The village of Lochranza on the Isle of Arran is located in an exceptionally picturesque area in the north of the island. The village lies at the foot of dramatic hills that encircle it to the south, while a small scenic bay opens up to the Firth of Clyde and the Campbeltown peninsula to the north.
A ruined castle dominates the mudflats of the bay, which is a good starting point for the Newton Point coastal path that runs east around the coastline. Whisky lovers, meanwhile, can enjoy samples of single-malt Scotch during a visit to the Lochranza distillery, located off the A841 at the entrance to the village.
Ise of Arran,
|Open 1 April to 30 September: Daily, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. Last entry 5 pm.
Closed 1 October to 31 March.
|Free roadside parking
There’s a reason why Arran has earned the nickname ‘Scotland in miniature’.
You want to go mountain climbing? You got it, with no less than four Corbetts (mountains under 3,000 feet), including the famous Goatfell. Historic castles? Look no further than Brodick and its superb National Trust-owned castle. Woodland walks? You’re spoilt for choice, with the South End, Glenrickard, and Dyemill forests offering lots of adventures in the great outdoors.
However, in my opinion, the best reason to visit Arran is to explore the northern tip around the coastal village of Lochranza. This small village sits on the shore of Loch Ranza, a small sea loch that opens out to the Firth of Clyde and overlooks the mainland, hence its use as Arran’s second ferry terminal. The loch is really more of a narrow estuary, which means the southern end turns into a wide mudflat once the tide goes out.
Due to the small ferry pier on the north-west edge of Loch Ranza, tourists primarily use the village as a gateway to the mainland. The Calmac ferry crossing is a popular choice for tourists who want to visit the Campbeltown peninsula, and the short sail to Claonaig means you can easily combine a sightseeing tour of both places. Check out the Calmac website for sailing times and prices.
It’s worth spending a little time in Lochranza before heading elsewhere, though, as it boasts some of the top attractions on the island. First is Lochranza Castle, a picturesque ruin that dates back to the 13th century and has a history that includes being a hunting lodge for Scottish kings, a garrison during the Civil War, and a refuge for Robert the Bruce.
There’s also the Lochranza Distillery, the island’s first legal distillery, which opened in 1995. Tours offer an insight into the distilling process and include tastings of the distillery’s single malts, which are well known for their light and delicate character.
For wildlife enthusiasts, Lochranza is a must-visit destination as it’s not uncommon to see red deer roaming freely around the area. The waters around Lochranza are also home to seals, otters, and a variety of seabirds, while the surrounding hills offer the opportunity to spot eagles and other birds of prey.
Golfers can enjoy a round at the Lochranza Golf Course, which is a small course with stunning views, while hikers can enjoy numerous walking trails that cater to varying levels of ability. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, outdoor adventure, or a taste of Scottish culture, Lochranza offers a slice of island life that’s unparalled.
1: Lochranza is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. The area is known for its population of red deer, which can often be seen grazing in the village or by the castle. The loch itself is home to seals and a variety of birdlife, and otters are sometimes spotted along the shoreline.
2: Taking a tour of Lochranza Distillery allows visitors to learn about the art of whisky making and enjoy tastings of their acclaimed single malts. After a tour, visitors can relax in the on-site cafe before purchasing a memento or two in the gift shop.
3: The picturesque setting of Lochranza Castle makes it a compelling spot for history buffs and photographers alike. Visitors can explore the castle while soaking up some of the best views on the island.
1: If you’re staying in Brodick, you’ll enjoy the drive up the A841 which follows the island’s eastern coastline and continues through the mountainous northern region. If you want a longer drive back, continue along the A841 to see the west coast of the island, and then cut back along the B880 (aka The String).
2: If you intend to stay at Lochranza for most of the day, you might like to go for a walk along the Newton Point coastal path which is a lovely, if rough, walking trail. If you’re on a bike, cycle west along the A841 for a fantastic ride on well-maintained roads with great views.
3: There’s a chance Lochranza Castle will be closed when you visit due to ongoing work by Historic Environment Scotland, so don’t expect to spend much time there. Instead, I suggest using Lochranza as a base for exploring the area. Walk Highlands has details of a great route called The Laggan Circuit which features a mix of moorland and coastline.
Lochranza, with fewer than 200 residents, is one of Arran’s smaller villages, but the number of tourists who go there to walk across the Torr Meadhonach hills significantly increases that number.
These hills are both a blessing and a curse for the village, as although they offer shelter from winds blowing in from the Firth of Clyde, they also shade it from the low-lying sun for much of the year. Thankfully, you don’t have to walk far to escape the shade, and once you’re up in the hills or on the coastline, you’ll have nothing but uninterrupted sky in all directions.
The main feature of Lochranza is the 16th-century Lochranza Castle, which sits on top of a spit of land that juts out almost into the middle of the loch. It’s not a large castle by any means, and in fact, from what I could see when I peered through the gate, it’s almost completely in ruin, but it certainly makes for a fine photo opportunity.
If you’re looking to spend a couple of days on Arran, I recommend starting at Lochranza Castle and following the A841 south, then heading north-east up Newton Road. At the next junction, you have two options for a good walk.
Option one takes you along the three-mile Newton Point coastal path to the Fairy Dell, which is supposedly a gateway to the land of the fairies. Mythology aside, it’s a really nice path, perhaps a bit rocky (don’t bother trying to take your bike), but very scenic, with a wide shingle beach near the Dell which you’re pretty much guaranteed to have to yourself.
The scenery on this walk is mostly bracken-covered hilltops with a smattering of woodland, but it’s very scenic and has stunning views across the Clyde.
Option two heads inland on a moderately steep incline up the Torr Meadhonach hill, where you’ll see signs pointing towards the ancient footpath that joins Lochranza with Laggan on the east coast. You’ll have to deal with boulder-strewn paths and a little rock scrambling on the seven-mile trek, which will take around four hours to complete, but I’d say it’s definitely worth the effort.
On your return, you’ll end up within walking distance of the Arran distillery, so you might as well head there for a post-walk treat in the café. The distillery is a relative youngster in Scotch whisky terms, having started production a mere twenty-five years ago, but they’ve made quite a name for themselves since those very first casks were filled.
Arran malt is highly regarded for the purity of the ingredients used in it, with crystal-clear freshwater syphoned off the hills directly above the distillery and only the finest barley grains used in the milling process. The result is a spectacular dram with a hint of peat, although there are several special editions that infuse different flavours courtesy of sherry casks.
The well-stocked distillery shop has its own tasting area where you’ll be able to try a few samples to decide which bottle you’ll end up taking home, and I have to say the Arran distillery is one of the most generous I’ve visited when it comes to dishing out tasters.
If you find yourself leaving the shop feeling hungry, you’ll be pleased to know there’s a café on the site that serves quality local produce, and if you’d like to learn about the whisky-making process, there are regular tours that will take you around the facility. See the Arran Whisky website for the latest prices and opening times.
Historically Rich: Lochranza is known for its history which dates back to the Viking era when it was a popular staging post for the Vikings who were navigating the west coast of Scotland.
Geographical Beauty: Lochranza is situated on the northern tip of the Isle of Arran, overlooking the Kilbrannan Sound and the Kintyre peninsula. It is, in fact, officially the most shaded village in the world because of the hills and mountains that surround it and keep it in the shadows.
Lochranza Castle: One of the major landmarks is Lochranza Castle, a 13th-century castle that was once used as a hunting lodge by Scottish Kings.
Wildlife Spotting: Lochranza is known for its diverse wildlife. It’s home to red deer, golden eagles, seals, otters, and a variety of bird species. The area even has its very own species of butterfly, the Arran Brown.
Megalithic Monuments: Lochranza has several ancient stone circles and standing stones, including one at Lochranza golf course.
Ferry Port: Lochranza has a small ferry port, providing a service to Claonaig on Kintyre that runs from spring to autumn and to Tarbert in the winter months.
Hiking and Walking Trails: Lochranza serves as the starting point for many hill and coastal walks, offering a range of difficulty levels. The walk to Hutton’s Unconformity, a geological feature that Scottish geologist James Hutton discovered, is the most well-liked.
Things to Do
Castle Exploration: Visit the enchanting Lochranza Castle, a 13th-century ruin located on a narrow grassy peninsula overlooking the Kilbrannan Sound. Marvel at the scenic beauty of Lochranza and capture some stunning photos while you’re there. It’s a perfect spot for history buffs and nature lovers alike.
Distillery Tour: Scotland is renowned for its whisky, and a trip to Lochranza isn’t complete without touring the Isle of Arran Distillery. Learn about the whisky-making process from malting the barley to ageing the spirit in casks, and indulge in a tasting of Arran single malt Scotch.
Wildlife Spotting: Lochranza is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. Spot red deer roaming freely around the village, watch seals basking on the shore, and catch sight of golden eagles soaring overhead. The area is also home to otters, herons, and a variety of other bird species. Binoculars (link to binocular reviews) are an essential item to take to Lochranza.
Hiking and Walking: Experience the breathtaking beauty of Lochranza by embarking on a hike around the area. The village offers numerous trails, including the scenic coastal walk from Lochranza to Catacol which features stunning views of the sea, mountains, and local wildlife.
Golfing: Tee off at the Lochranza Golf Course, a picturesque 11-hole course nestled amidst a stunning landscape of hills, woodlands, and gentle rivers. Offering a mix of challenges for golfers of all skill levels, this course provides a unique golfing experience, especially when the local herds of wild deer decide to take a closer look at your putting technique!
Things to Do Nearby
Lochranza Distillery. Lochranza, Isle of Arran KA27 8HJ. 5-minute walk.
A whisky distillery that features guided tours and tasting experiences. There is a large shop and café on-site.
Lochranza Castle. Lochranza, Isle of Arran KA27 8HL. 1-minute walk.
A ruined castle located on a spit of land in Lochranza Bay with panoramic views of the surrounding hills and the Firth of Clyde. It’s also a favourite spot for wildlife lovers who come to watch the wild deer herds grazing in the bay.
Newton Point coastal path. Isle of Arran KA27 8JF. 30-minute walk.
A popular walking route on the north of Arran that circles the coastline from Lochranza to Laggan. Quite rough so unsuitable for bikes.
The Fairy Dell, Isle of Arran, KA27 8JF, 40-minute walk.
A scenic spot on the Arran coastline that legend says is the home of fairies. It can be reached by following the Newton Point coastal path.
The Sailor’s Grave. Isle of Arran KA27 8HL. 20-minute walk.
A scenic location to the west of Lochranza on the A841 that offers views across the Firth of Clyde. Popular with wild campers who are walking the Arran Coastal Way.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many whisky distilleries are there on Arran?
There are two whisky distilleries on the Isle of Arran. The first one is the Arran Distillery which is located in Lochranza, and the second one is the Lagg Distillery, located in the southern part of the island. Both distilleries are open to the public for tours and tastings.
Who owns Lochranza Castle?
Lochranza Castle is held in the care of Historic Environment Scotland. The Earl of Menteith, Robert II, the Marquess of Hamilton, and the Blackwood-Davidson family all acquired the castle after the MacSween clan originally owned it.
When was Lochranza Castle built?
Lochranza Castle dates from the 13th century, but most of it was built in the 16th century.
Is Lochranza on Arran worth a visit?
Lochranza, on the Isle of Arran, is definitely worth a visit. This picturesque village in Scotland is known for its stunning natural beauty and wildlife. You can visit Lochranza Castle, a 13th-century castle ruin located on a peninsula in the loch.
The area is also famous for the Lochranza Distillery, where you can learn about the whisky distillation process. If you’re a nature lover, you can explore the hills and coastal areas where you might spot red deer, seals, and various species of birds.