Brodick Castle, the former home of the Dukes of Hamilton, is a 19th-century castle located a few miles north of Brodick on the Isle of Arran. An exceptionally large garden and country park surround this stereotypically Scottish castle, which features a collection of family-friendly attractions, including an adventure play park, as well as displays of historic artefacts that can be viewed on a self-guided tour.
Isle of Arran,
|Country Park and Garden 10.00 –17.00
Castle 10.30 –17.00
Shop 10.30 –17.00
Woodland café 10.30 –17.00
Red squirrel hide 10.30 –17.00
Isle Be Wild play park 10.30 –17.00
Red Squirrel tuck shop 10.30 –17.00
One adult family £27.50
|Free on-site parking
|Accessible parking, accessible toilet, baby changing, buggy access, café, children’s activities, dogs welcome, electric vehicle charging point, guided tour, picnic area, play area, self-guided trail, shop, toilets, wheelchair access
There’s a lot to like about Arran. From the tranquilly of the Holy Isle to the monumental peaks of Goatfell, this small island off the west coast of Scotland is guaranteed to keep tourists happy, whether on a day trip or a longer visit.
If you like historic attractions, you won’t go far wrong with a visit to Brodick Castle Garden Country Park, which is located a few miles north of Brodick, Arran’s main town. Brodick Castle is every bit the typical grand Scottish castle you’ll find elsewhere in the country, and it’s an essential place to visit due to its location, which is as much a draw as the building itself.
Arran is often called ‘Scotland in miniature’, and I guess you could say Brodick Castle is ‘Arran in miniature’. The gardens are enormous, and there’s more than enough to see and do to keep families busy for the majority of the day.
The Hamiltons’ extensive overseas travels resulted in a stunning collection of plant specimens, which they collected and grew in the castle’s gardens. Flowering rhododendrons sprawl across the ground next to huge Jurassic Park-style ferns with stems so thick you can barely stretch your fingers around them.
A spider’s web of paths leads off in every direction through thickets of exotic flowers and towering conifers, all framed by the stunning backdrop of Brodick Bay and the Firth of Clyde. Meanwhile, oddities like a seashell-adorned Victorian summerhouse can be found in all corners of the garden.
Getting to the castle is easy, as you just need to follow the A841 north out of Brodick, and as it’s only 2 miles to the ferry terminal, you could easily cycle there as part of a day trip to the island. Alternatively, you could always walk, but I’d plan at least one hour to get to the castle from the ferry terminal.
Facilities-wise, this historic attraction is one of the better ones on Arran, with ample parking, disabled access in most areas, lots of children’s activities, and a number of walking trails, plus there are plenty of picnic spots and grassy areas to enjoy al fresco dining on a sunny day.
1: The castle houses an impressive collection of period furniture, silverware, porcelain, paintings, and sporting trophies. Each room tells a different story of the Hamilton family, who owned the castle for over 400 years, and their role in Scottish history.
2: The castle’s gardens are famous for their collections of rhododendrons and azaleas, which put on a dazzling display of colour in the spring. The grounds also include a Bavarian summerhouse adorned with intricate wood carvings, and a unique collection of Noisette roses.
3: For children, there’s the Isle Be Wild adventure playground, which features zip lines and boat swings. For adults, the many trails through the estate provide opportunities for leisurely strolls or more challenging hikes, with the chance to spot red squirrels, golden eagles, and red deer.
1: When I visited, I walked to the castle from Brodick, which took about an hour and was probably the most memorable part of my trip to Arran. It’s a lovely walk, but the downside is that once you reach the A841, there’s no footpath, so you have to skirt around the shoreline. If you’d prefer to use public transport, then the Brodick Castle bus (Stagecoach #324) runs from the ferry terminal to a stop outside the castle entrance.
2: Since the NTS is in charge of many historic and private gardens, it might be a good idea to look into the National Trust for Scotland membership options if you’re planning to visit multiple historic sites during your stay in Scotland.
3: If you’re visiting on a bike, make sure you cycle north up the A841 for some of the best coastal views on the island. Then, take a look around Lochranza on the northern tip of Arran and either take the ferry over to the mainland or continue on the Arran Coastal Way.
You could easily spend all day just enjoying the grounds without even venturing inside the castle, so thankfully, the NTS offers separate tickets just for the gardens, which are half the price of the full tickets. That’s pretty good value considering the grounds include a large children’s play park and a café.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could split your day between the castle grounds and the surrounding countryside, which comprises the seafront to the east and an expansive forest to the west.
Although a fortress has existed on the site since at least the fifth century, Brodick Castle, as we see it today, was built in the 1840s when the 11th Duke of Hamilton began a massive construction project that saw the original fort triple in size.
Most of the areas that are open to visitors have impressive collections of period furniture, silverware, and paintings, and you’ll get a good feel for the aristocratic luxury that the Hamiltons enjoyed throughout the 500 years they lived there.
I have to say, though, that it’s the garden that’s the star of the show. Most of the plants you see today can trace their roots (no pun intended…) back to the 6th Duchess of Montrose, who sponsored expeditions in the 1920s to China, Tibet, and South America.
Those voyages brought back rare specimens of plants that would struggle to grow elsewhere in Scotland, but thrive on Arran due to the micro-climate that provides a mild temperature with few days of freezing weather.
If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of the early pioneers who discovered Brodick Castle’s stunning collection of plants, there’s a Plant Hunters Walk behind the walled garden that will show you some of the specimens they returned with. Another option for a good walk is to follow the art trail that will take you through a collection of modern artworks located on the western edge of the grounds.
Things to Do
Explore the Castle: Delve into the rich history of Brodick Castle, a 16th-century fortress on a historic site that dates back to the 5th century. Wander through the grand halls and opulent rooms that are filled with antique furniture, silverware, and paintings.
Wander in the Gardens: The castle’s sprawling gardens are a gardener’s dream location. You can spend hours exploring the rhododendrons and the rare shrubs in the Woodland Garden. For a tranquil experience, stroll along to the Bavarian Summerhouse and enjoy breathtaking views of the Firth of Clyde.
Wildlife Watching: The castle grounds are home to a variety of wildlife. Spot red squirrels, roe deer, and lots of birds in their natural habitat. The castle’s country park is a part of the Isle of Arran’s National Scenic Area, and it’s a great place to reconnect with nature.
Adventure Playground: Perfect for families, the Isle Be Wild adventure playground will keep children entertained for hours. With zip lines, swings, climbing towers, and jungle-style walkways, it’s a fantastic place for children to run wild.
Eat in the Cafe: The on-site Woodland Cafe serves a delicious assortment of cakes and home-baked treats, along with a good selection of traditional meals. There’s also a takeaway service if you’d like to sip on a coffee while exploring the garden, as well as an ice-cream kiosk that has snacks and hot drinks.
Things to Do Nearby
Goatfell Mountain. Isle of Arran, KA27 8FD. 2-hour, 30-minute walk.
Corbett (a mountain under 3,000 feet) is the highest point on the island at 2,870 feet. Easily accessible from a trail that runs behind Brodick Castle.
Brodick. 40-minute walk.
The main village on Arran. It can be accessed from the castle via Fisherman’s Walk. Brodick High Street offers shops, cafés and restaurants while Brodick Bay is a popular water sports location.
Fisherman’s Walk (Arran Coastal Way). Isle of Arran, KA27 8DE. 15-minute walk.
A boardwalk that runs alongside Brodick Bay. Affords access to the beach. The walk is a short distance from the village centre and is used by cyclists and walkers on their way to the Arran Coastal Way.
Brodick Castle Forest. 5-minute walk.
An expansive coniferous forest that sits at the foot of Goatfell, behind the castle. There are several walking routes through the forest in all directions.
Arran Heritage Museum. Isle of Arran, KA27 8DP. 5-minute drive.
Heritage museum that explores Arran’s geological and agricultural heritage. It features a replica of a traditional working farm, gardens, and a café.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Brodick Castle free?
Brodick Castle and gardens have paid admission at the entrance. It is possible to purchase separate tickets for the garden and the country park. See the National Trust for Scotland page for the latest prices.
Who lived in Brodick Castle?
From 1470 until 1958, when the National Trust for Scotland bought it, Brodick Castle served as the Dukes of Hamilton’s political headquarters.
Can you stay at Brodick Castle?
It is not possible to stay at Brodick Castle, but there are lodges within the castle grounds that can be rented.
How far is Brodick Castle from the ferry terminal?
The castle is 2.5 miles from the ferry terminal on foot and 3 miles by road. Walking takes 50 minutes, and driving takes 9 minutes.