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Isle of Arran or similar family of 5

20 replies

Chippingbird23 · 17/02/2022 07:22

We are thinking of going in the summer and have 3 kids, two boys who will be 5-6 by the summer , both on the ASD spectrum, very outdoorsy and energetic and a girl 9 years old. Easiest way to travel up there from near London and cheapest way. Would there be enough to do for the kids? And what’s the weather like generally in the summer?

OP posts:
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BernadetteRostankowskiWolowitz · 17/02/2022 07:32

We went last week of August one year. We still wore shorts and tshirts but only one day was hot enough for lying on the beach (we went to Pirnmill Beach).

I personally didn't find there was much to do other than walks. There is a castle with grounds to explore, the first town you get to, Brodick has a mini golf, couple of pubs etc.

There's lots of sets of swings beside the roads which was odd yet fun - we stopped off when driving round the island for swings often.

The whole place is tiny. You could drive round the island in about 2 hours. There's a fair few golf courses.

Maybe someone will come on here who maybe went more peak season and can recommend more child friendly stuff.

Personally if I was recommending Scotland with kids, I'd suggest Aviemore/Newtonmore etc. More to do for kids.

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emmathedilemma · 17/02/2022 09:20

I agree with @BernadetteRostankowskiWolowitz somewhere around Aviemore will offer more in the way of attractions for kids that age than Arran.....landmark trust, reindeer centre, strathspey railway, Nessie hunting, Nairn beach, highland wildlife park.....
It's a long way from London though! Your options are drive all the way, train and then hire a car, or fly (Inverness if you can for Aviemore) and hire a car. I wouldn't want to spend a week in the highlands or islands relying on public transport with young children.

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AttilaTheMeerkat · 17/02/2022 09:28

Summertime too is the height of the midge season on islands like Arran.

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ItsAllGoingToBeFine · 17/02/2022 09:32

Lots of great walks in Arran

Glenashdale falls, Kings Cave are two that spring to mind. Obviously paddling / swimming in the sea (mind the jellies!).

Brodick Castle is good, it has a treasure hunt for kids inside and an amazing adventure playground outside.

There's a fossilised lightning strike on the beach at Sannox or you can walk up to the Stone Man's cottage in Lochranza...

It depends on what sort of family you are - if you need "attractions" to be entertained then Arran may not be for you, if you enjoy exploring outdoors as a family then it will be great.. "Arran for Families" is a good book to see what there is.

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BernadetteRostankowskiWolowitz · 17/02/2022 10:16

@AttilaTheMeerkat

Summertime too is the height of the midge season on islands like Arran.

So true!! There's a road that cuts across the island, Brodick to Machrie, and at its peak are wonderful views - got out to take a snap and was swarmed. Ended up trapping loads in the car too as we jumped back in. The residents must have been pissing their pants watching us make this mistake.
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BernadetteRostankowskiWolowitz · 17/02/2022 10:18

@ItsAllGoingToBeFine

Lots of great walks in Arran

Glenashdale falls, Kings Cave are two that spring to mind. Obviously paddling / swimming in the sea (mind the jellies!).

Brodick Castle is good, it has a treasure hunt for kids inside and an amazing adventure playground outside.

There's a fossilised lightning strike on the beach at Sannox or you can walk up to the Stone Man's cottage in Lochranza...

It depends on what sort of family you are - if you need "attractions" to be entertained then Arran may not be for you, if you enjoy exploring outdoors as a family then it will be great.. "Arran for Families" is a good book to see what there is.

Don't get me wrong, it is lovely, and the walks are lovely, but we like things like a Safari Park or even just a Farm Park for one day, maybe a market to mooch around etc.

I'd go back to Arran, but only for 3 days. I don't want to walk all 7 days of my holiday with kids.
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Reusername · 17/02/2022 20:12

We spent 7 days in Arran last summer - no midges at all. Stayed in a lovely place overlooking the sea and The nearby Holy Isle if you are interested. 7 days is enough because although we love it there isn't truly much to do. We also stayed in Pitlochry again on that holiday (see below) and that was lovely but again a week was more than enough.

I'd recommend the holiday we did in 2020. One week in Highland Club at Fort Augustus at the foot of Loch Ness. Boat trips, Inverness, Culloden, walks to falls, Monster museums, great little village which is 5 mins walk, tennis courts etc. We also drove out to perfect white beaches and waterfalls. Then one week in Pitlochry - drive to safari park, castles, outdoor walks and adventure sports (Nae Limits do family trips).

Weather wise, we had one day of rain.

Only way you can really get to any of them is to drive. without a car you can't get around.

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MountainAshley · 17/02/2022 20:17

I'd go to Oban, there's a lot more to do. You can get a ferry to Mull for a day trip, or do a three isles tour to Mull, Staffa and Iona. See the puffins on Staffa. Visit Tobermory (Balamory). Go to the Hollow Mountain one day. Visit Fort William and Glenfinnan (Harry Potter Viaduct) Visit Drumnadrochit and see the Loch Ness Monster Exhibition.

You could get the sleeper train up from London, or fly to Glasgow and hire a car.

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PadBurnup · 17/02/2022 20:19

From London - as PP suggest there are better places than Arran.

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PadBurnup · 17/02/2022 20:24

Aviemore area is great for active kids ( you could get the train) - so much for kids to do. Biking, rafting, river tubing, watersports, safari park. You can do a different activity every day.

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Sprig1 · 17/02/2022 20:27

I have been and thought it was boring (as an adult). Why don't you go to either Aviemore or Fort William? There will be much more to do.

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Gasp0deTheW0nderD0g · 17/02/2022 20:50

As others have said, it very much depends on what kind of family you are and what you enjoy. We spent time on Arran every summer for years and years when our children were young because we have family there (and stayed with them, which makes for a different holiday, of course).

We do like walking, and we're interested in history and we like nature and beautiful countryside. We also don't have a car. Midges have never been an issue for us - maybe we've just been lucky. Weather is usually at least as good as we would expect in London.

Getting there: we get the train from Euston to Glasgow Central, which takes 4.5 hours. Then train from Central to Ardrossan Harbour, which takes an hour. The train connects with the ferry (all being well) so straight onto the ferry. Another hour and you're in Brodick. We did once get a plane from Stansted to Prestwick, but it saved very little time, as you still have to get to Ardrossan and wait for the ferry.

If you drive from London and take the car to the island, you will need to book onto the ferry well in advance as it gets busy in the summer. No need to book if you cross as pedestrians.

We get about on Arran by bus. Buses meet the ferry. You can see all the routes and timetables online.

Places we used to go with the children:

Brodick has a crazy golf course, some very nice cafes and restaurants, Auchrannie Spa and various sports activities including a pool. (There's another pool at Blackwaterfoot in the Kinloch Hotel there, south end of the island.) I love walking on Brodick beach across to Cladach, which is the bottom of the Goatfell path, and takes you into Brodick Castle grounds. There's an excellent cafe called the Wineport at Cladach.

Isle of Arran Museum on the outskirts of Brodick - excellent wet weather option, but I really like it anyway, and there are a lot of child-focussed exhibits.

Brodick Castle - National Trust for Scotland. If you belong to the National Trust (Eng/Wales/NI) you'll get free entry by reciprocal arrangement (at least, this is how it used to work - best to check). You pay to get into the gardens and you pay more to look round the castle itself. The gardens are lovely and include an adventure playground.

The NTS also owns a huge chunk of land around and behind the castle, including the tallest mountain, Goatfell. Access to that is free. There is a clear, well-maintained path all the way to the top of Goatfell which is very well used all year round. It's quite a pull to the top of Goatfell but if your children are used to walking and have sensible footwear, they should be able to manage it. If I can do it, anybody can. Best saved for a clear day as the views from the top are wonderful.

Glenashdale Falls - Whiting Bay, one of the other villages on the east coast. Lovely walk, another good path, not a difficult walk at all. There are a couple of excellent cafes in Whiting Bay and a lovely beach.

King's Cave on the west coast is a great well signposted walk along the coast with an interesting cave on the way. There are standing stones nearby at Machrie.

Kildonan beach - glorious. South end of the island. Good place to see seals.

Lochranza - beautiful village at the north of the island. Deer roam about round the ruined castle (free entrance, as there's not much of it). The children are a bit young to be interested in the distillery, but I enjoyed the tour there a few years ago.

Glen Sannox, north end of the east coast - terrific beach. Pony trekking somewhere round there (we haven't tried that, but we've seen them).

Your children are probably too little for golf, but I'll just mention that it's a golfers' paradise (we are not golfers but you can't miss the golf courses as you go round the island).

Hope this helps. I love Arran.

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outdooryone · 18/02/2022 15:42

Depending on what things you are into as a family, Arran is utterly brilliant or completely cut off.

As a young family many years ago I had a few holidays on Arran. But a perfect week for us with kids of similar age to OP was days climbing the hills, swimming in sea, kayaking, cycling, random picnics on empty beaches, cheesy crazy golf, a 'there and back' on the Lochranza ferry and some local arts and crafts. Ace.

If you are expecting 'pay and entertain me' facilities, I would not bother. If you cannot entertain yourself on a wet day with a muddy walk and endless board games and books in a holiday cottage, don't bother. If you cannot be bothered to explore the ridges, waterfalls and woodlands, or be blasted off a beach by the wind, it may not be best place.

I would say the same of a lot of Scotland though.


As others said: book the ferry well in advance - I have booked my easter and summer ferries already this year, and know that some are already fully booked to Western Isles already.

Be ready for a lot of day trippers on bikes and foot - getting up and out early before ferries start arriving can change the trot up Goat Fell from a queue to an empty hill.

And you must get a family picture at the 'Cock Lodge, Butt of Arran' sign. It is the law.

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MajorCarolDanvers · 18/02/2022 15:58

Balloch on Loch Lomond is a great base for outdoor activities whether on the water, hiking or adventure. It's stunning too.

You are also close to Glasgow and Stirling if you fancy a city visit.

Fly or train to Glasgow then hire a car. You can't do rural Scotland without one.

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BernadetteRostankowskiWolowitz · 18/02/2022 18:14

If you cannot entertain yourself on a wet day with a muddy walk and endless board games and books in a holiday cottage, don't bother. If you cannot be bothered to explore the ridges, waterfalls and woodlands, or be blasted off a beach by the wind, it may not be best place

Whilst all these things are lovely, it's a very long way to go for them when there will be places equally as cosy/windy/nice closer.

London to Arran is a heck of a track.

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Gasp0deTheW0nderD0g · 18/02/2022 19:36

Can't disagree with that. You won't get from London to many other parts of Scotland any quicker, though.

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outdooryone · 19/02/2022 08:46

I agree, there's places closer to London which offer similar rural, hilly and beach experiences.
The same for the chunk of Scotland north of the central belt, and/or requiring ferries.

That said, I'm still in love with the beauty of the place, the scale of our wild places, the warmth of the welcome, and the ability to get away from other people after 16 years living in Scotland.

And Arran is a really special place - as ever, added to by the ferry experience to get there. Isle of Wight is closer to London - but it's just a different experience.

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WereHouse421 · 19/02/2022 13:00

How about the Isle of Wight or Jersey, more to do ?

I've been to Arran there is a good bus service round the island
Good walking including Goat Fell
Seals, eagles, basking sharks

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AnotherFuckingUsername · 19/02/2022 13:19

I spend a lot of time on the Scottish Islands holidaying and walking, with and without children. We are very outdoorsy and could easily fill time in Arran. Appreciate others wouldn't like our idea of a good holiday!

In terms of bases, Oban and Inverness are superb. Easy access to a diverse geographical area, increasing chances of finding something to suit the family within, say, 60 min drive (and not having a potential hemmed in feeling of being on a small Island). Make it easy with an overnight stop near Borders or Stirling.

I personally dislike Aviemore area and the town itself so would avoid it but appreciate there's a lot of kiddie type attractions there.

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One2Four · 20/02/2022 15:55

We love Scotland and have been several times with our 3 kids over the past few years. Arran is beautiful but we found there wasn't much to do for active families beyond walks, beaches (depending on weather) & drive round, and weather can be hit & miss so they were bored quickly; but a couple of days with some island hopping with CalMac ferries is great.

Aviemore has lots to do for families but it's a long way to drive from London. We've found Perthshire, around Crieff and Comrie/St Fillans/Lochearnhead has absolutely loads to do for all ages - beautiful forests, lochs to swim in (with wetsuits most days!), outdoor pursuits, watersports, cycling, family friendly attractions, lots of choice of accommodation, great food etc and less busy than Loch Lomond (which is also a brilliant area). Last summer we were there for a week in August and it was 22-24 Celsius every day - we were swimming/paddle boarding/kayaking in the lochs most days - but that's unusual! Previous years I've been in a jumper most of the week!

Scotland is amazing - plenty of choice for different activities and budgets.

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