If Arran is Scotland in miniature then Lochranza must be one of the prettiest Highland villages you could ever visit and Lochranza Youth Hostel is located in a prime setting to take advantage of the breathtaking surroundings. I was staying for my second #SYHAdventure and if I thought the view from my previous room at Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, which looked on to Ben Nevis itself, would take some beating then I was happily proved wrong!
If I had a check list for my perfect Highland view then a tidal sea loch, mountains, ruined castle, wildlife and pretty little white cottages would be definite inclusions and to my delight they had all been tantalisingly arranged outside my window. It took me a while to draw myself away from observing the roaming red deer, fishing heron and the incoming flow of the tide below.
If you have preconceptions about staying at a youth hostel you really need to leave them here, with private en-suite rooms and modern shared facilities on offer alongside traditional budget dormitory options, this recently renovated accommodation is great value and a bonus for me was being able to take my dog as Lochranza is one of several dog friendly SYHA escapes.
I have explored all the villages on Arran and although all picturesque, Lochranza is without doubt the one I would choose to stay in. Other than lacking a shop which is a bit inconvenient (you can buy basics at the SYHA) it has everything a lover of the outdoors and picturesque scenery could want and I was not the only one there to take advantage of this natural playground judging by the bikes and kayaks lining the outside of the building. With a 13th Century ruined castle, whisky distillery and abundance of wildlife on the doorstep there is plenty to keep you entertained even if you don't want to stray far.
The SYHA theme for May is wildlife and their Lochranza Youth Hostel is the perfect wildlife watching location, you only have to look out the window to spot red deer, seals, and a wide variety of bird life, venture a little further from the doorstep and you could be rewarded with a plethora of creatures including red squirrels, golden eagles and otters.
Low level hillwalking is the most popular activity on the island and provides plenty opportunity to seek out some of the island's more elusive inhabitants. There are lots of signposted trails from Lochranza so I decided that it was time to turn to social media and ask the locals for their recommendations. No surprise that I had lots of suggestions but I opted firstly to follow the route to Laggan as I was promised spectacular views across the water to my home island of Bute.
Laggan Cottage Route (approx 8 miles return, moderate walking)
From the Youth Hostel turn right and follow the signpost for Laggan (4 miles) a little further along the road. The route starts just after the golf course, look out for the sheep and red deer keeping the fairways trim or sunbathing in the bunkers, I can imagine playing here has a few challenges!
The path then begins a gentle but steady climb to the summit as the views on the ascent open up to reveal the surrounding stunningly rugged glen with the miniature sized whisky distillery and cottages in the valley below. I spotted lots of wildlife along the route with red deer, sheep and birds of prey keeping a watchful eye as I wound my way over the stony track, past waterfalls and streams.
A large rock jutting out from the side of the path about two thirds of the way up made a perfect place to pause and absorb the encompassing sights and sounds from the winding road and lush farmland far below to the jagged mountain tops brushing the clouds in the distance.
With a final push to the summit I watched the deep blue of the Firth of Clyde unfold before me and what a reward for my efforts! As promised I had dazzling views across to Bute with the mainland beyond and deciding that this was a perfect lunch spot, I sat for a while watching the toy sized fishing boats traverse the peaceful sparkling water.
As the path winds down sharply towards the whitewashed Laggan Cottage look out for the ruins of Cock Farm far below, this desolate area was once home to over 100 inhabitants before the Clearances. It was this community that built the once vital historic pathway between here and Lochranza that is now only trodden for leisure purposes.
It is possible to make this a circular walk by returning via the Cock of Arran, however I was happy retrace my route and end my walk with sweeping views across Lochranza. This is a really rewarding route with extensive vistas, varied scenery and plentiful wildlife.
A comfortable sleep and a highly recommended takeaway breakfast from The Sandwich Station, next to Lochranza ferry terminal and I was set up for my final coastal walk, this time following the signpost for Fairy Dell. As kayakers glided along the tranquil water I followed a well trodden path along the shoreline past sunbathing seals towards Hutton's Unconformity, a distinctive geological phenomenon discovered by the 18th Century Scottish geologist James Hutton. The formation of the rock layers here added support to Hutton's theory that the Earth was much older than previously thought and is one of the reasons that Arran is a mecca for geologists. Warmed by the reflection from the water I made my way back towards Lochranza and was met by a curious red deer munching on some grass cuttings beside the shore. I bid him farewell with the promise to visit this outdoor and wildlife paradise again very soon...
Arran can be easily reached by ferry with terminals at Lochranza and Brodick, if you are traveloling by car I strongly recommend you book in advance as the ferry can be very busy! There is no shortage of things to do for all ages on the island and during my stay I also visited the fascinating stone circles at Machrie Moor, the many local producers based in Brodick and enjoyed a walk through the grounds of Brodick Castle. Most outdoor activities are available on the island, mainly at Lamlash where you can also take boat trips.
The main town is Brodick and you will find plenty of shops here to stock up, you can drive or get a bus to and from Lochranza and there are also plenty pubs and restaurants there. I ate at the Fiddlers, which I highly recommend as the food is good and reasonably priced. It is also dog friendly and has live Scottish music in the evenings, booking for dinner is strongly advised!
Hopefully this inspires you to go on your own #SYHAdventure this year and SYHA has affordable accommodation in some of the most stunning parts of Scotland as you can see!
To read Susanne's blog post in full please click here: www.adventuresaroundscotland.com/travel-blog/exploring-lochranza-arran-on-an-syhadventure
Biography for Susanne from Adventures Around Scotland
Adventures Around Scotland is a travel blog with a mixture of fun, practical and inspiring ideas for your trip to Scotland. It is not another guide simply listing the must see attractions, instead it is full of first hand accounts, honest reviews, hidden gems and useful information from someone that lives here.