Arran is a hilly island
in the Firth of Clyde
off the west coast of Scotland
, 20 miles (32 km) long and 56 miles (90 km) round the circumference
. It is reached by ferry
, the main route being from Ardrossan
, the biggest town on the island. Another vehicle ferry
sails from Claonaig
on the north of the island. The weather
tends to be mild, due to the Gulf Stream
washing the southern end of the island, and the peninsula
, which shelters the island from the Atlantic Ocean
The main industries in Arran are tourism and whisky-making. It has long been a popular destination for holidaying Glaswegians, and offers a number of attractions, including Brodick Castle, the Isle of Arran Brewery which produces a range of bottle beers, the Machrie Moor standing stones and a local heritage museum. Arran Heritage Museum's attractions include a replica of a late-Nineteenth Century home, a genealogical archive, and Clachaig Man, a sculpted head based on a 5000 year old skull found buried at Clachaig on the island. Arran is also excellent for hill-walkers, has a variety of wildlife including birds and seals, and a number of golf courses.
The current distillery at Lochranza only opened in 1995, very recent in terms of Scotch whisky. However, there is a long history of making whisky on the island, with the last legal distillery closing in 1836. It produces the Isle of Arran Single Malt Whisky, and has a visitor centre open year-round.
A mile off the coast of Arran is Holy Isle, formerly the home of a Christian monastery, and now a Buddhist retreat. Holy Isle can be reached by boat from Arran, leaving from Lamlash. Arran has a long history, attested to by the castles at Brodick and Lochranza. In the Fifth Century CE, Arran was settled by the Irish, who built a fort near Brodick and went on to found the kingdom of Dalriada, which spread over Argyll in the west of Scotland, displacing the earlier Pictish inhabitants.
Later, Robert the Bruce stayed on the island before returning to the mainland to lead Scotland to independence from the English. Brodick Castle was built in the Thirteenth Century, but later badly damaged and largely rebuilt more than once. It was the home to the Dukes of Hamilton from the Sixteenth Century, and the castle now houses various silver, porcelain, antiques and paintings from their history. It is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland.
Note: the Isle of Arran should not be confused with the Aran Islands (Oileain Arann), which lie off the coast of Ireland and were made famous in the plays of John Millington Synge.