undertaken in the Netherlands, I counted over 150 cyclists boarding the 09:45 Calmac service to Brodick.
This perhaps alludes to the various cycling opportunities that make Arran so attractive as a biking destination, with a range of routes to suit the time, availability and ability level of a wide range of cyclists. These include:
-The 5 Ferries Cycle, A renowned 100km+ cycling challenge around the Firth of Clyde that takes in a section of Arran, Kintyre, Cowell & Bute. It's ideal for a long weekend of cycle touring.
-A challenging 100km loop of the entire island, with a variety of good hill climbs en route that, by fairly strong cyclists, can be completed during a day trip to the island.
-Options for those who enjoy riding up, and then down hills, including the quite difficult 300m climb over the centre of Arran from Brodick, a road locally known as 'The String', and similarly the steeper climbing route, 'The Ross', which cuts acorss the south of the island.
-More moderate cycles that take in section of the island, including heading south out of Brodick towards the villages of Lamlash & Whiting Bay, or north toward the picturesque Corrie and to Lochranza.
-Shorter and easier cycles in and around Brodick, including the 3-4km ride north to Brodick Castle, and continuing on toward the base of Goatfell Mountain.
We decided to make a weekend out of the trip, booking an overnight stay at the Brodick Bunkhouse. We arrived on the island in the late morning and cycled south following the coastal route through the villages of Lamlash and Whiting Bay, passing beautiful views of the Holy Isle and Pladda Island. Before we stopped for a lunch break at the Lagg Hotel, we got some fantastic views of the distinctive Ailsa Craig.
The next stage of the cycle took us to the village of Blackwaterfoot on the west of the island before tackling 'The String' back over to Brodick. Although it is a shorter route back than returning via the coastal road, it can be a pretty demanding climb. However I'd argue that it's worth the effort for the quite spectacular views of Brodick and the mainland when you reach the summit of the climb.
After an evening meal in Fiddlers Music Bar & Bistro, and a few Saturday night drinks, we decided to take on separate routes on Sunday morning. I was keen to cover the rest of the island , while my friend was happier to stick to some routes around Brodick.
I crossed the island from east to west, before heading north along the coast. By the time I had reached Pirnmill, I felt like I needed some extra energy to get me to Lochranza in the north, so I stopped for a coffee and a scone at the Lighthouse restaurant. From Lochranza there's a steady climb out of the village, followed by a brilliant descent to the south. Aided by a bit of a tailwind, I pedalled back to Brodick in time to meet my friend who'd happily spent his day visiting Brodick Castle.
After a couple of hours, we caught the afternoon ferry back to Ardrossan, again joining a fair number of cyclists returning to the mainland. With trains scheduled to coincide with ferry arrivals or departures, the train was busy, and it was a tight squeeze to fit more than 8 cycles on board. The ScotRail staff were all very accommodating as they had been on the way out.
Overall, my trip to Arran was really enjoyable. It's easily accessible by public transport, via trains and ferries, with a variety of cycling route options for people of all abilities."
See more pictures of the trip below.
Where to sleep,eat and visit while touring...
- Brodick Bunkhouse.
- Lagg Hotel.
- Kinloch Hotel.
- Fiddlers Music Bar & Bistro.
- Douglas Hotel.
- Lighthouse Restaurant
- Brodick Castle
If you're heading out this weekend, remember to share your adventures with us on social media using #MyTiso
Exploring The Country On Two Wheels