The Arran Circuit

June 1998
90 km

I moved from Norway to Scotland at the end of 1996. Mostly because I wanted to do some more cycling here and to get a new start after a failed business venture. I did not bring my bike from Norway over because it was more or less unrepairable. So I bought a new one in 1997 and started doing some more biking again. After getting to know Scotland a bit, Isle Of Arran was always high on my agenda. I was living in Dumbarton though and travelling down to Isle Of Arran by train was a bit difficult. But it was possible and that's why I went for it.

Please note that all photos was taken during the 2008 Islay tour. Some of them are left overs from that tour and others are again published on the Islay tour. I have no photos from the 1998 tour.

The tour started with a 2.5 hours long train journey from Alexandria to Glasgow and then a change over to the train to Ardrossan Harbour. I reached the ferry to Brodick and embarked on it.

The mountains of Arran from the ferry.

Brodick from the ferry.

The ferry ride on this impressive ferry took around 50 minutes and I arrived at Brodick in blazing sunshine. I stopped in Brodick for some minutes before I headed up the hill towards Lamlash Bay. The climb was very steep and heavy. The descent down to Lamlash Bay was vertical and scary. No room for error here ! The brakes was working overtime. Lamlash Bay is very idyllic.

Lamlash Bay and Holy Island.

But it started to dawn on me that this was not going to be an easy ride so I cracked on up the mountain over to Whiting Bay. The climb between Lamlash Bay and Whiting Bay was pretty hard and not a tea in the park. The sun was blazing down on me and I was suffering. The descent down to Whiting Bay was hairy too.

Whiting Bay and Holy Island.

The climb up from Whiting Bay to the south-east corner of Arran was pretty hard. I now understood why Isle Of Arran has this fearsome reputation among cyclists. The dense forest did not make the climb any easier. The road along the south coast of Arran is one of the toughest roads in Scotland. It is unrelenting up and down. The climbs are difficult, very technical and hard. The descents are vertical and pretty scary. This road offers no rest whatsoever. The only saving grace is the views. They are truly amazing. I did not know this planet had views like this ! This makes Isle Of Arran to what it is. A true gem. The following pictures is all from the south coast of Arran

Padda and the lighthouse.

The Arran south side.

The Arran south side.

Near the top of the second of the hard climbs. The signpost is not kidding.....

The Arran south side again.

The road dropped vertically down to Kilmory and the brakes was really getting hot here. I almost ended up in the post office (later relocated, I learned last year) on this twenty degrees drop down to Kilmory. Scary ! The road over to the south-west corner of Arran was pretty steep and vertical at places. In particular out of Kilmory.

The road up from Kilmory.

The road finally turned the south-west corner and some fantastic views over to the Kintyre Peninsula appeared. Blackwaterfoot also appeared in the distance and I could not wait to get there.

The road up the coastline to Blackwaterfoot.

I gave it my best before this village. I got some water there before the coastal road up to Lochranza. I hoped that road would be flat, but that hope was scuppered just out of Blackwaterfoot with a pretty hard climb up hill and on a ledge on the hillside towards Machrie. The views towards the mountains of Isle Of Arran was fantastic though. I cracked on after loosing too much time on the south coast and hurried down the hill to the sea again at Machrie.
The first part of the road to Lochranza follows the shoreline with some exceptional beautiful views towards the Kintyre Peninsula. I was in a hurry though because of the ferry back to the mainland. A steep and nasty climb halfway up the coast really put the fear in me. The descent was vertical too and pretty scary. The rest of the road past Pirnmill and Catacol was pretty flat and nice.

Looking down the coastline from Pirnhill.

I soon reached Lochranza. This is a real beauty spot and one of my many favourite places in Scotland. I did not have time to hang around though. The mountain climb over to the east side of Arran was waiting for me. The climb started at the whisky distillery and was vertical up along the valley. I spotted one of the red deer which has made Lochranza famous on the way up the valley.
I was pretty relieved to be on the top of this climb at 200 meters above sea level. The descent to the sea was OK. I was starting to get the hang of it now. I needed to get the last ferry so I cracked on down the flat road past Corrie to Brodick again. I was raced the ferry down the coast and it docked just when I was entering Brodick. I raced to the ferry and reached it with some minutes to spare.

I regard Isle Of Arran as one of the finest places I have ever visited. This island has been called “Scotland in miniatyre” and with good reason. If you have only one day to visit the scenery of Scotland, Isle Of Arran must be your choice. I love it.
The cycling though is very hard and maybe not everyone's cup of tea. But I love it and I can only recommend it. But do check out the ferry schedule before you do the full Arran Circuit. Being stucked overnight on this island is not a good idea.

I rate this tour in my Top 5 of tours in Scotland and regard it as a true classic.