Memories of Arran

Continuing on from my short articles on Pitlochry and Easdale, next up is the beautiful island of Arran.

 

Arran is often called Scotland in miniature and this is true, with its highlands, lowlands, forests, glens and a beautiful coastline.  Arran is a special place and many people fall in love with it and go back again and again.

 

Arran1
The Isle of Arran

 

Location

Arran is just off the west coast of Scotland but east of the Mull of Kintyre.  To get there you need to get a ferry from Ardossan which is just under an hour by car from central Glasgow.  The ferry crossing only takes about an hour and takes you to the main settlement on the island – Brodick.  All in all, this makes Arran the most accessible of the Scottish Islands and probably the only one you can really visit if you are taking a short break to Scotland from the south of England or further afield.

 

For accomodation there are numerous hotels and B&Bs but I’d recommend self-catering.  The co-op supermarket in Brodick is big enough to furnish most supplies you would need and self-catering will give you the best freedom for exploring the Island.

 

Places to Visit

The main settlements to visit on the island are:

  • Brodick – the ferry port and it has many places to stay and eat, as well as the largest supermarket on the island.  Touristy things to do include Brodick Castle, Brodick Brewery and the Isle of Arran Heritage Museum.
  • Lochranza – in the North of the island and also a small ferry port for journeys to and from Kintyre.  Attractions here include the Isle of Arran Distillery and the ruined Lochranza Castle.
  • Lamlash – the main residential settlement on the island with nice views across the bay but nothing particularly touristy to see.

Lochranza
Lochranza

 

Things to Do

There is plenty to do on the island, particularly if you enjoy nature.  Some highlights include:

  • Goatfell – the largest mountain on the island and also one of the most accessible, with clear routes available just to the North of Brodick
  • The King’s Caves – near Blackwaterfoot on the west side of the island are the gorgeous King’s Caves.  It takes a while to walk there from a nearby car park but it is worth the journey with lots of hollowed out caves on the beach.
  • Glenashdale Falls – one of my favourite walks took us through a forest by a river and then eventually up to the gorgeous Glenashdale Falls.  Again it is a bit of a walk to get there but it is worth it.
  • The Holy Isle – we didn’t go there but you can get there by boat on the east side of Arran.  Even if you don’t go though, the views across to it are pretty impressive.
  • Arran Aromatics – Ok so it isn’t nature, but the Arran Aromatics shop on the road north between Brodick and Lochranza is worth visiting.  You can also have a pretty impressive tour and create your own soap.

 

Glendash Falls
Glenashdale Falls

 

Food

If you want gourmet dining, then Arran isn’t for you.  If you just like good food though, then Arran has it in spades.  A few highlights are:

  • Cafe Thyme – a lovely cafe on the west side of the island near Machrie.  We went her a couple of times and had a nice lunch and some cake.  Very friendly and helpful staff with a great children’s play area and a few shops nearby as well.  The best bit though are the clear views across to the West.
  • The Sandwich Station – Near the ferry stop in the North of Lochranza is an unassuming shack that you wouldn’t think was one of the best sandwich places ever.  We had some amazing sandwiches here and if you are anywhere near the North of the island around lunchtime, this is the place to go.
  • The Lagg Hotel – The Lagg Hotel is a cosy little place on the South of the Island and I would recommend it for a rainy or cold day.  We had a nice lunch here and dinner looked good as well.

 

Summary

Arran is a lovely island and a great and accessible place to experience a Scottish Island.  Whether you are a couple on your own or a family with children, there is something for everyone.  I hope you enjoy Arran as much as I have.

Memories of Pitlochry

Pitlochry is a special place for me, having been there numerous times during my childhood and when I lived in Scotland a couple of year ago.  Although special to me for nostalgic reasons, it is also an excellent place to visit in its own right.  If you do decide to go to Pitlochry it is worth going for a long weekend, or if you are exploring the wider area it might be worth using it as a base for a week.

Pitlochry
Pitlochry from afar

 

Location

Pitlochry is in the heart of Scotland, just before you reach the Highlands.  It is in North Perthsire, approximately a 1hr 40min drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow.  You can also reach it by train from Edinburgh.

Part of what makes Pitlochry such a good place to visit is what it is nearby:

  • The Cairngorms are just to the North
  • Perth is only 45 mins away
  • Blair Atholl is 15 mins away with attractions including a castle, working mill and the excellent House of Bruar
  • The lovely town of Aberfeldy is 25 mins away
  • Loch Tummel is just to the West with some excellent views and walks

 

The Town

Pitlochry isn’t a huge town but it has enough to keep anyone entertained and well-fed for a while.  The high street has numerous shops and restaurants as well as more mundane (but essential) facilities such as good car parking, a post office and a petrol station.

Shopping highlights on my last trip there (early 2016) included:

  • MacDonalds Butchers – where we got some excellent homemade sausages
  • Drinkmonger – where I got a nice special bottle of whisky I’m still working my way through

For eating there are some excellent choices and the ones we can recommend from across all our trips there are:

 

As for accomodation, the one place I can recommend is where we stayed on our last overnight trip – Craigatin House B&B.  It is easily one of the best B&Bs I’ve every stayed in, with excellent rooms and fantastic breakfasts.  The owners and staff were also very helpful and friendly.  Highly recommended

Craigatin
Craigatin

 

What to Do

As noted above there are lots of places near Pitlochry to do things but there are also plenty of places you can walk to in and very near the Town.  My favourites are

  • Black Spout Wood and Waterfall – we had a lovely walk round here in the autumn and the waterfall was amazing.
4A319244-C157-49EC-84F1-04808F2CE7BF
The Edradour Black Spout Waterfall
  • Blair Athol Distillery – the home of Bells Whisky.  We had a great guided tour round here with an excellent guide.  Worth checking out the single malt of Blair Athol whilst you are here.
blair-athol-distillery
Blair Athol Distillery

Also recommended are:

  • Pitlochry Festival Theatre
  • Edradour Distillery
  • Faskally Wood
  • Pitlochry Dam
9C49494F-3F92-4FEE-AE72-CE99D609C438
View from the top of the dam

 

Memories of Easdale

My wife and I visited the West Coast of Scotland about 18 months ago for an impromptu break away.  We stayed near Oban and explored the local area but one place that will always remain in my memory is the little island of Easdale.

(Note – I’ve sadly lost the pictures I took so the pictures below are all from Wikimedia Commons)

Easdale, as the map below shows, is about a 35 minutes drive from Oban.  Well at least it is 35 minutes to the ferry terminal.  You then have to take a small boat on a 5 minute ferry crossing to the island.

Easdale

 

The island has no roads (which is a joy) and a population of approximately 60.  Facilities on the island include a development trust, folk museum and an excellent cafe/bar – the Puffer.  It is most famous for the World Skimming Championships due to the massive amounts of slate on the island, as well as the pools that have been formed by quarrying in the past.

Flooded_slate_quarry_on_Easdale_-_geograph.org.uk_-_140356

We were lucky enough to visit on a sunny day and it made it one of the most delightful and peaceful little trips I’ve ever been on.  We had a quick wander around the village before having an excellent couple of sandwiches at the Puffer.  Considering it’s relative remoteness the Puffer is an excellent establishment and needs to be visited if you are on the island.  We then visited the folk museum which was very pleasant and it was interesting to understand how the island has changed and developed over time.  What really struck us was how incredibly friendly everyone was in the village.

The_Puffer_Easdale_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1509239

Although we enjoyed the village, the highlight of the trip was exploring out to the rest of the island where the slate quarrying used to happen.  The area is full of overgrown foliage, abandoned houses and a number of huge pools formed by the quarrying and filled in by the sea.  There was a real sense of melancholy with it all, but also a peacefulness that was very refreshing.  Best of all was the views we had to the north and the west to Mull, particularly it’s mountains.

Ellenabeich_-_geograph.org.uk_-_95384

Although small, Easdale is perfectly formed and a delightful place to visit.  If you find yourself on the west coast of Scotland, take a bit of time to visit this peaceful island.

My Favourite Whiskies

I lived in Scotland for a couple of years and became rather a fan of whisky.  I know it is a bit of a cliche to do so but once you’ve found the type of whisky you like, there really is no going back.  My favourites (in no particular order) are:

 

Old Pulteney

 

The 12-year old Old Pulteney was the first whisky I ever tried that I really enjoyed – it thus is a very special whisky for me and I often indulge in a dram on a Friday night.  It was whilst on holiday a few years ago in Edinburgh and we had stopped by for a little drink at the Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile.  It had a slightly salty/sea taste that I love and have looked for ever since in whiskies.  Last year I tried the 17-year old which is even better, if significantly pricier.  My only regret with Old Pulteney is that I haven’t been up to do a distillery tour yet.

Old Pultney

The 12 year-old usually retails for approximately £35 and the 17-year old at £75.

For more info check out http://www.oldpulteney.com

 

Highland Park

I stumbled across Highland park at a food show in London a few years ago.  There was an opportunity to do a guided tasting and we were there so early that we had one all to ourselves.  I’m glad we did as the various ones we tried were all excellent, including the ‘basic’ 12-year old.  It combines the maritime taste I like so much with a lightly peated taste; something else I’ve begun to look for in whiskies.  I was also lucky enough to go on a tour at the distillery last year when I visited Orkney and that was an excellent experience.

highland-park-12-year-scotch-28

The 12-year usually retails for around £35

For more info check out https://www.highlandparkwhisky.com/

 

Oban

Discovering the Oban whisky was a chance encounter as we happened to be on holiday in the Oban area on a very rainy day.  What do you do on a rainy day in Scotland?…Go to a distillery obviously!  The tour was very well done but most importantly the dram at the end was fantastic.  For me it was a halfway-house between Old Pulteney and Highland Park.

whisky-oban-14-y-70-cl-distilled-beverage

The core range 14-year retails for approximately £40

For more info check out https://www.discovering-distilleries.com/oban/

 

Talisker

I love Talisker and have done ever since I first tried it in a bar in Edinburgh.  Against it has the maritime taste but it is more heavily peated than the those above.  More often that note it is my whisky of choice, either at home or when out.  I first tried the 10-year old which if fantastic, but I also treated myself to a bottle of the Distiller’s edition which is a much richer flavour.  Whilst on Skye last year we also did the distillery tour (on another rainy day) and that was excellent.

talisker-10-year-old-whisky

 

The 10-year old usually retails for around £35 and the Distiller’s edition (if you can find it) at £50-£60.

For info go to https://www.discovering-distilleries.com/talisker/

 

Blair Athol

One of my favourite places in Scotland is lovely Pitlochry in Perthshire.  This small town boasts two distilleries, though the only one I have been to is Blair Athol, the home of Bell’s, but also of the splendid Blair Athol single malt.  The single malt is a delicate and floral whisky, much unlike any of the other whiskies I like.  However it is very pleasant and drinkable on its own.  Getting hold of the single malt is difficult though and easiest if you are at the distillery shop or one of the other Diageo discovering distilleries sites (e.g. Oban).  I would also highly recommend the distillery tour.

blairathol_singlemalt_12year

 

If you do manage to get a bottle it will cost you approximately £40-£50

For more info visit here https://www.discovering-distilleries.com/blairathol/