Shaped like a kidney bean and occupying centre stage in the Firth of Clyde, Arran is the most southerly (and therefore the most accessible) of all the Scottish islands. The Highland–Lowland dividing line passes right through its centre – hence the cliché about it being like “Scotland in miniature” – leaving the northern half sparsely populated, mountainous and bleak, while the lush southern half enjoys a much milder climate. The population of around 5000 – many of whom are incomers – tend to stick to the southeastern quarter of the island, leaving the west and the north relatively undisturbed.
The desolate north half of Arran – effectively the Highland part – features bare granite peaks, the occasional golden eagle and miles of unspoilt scenery, within reach only to those prepared to do some serious hiking. Arran’s most accessible peak is also the island’s highest, Goat Fell (2866ft), which can be ascended in just three hours from Brodick, though it’s a strenuous hike. You can also hike up Goat Fell from Corrie, Arran’s prettiest little seaside village, six miles north of Brodick, where a procession of pristine cottages lines the road to Lochranza and wraps itself around an exquisite little harbour and pier.