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Arran is one of the most accessible of the Scottish islands and one of the most southerly. The line between the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland divides the island almost exactly in two and Arran mirrors the differing landscapes of the country more widely, forming a "Scotland in miniature". The north is ruggedly mountainous and sparsely populated, the south softer in landscape and home to the majority of the 4,500 people who live here.
The ferry from Ardrossan docks at Brodick, which provides a good base for exploring Arran. There are tourist facilities in the town and Brodick is home to one of Arran's many golf courses. It also boasts Brodick Castle, set in parkland two miles to the north. En route to the castle you pass the excellent Isle of Arran Heritage Museum.
The roads on Arran are easily described. The main road, the A841, circumnavigates the island, staying fairly close to the coast as it does so. In addition a road, known as "The String Road" climbs over the middle of the island from Brodick west to Blackwaterfoot, and a minor road cuts diagonally across the south end of the island. Almost all Arran's settlements and many of its visitor attractions lie on or close to the main road round the island, so it makes sense to describe Arran in terms of a clockwise tour around it on the A841.
If you head for three miles south of south from Brodick, you climb through heavily wooded countryside before descending into Lamlash. This is Arran's "capital" and its largest village, being home to the council offices, hospital and secondary school. It is also the most attractive village on the island, due both to its buildings and its outlook over Lamlash Bay to Holy Island.
Whiting Bay, four miles south of Lamlash, offers a range of accommodation options and makes an ideal base for walking in the southern half of Arran. Further south still lies Kildonan, at the south eastern tip of Arran. This is accessed by a road that cuts down to the coast from the A841, and is a detour well worth making. Four miles west of Kildonan is Kilmory, home to the Torrylinn Creamery, where Isle of Arran Cheese is made. Carry on, and Kilmory seamlessly becomes Lagg. As well as being home to the excellent Lagg Hotel, a path from here leads to the Torrylin Cairn overlooking the shore.
Further round still, and you come to Arran's more sparsely populated west coast and its only significant settlement, at Blackwaterfoot. En route you pass two of the prehistoric remains which populate much of the south west side of Arran, Torr a' Chaisteal Dun and Kilpatrick Dun, the latter's upland location offering especially good views over this part of the island. As already mentioned, Blackwaterfoot lies at the west end of the String Road to Brodick. A little way along it is Arran's only significant settlement not on the coast, Shiskine. Here you find the attractive St Molios Church.
Sticking to the main road north of Blackwaterfoot takes you past the start of a track leading (on foot) to the remarkable collection of stone circles, standing stones and other signs of ancient occupation on Machrie Moor, one of the most important prehistoric sites in Scotland. A little further north again, and the road takes you close to the Auchagallon Stone Circle.
Heading north again takes you along the coast of Arran's more mountainous northern half, and here you find the small coastal settlements of Pirnmill and Catacol. Close to Arran's most northerly point is the north west facing indent of Loch Ranza, around which you find the village of Lochranza. Set amid spectacular scenery where the mountains and the sea collide, attractions in Lochranza include Lochranza Castle, superbly sited on a spit of land sticking out into the loch, and the Isle of Arran Distillery. The slipway at the north end of the loch is the terminus for the ferry to Claonaig on the Kintyre peninsula, Arran's little known "back door".
Continuing our clockwise tour of Arran takes us over a shoulder of the spectacularly jagged mountains of the northern half of the island en route to regaining the coast at Sannox, which blends into the linear settlement of Corrie, strung out along the shoreline and home to two separate harbours and (at Sannox) a further pier. Carrying on south takes you past Brodick Castle and the Heritage Centre, and into Brodick once more. It is worth remembering that Arran is a small island: its complete circumnavigation on the A841 is a distance of just 55 miles.