I bloody love living in Scotland. It's just the prettiest, most awe-inspiring place to live, with so many amazing little corners of it to discover and enjoy. Sean and I have made a mini pact to visit all of the Scottish islands, which we kicked off with Skye last year, with Mull on the cards for this summer.
So it seemed a little bit like it might be fate, when the fantastic people at Auchrannie Resort on the Isle of Arran got in touch and asked me if I'd like to come for a visit. I think the only possible answer to that was oh my gosh yes please how soon can I come.
Getting from Edinburgh to Arran
I think Arran is actually the closest Scottish island to Edinburgh, and it took us a total of about three hours-ish to get there. We drove from the centre of Edinburgh to the ferry at Ardrossan (just past Glasgow) in about one hour fifty and then the ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick takes about fifty minutes. Auchrannie is then only a five or ten minute drive as soon as you're off the boat.
Fair warning - you will want to book your ferry in advance, and I think it was about £45 return for both of us together. Also bear in mind that in winter the ferries run less often! We headed off on the last weekend of January to get the ferry closest to midday, with plans to get food at a little place a friend recommended on the other side (more on that in a sec.)
Unfortunately the weather on the way over was the typical Scottish offer of grey drizzle, so we poked our heads out on deck just long enough to spot a teeny tiny sausage dog in a jumper before settling down with a coffee and a crossword. Is anyone actually able to complete a cryptic crossword? I think we got precisely zero of them right...
THINGS TO DO ON ARRAN IN WET WEATHER
Unfortunately, one thing we didn't realise about visiting Arran in winter, was that actually quite a lot of places close during the winter. And not like, limited opening hours...a lot of places close for months on end. So the little place we planned on going to for lunch was closed...then we drove to the Arran distillery (which was closed) and then headed round the corner to a place recommended on Google Maps for lunch (yup, closed again!)
I don't want you to think that this was a particularly negative experience though - whilst we would have liked to visit the distillery, we had very much planned a spontaneous trip, so we still enjoyed the drive around the top part of the island and then headed back in the direction of the hotel, keeping an eye out on the way for anywhere to stop.
I happened to spot the Arran Aromatics sign out of the corner of my eye, and the little sign in the window that proclaimed that there was an onsite cafe persuaded Sean that it was worth visiting. After a particularly Scottish lunch of haggis panini, we browsed the candles and soaps in the pretty shop and then popped into the cheese shop next door to try a ridiculous amount of samples and come away with three wheels of cheese (only baby ones though, don't judge!)
THE EXECUTIVE SUITE AT AUCHRANNIE SPA RESORT
We were staying in the newer resort building at Auchrannie, in one of the Executive Suites. You guys, I have never been so excited walking into a hotel room before. I spent about twenty minutes just wandering around squealing over the amazing little touches - the Nespresso coffee machine, the wall mounted electric fire, the separate little kiddies room with bunk beds and individual televisions...the amazing circular seat built into one of the walls(!!)
We had planned to head back out for a few hours before our dinner reservations, but once we'd seen the suite we had to ourselves, we didn't want to leave. Instead we made ourselves a coffee each, got into the comfy bathrobes provided and kicked back on the sofa, flicking through channels on the TV.
Dinner is going to get a whole other post to itself, because I couldn't possibly do it justice with just a short paragraph crammed into this already mammoth post - but I finished off a wonderful Saturday with a bubble bath in the huge bathtub, before we practically threw ourselves into what felt like the comfiest bed on the planet.
Breakfast the next day was leisurely and delicious - with plenty to choose from. Still feeling pretty full from our feast the night before, Sean opted for pastries and a smoothie with a small selection of hot items from the buffet, whilst I ordered a bowl of porridge with berries, cream and honey.
We quickly checked out and stored our luggage in the car (though there is storage in the hotel and even an option to have your luggage taken to the ferry if that works better for you) before Sean headed off to play a few holes of golf nearby, and I headed to the ASPA for a relaxing hot stone massage.
THE AUCHRANNIE ASPA
I've never actually had a massage before, which is why I decided to try one out at Auchrannie. I was worried that I'd find it a bit uncomfortable, but it was so relaxing and even the slightly painful bits felt good in a weird, slightly masochistic way.
Almost as good as the massage itself was the hour I spent in the relaxation room, wrapped up in yet another bathrobe and sipping on Chai tea whilst flicking through one of the magazines available. It made me really convinced that I must start planning the occasional spa visit just for myself to enjoy, as I really did feel so chilled out and happy by the end of it!
If my morning hadn't been indulgent enough, Sean came back to join me in the spa for a quick lunch before we were due to leave, and the glass of prosecco and bento boxes filled with Scottish salmon, Arran cheeses, freshly baked bread and oatcakes filled me with happiness. So much happiness, that I may have accidentally handed over my bank card in order to leave the spa with a few Ishga beauty products to try out at home - more on those in another post!
THINGS TO DO ON ARRAN IN NICE WEATHER
When we finally dragged ourselves away from the spa we still had an afternoon to spare before our evening ferry back to the mainland, and since the sun was shining we thought it would be a waste to not try out one of the many recommended walks on the island.
We headed off in a different direction to the day before (there's only about three different roads you can drive down in Arran, so it's difficult to get lost) and decided to check out the Machrie Moor stone circles, which apparently date from the Neolithic period and early Bronze Age. You pull up into a small carpark off the main road, and then stomp off through some fields belonging to an obliging farmer, with the whole walk there and back taking about an hour in total. If it's been raining it will be muddy, so make sure you've got your wellies to change into!
The sight of the tallest stones against the vivid yellows, greens and blues of the surrounding scenery was a really stunning sight, and one that made me very grateful for the opportunity to take the trip! It was a gorgeous weekend from start to finish and I can't thank Auchrannie enough for having us.
WOULD I GO AGAIN?
Yes, yes yes - a thousand times yes. I enjoyed every second of my trip to Arran, even with the slightly changeable weather and the many winter closures! Auchrannie itself was a dream - a stay in the Executive Suite would be the perfect choice for couples on a romantic break (perhaps even on a mini-moon?) and families of four would find it ideal as well - shouldn't all hotels have mini televisions for everyone to save arguments?
Stay tuned for a post on our dinner experience at Eighteen69, one of the on-site restaurants. In the meantime, if you'd like to win a stay at Auchrannie yourself, why not enter their #AuchrannieModels competition. You can find the details on their Instagram.
*We were invited to enjoy a complimentary stay at Auchrannie for review purposes, however as always - all opinions are my own (and all gushing on this occasion fully deserved!)