Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Its Highlands are covered with high mountains, ancient forests, and glistening lakes. Rift valleys, rich farmland, and deep lochs run through the Lowlands. While a rugged coastline and windswept beaches border the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. There’s so much, almost too much, to see during one trip.
There’s one spot where all, or at least most, of these features are on display in a relatively small space, though. The Isle of Arran is known as Scotland in miniature thanks to its Highlands and Lowlands zones. The north half of the island is a mountainous National Scenic Area. Goat Fell, its highest peak, is one of the most popular hiking routes in Scotland. Where the hills end, glens, moors, and sandy bays begin. It all fits within 167 square miles.
The Isle of Arran is part of southwestern Scotland. It’s the largest island in the Firth of Clyde. It’s separated from the Hebrides by Kintyre, a long peninsula. While it’s an easy trip from Glasgow. Ferries arrive from Ardrossan. They dock in Brodick. The island’s main town sits in the center of the east coast. It’s a picturesque entry with harbor porpoises, golden-sand beaches, a waterfront promenade, and family-owned businesses. The Arran Coastal Way, a more than 65-mile trail that hugs the coastline, runs through the middle of it. Overlooking it all is Brodick Castle, a fortress that was home to the Dukes of Hamilton for hundreds of years.
The best place to stay on the Isle of Arran isn’t far from the ferry terminal, the center of town, or the photogenic castle. Auchrannie Resort feels like a Scottish country house. It’s surrounded by quiet woods. Goat Fell stands in the background. Plus the gardens are full of benches, flowers, and ponds. Two hotels, as well as 30 lodges and retreats, dot the property. The variety of accommodations makes the resort sound huge. But the way they’re spaced out actually gives each one a more intimate feel.
The House Hotel is traditional and romantic. The newer Spa Resort is contemporary and colorful. Self-catering luxury lodges become a home away from home for families. While couples retreats are true escapes from the world. The latter have wood-burning stoves by the sofas and Alexa-streamed music in the open living rooms. Arran artwork fills the walls. Arran Aromatics are in the all-white bathrooms. Adirondack chairs, fire pits, and wood-fired hot tubs are on the patios. Then the views extend down a narrow glen. It’s exactly what you dream your nonexistent second home would look like.
But, unlike a second home, it has all the amenities of a full resort. Three restaurants include a seafood grill, Scottish tapas, and a something-for-everyone brasserie. They all use as much local produce as possible. The ASPA, a destination spa, offers indoor pools, saunas, and steam rooms. Treatments use Scottish seaweed. Glasses of Champagne are served while you relax. Archery, biking, gorge walking, and rock climbing are among the activities. Home Farm, right down the road, sells cheese, seafood, and more beauty products. A brewery, a distillery, and more breathtaking views are just a little bit farther away. Scotland suddenly seems a lot less daunting.