Arran with Kids – Arran is a notably family friendly Scottish island (I’ll explain why). Catch the car ferry from Ardrossan (just west of Glasgow), and roughly an hour later you’ll disembark at the island’s capital of Brodick ready for adventure. We had some ups and downs along the way, which I’ll explain as we go! *Contains affiliate links
Book Excellent Family Friendly Accommodation (with a Hot Tub) – Arran with Kids
All Scottish islands welcome children but only Arran has a fantastic resort hotel that delights all generations. And it’s only a twenty minute walk from the ferry terminal. We’ve seen a lot of hotels in our time and were blown away by what’s on offer at the Auchrannie Resort.
To sum up, Auchrannie has two fantastic swimmings pools. The first one is the House Hotel pool with heated stone spa seats, steam room and jacuzzi – it’s dimly lit and perfect for an evening dip. The second is the Spa HOtel Pool with the coolest children’s play area featuring waterfalls and water fountains that kids adore – and shower cubicles out of the Flintstones.
There is also a large Playbarn soft play area. Next is Arran Adventure, which will organise a host of outdoor activities, from bike hire to segways. A Spa allows mum and dad to pamper themselves. Auchrannie is also extremely dog friendly.
Auchrannie offers three restaurants. We enjoyed Brambles Seafood Grill (see pics below). Also consider Cruize Bar (more casual dining with a small soft play area) – we had a drink here after dinner at Brambles, and the kids disappeared for an hour into the soft play. Finally, the 1869 restaurant offers tapas dining. All venues have excellent children’s menus.
The accommodation is top notch. I’d recommend the self-catering apartments, retreats or cabins – very modern and high spec, in calming grey and yellow tones, and many feature a wood fired hot tub and fire pit. It was bliss, and our hot tub heated up really quickly. (Scroll up for cabin pictures.)
The hotel rooms in the Spa Hotel were equally smart and modern, with bunkbeds for our little ones and serene views of the mountains and palm trees. (Pics of hotel room below.)
Auchrannie is owned by its staff, a bit like John Lewis, so expect excellent service. A courtesy mini bus will collect and deliver passengers to the ferry port – the cherry on the cake. I would recommend this hotel for a girls/lads weekend, a romantic escape, a family holiday or a multi-generational trip. This is the kind of resort that you don’t have to leave – you could spend all your time here if you so wish. Basically, it’s fantastic and works for everyone – just book it! For prices and availability click here.
Day One – Arran with Kids
Due to ferry cancellations we could only get to Arran as foot passengers – we hadn’t planned this, so this is what we got up to. Island travel is out of our control, we’re at the mercy of the weather etc. so be willing to be a little flexible! The ferry crossing is very relaxed, part of the adventure, so grab a drink, enjoy the views, or both.
Explore Brodick – Arran with Kids
After a dip in the Auchrannie pool we walked down to Brodick to take in the views, grabbing a relatively inexpensive lunch from local bakery Wooleys to eat on the waterfront. Never has a mince and onion pie had a better backdrop!
Alpaca Trekking – Arran with Kids
We caught a bus from Brodick to Balmichael Farm to meet some furry friends. Nine alpaca live at this farm on the west coast of Arran. Visitors can book a 60 or 90 minute experience with them, and our children were free (see prices below). There’s also ‘Playtime with the Alpacas’ for really little ones.
Our 60 Minute experience started with farmer Tom talking about the animals and answering lots of questions from curious children. You will learn a LOT of random alpaca facts, and a little about each individual animal and its personality. Dougal is the lead alpaca, but me and Mr Tot were assigned beautiful Lomond, and Mr Husband and Junior were allocated Wallace. After a quick health and safety chat, you walk your alpaca around the farm. Each alpaca is allocated a bag of treats to feed your animal en route, returning to the paddock where there’s the chance to take some family photos.
End the experience with a cup of tea/coffee/squash (included in the price), and you can buy some sweets and treats from the tuck shop. Prices are currently £17 per person (aged 8 and over) who will trek an alpaca. FREE for under 8s who can help hold the rein with a paying adult (shared alpaca). Balmichael also offers glamping pods for those who don’t want to leave!
[Bus info – Bus drivers are so helpful here, dropping us at the bottom of the farm track, and collecting us when we waved them down. It was cheaper to buy an all day family bus explorer pass for £15 than buy a return. The bus timetable suits the 2pm trek well (bus out from Brodick at 1245, return bus around 4pm).]
Arran Heritage Museum
On the return journey an option is to stop at (or get off the bus) at Brodick’s Heritage Museum. Originally the site of a small school, the buildings include a farmhouse, cottage, bothy, milk house, laundry, stable, coach house and harness room. £10 for a family ticket makes for a good rainy day option.
Shopping – Coffee, Cheese and Arran Aromatics Toiletries – Home Farm
Next to the Heritage Museum is a small path that cuts past Rosaburn (where you can buy little bags of food to feed the hand-reared rescue ducks and ducklings). The path is clearly signposted to the Home Farm where you’ll find Arran Cheeses (Junior adored the whisky cheese, which we obviously didn’t buy with him in mind), Sense of Arran (formerly Arran Aromatics) and Arran Coffee. After making a few purchases, we returned on foot to Auchrannie (with the kids whingeing about the missing car). Arran Brewery is slightly further up the road if that’s of interest.
Day Two – Arran with Kids
Brodick Castle, Gardens, Isle of Adventure Play Area and Fairies and Legends Trail
We hired bikes from Arran Adventure at Auchrannie, and peddled our way to Brodick Castle, which was a great way to appreciate the scenery en route. (fyi – This route passed the Heritage Museum and the Home Farm, and much of it is an off road cycle path.) Brodick Castle and grounds are looked after by the National Trust for Scotland, so members get in for free, or it’s £27.50 for a family ticket. (Click the box below for NTS membership info.)
The castle is the ancient seat of the Duke of Hamilton, a grand baronial property, but, for kids, the vast outdoor playground is the real attraction (there’s even a specially adapted flying fox for toddlers). The fairy trail appeals to little ones, and the sculptures dotted around the gardens work for all ages. The Walled Garden dates back to 1710, with stunning views over Brodick Bay. It’s such a lovely, green, lush escape.
More Attractions – Arran with Kids
Over one weekend there was only so much we could do, especially when kids barely wanted to leave Auchrannie and its swimming pools! A key highlight is hiking up Goatfell – a real bucketlist natural beauty. Another rural attraction is Bellevue Farm that offers tours and experiences near Blackwaterfoot on the west of the island. Sannox Bay is a beautiful spot on the east coast, with the renowned Mara Fish Bar and Deli nearby. Arran’s golf scene is an attraction in its own right. In a nutshell, we need to return to see and do more.
There are two options. Sail from Ardrossan to Brodick with Caledonian Macbrayne (55 minutes), or depart from Claonaig in Kintyre to Lochranza at the north end of Arran, which takes 30 minutes. Fares are reasonable – we were around £25 return for four foot passengers on the Ardrossan/Brodick route, it would be around £60 with a car.
This is my third trip to Arran – the first two (several decades ago) were seamless. On this trip we experienced a LOT of cancellations – we were relieved to get away on holiday [but had to leave our car (and tent!) behind] and we were equally relieved to actually get off the island. All I’m saying is leave a little leeway in your trip, and go with the flow.
I found Calmac really helpful throughout and they adapted so fast. Their Twitter feed @calmac_updates is really useful when the weather/Covid etc. may be against you. The Customer Services number is 0800 066 5000. If you can’t get through on that then try the Ardrossan port on 01294 443 130 or Brodick on 01770 460 361 (select option 2). Hopefully you won’t need any of this info!
PARKING & FOOD – Before boarding in Ardrossan we ate in the Italian cafe Cecchini’s, which hit the spot. They turned around our lunches swiftly when we told them which ferry we had to catch! Long stay parking is available at Ardrossan. Pay when you return – we were £9 for a weekend (under 48 hours).
Another tip – Always book your accommodation, even campsites, in advance as Arran is hugely popular and often fully booked, especially over holiday periods.
We drove down from Aberdeen, and booked a night in Glasgow at the Novotel on Pitt Street (good value, simple but v central) visiting the free Riverside Museum, before heading for Ardrossan Harbour. We received one night DBB at the Auchrannie Resort for a press review, and loved it so much we booked/paid for a second night ourselves in a cabin. We also received bike hire and the alpaca experience for press purposes, but covered most expenses/meals ourselves.