Take the Slow Road: Scotland - a driving tour of Arran

25 September 2019
Enjoy a drive around the best scenery that the island of Arran has to offer, with Martin Dorey's guide to the sites - and routes - you shouldn't miss.

Like all islands, Arran’s driving is limited to the few roads it has. But what roads exist are worth driving, if only to give you a first taste of first-rate island adventure. In a few short hours you will drive through all kinds of landscapes, from mountains to empty hinterland via jolly seafronts and high cliff routes.

Arrival at Arran

The ferry from the mainland arrives at Brodick, Arran’s capital and main settlement. This is the place to buy outdoor gear, supplies at the Co-operative or books and postcards to keep you amused on long nights. The seafront has lots of seafronty things such as jolly flowerbeds and crazy golf and families enjoying strolls. Just out of town, to the west, there is a castle and country park as well as a heritage museum.

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From the ferry terminal you can go left or right around the island. So let’s imagine we have turned to the left, on the A841, towards the south and Lamlash Bay. The road rises out of Brodick and passes through coniferous plantations before offering up the first views as you descend through Blairmore Glen to Lamlash, a lovely little beach town with cafes and coffee shops, an outdoor centre and, offshore, the enigmatic Holy Island. Next stop, Whiting Bay is another beachside settlement with elegant houses with great views that will make you question your own existence. Could you live here? I could.

Beyond Whiting Bay

From Whiting Bay things get good. The coast changes and for the next few miles the road sits at the top of the steep slopes leading down to the sea. It passes the gorge at Eas Mor Waterfall with a whipped-back turn over a little bridge before offering you the opportunity to head down the hill to Seal Shore Campsite. Well worth it, if you can get in. After that you stay high, along a series of straights and bends at river valleys, almost always with fine sea views, until you finally hit sea level with a walk to the King’s Cave.

You hit the wild west after Machrie Bay Golf Course, where one of the island’s central roads – the B880 – will lead you back to Brocick, if you let it, across the boggy, forested hinterland and ending in stunning views of Brodick Bay on the descent. Otherwise it’s carrying on to Lochranza along the coast. I love this part of the journey because it skirts the shore, almost along the entire length of the island, offering places to halt and enjoy the beach. There are stops and villages at Prinmill and Catacol where you can visit the local shop or hotel for supplies or refreshments.

On from Lochranza

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At Lochranza the road changes again and travels up the loch before passing high over the mountainous north of the island, to about 200m (650ft) up a steep-sided and open valley with views of the mountains of Goatfell to the south. As you descend to the east coast, and drop below the treeline, the road becomes more enclosed until you arrive at Sannox Bay and begin the delightfully twisty, seashore-skirting meander back to Brodick via the lovely little beachside hamlet at Corrie.

Extract from Take the Slow Road: Scotland by Martin Dorey, published by Bloomsbury at £19.20. 

In this book Martin defines the best driving routes around Scotland for camper vans and motorhomes,  showing the reader the coolest places to stay, what to see, what to do and explain why it's special: ‘We meander around the highlands, lowlands and islands of Scotland on the most breathtaking roads, chugging up mountain passes and pootling along the coast. We show you stuff that's fun, often free. We include the best drives for different kinds of drivers; for surfers, wildlife watchers, climbers and walkers.

We include the steepest, the bendiest, those with the most interesting bridges or views or obstacles, ferries and tidal causeways. And you don't even have to own a camper van or motorhome – we'll tell you the many places you can rent one to take you on the journey.’

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(image copyright Thomas Nugent)