Real mountains, lovely scenery, mostly quiet roads.
If you listed the most attractive features of Scotland, then tried to squeeze them all on to one medium size island you'd end up with Arran. The island is cut in half by the Highland Boundary Fault, a geological division which makes the north rugged and hilly, whereas the south is more gentle and lower lying. Arran within a small area has many aspects of the beauty of Scotland as a whole, from high peaks inviting hill walkers and climbers to peaceful sandy bays with palm trees growing in the warm climate of The Gulf Stream. Wildlife includes deer, pheasant, otter and eagle frequently seen in the hills. There are over 100 species of birds. There are colonies of seals near coastal caves, trails and pathways to mysterious Bronze Age Stone Circles, plus a number of museums and of course Brodick Castle. The name Brodick comes from the Norse words, meaning broad bay. Arran means peaked island in Gaelic.
Brodick Castle: This has been occupied by a stronghold of some kind since the fifth century, when the kingdom of Dalriada was founded by the Irish. In 1503 the castle and Arran was given by James IV to his cousin, Lord Hamilton. Parts of the present castle date from the 1588 during the ownership of the 2nd Earl of Arran who was the guardian and regent of Queen Mary. The castle was occupied by Cromwellian troops after the first Duke was executed during the Civil War in 1648 and the second died in battle just three years later. Brodick Castle eventually passed into the hands of Mary, Duchess of Montrose who revitalised the gardens. Since her death in 1957 it has been owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Inside are paintings, works of art and furniture from. One of the rooms is known as Bruce's Room but it is unlikely that Robert the Bruce actually stayed in it. The gardens which have lots of rhododendrons are well worth walking round, the castle of course has a tea room (no admission charge for tea room).
Lochranza: This village by the sea on the northern tip of Arran is surrounded by hills. There is the ruin of a 14th century castle, a former hunting lodge of the Scottish Kings, a golf course, campsite, hotel, gallery and post office. A ferry takes you to Claonaig on the Kintyre Peninsula on the mainland opposite (part of the National Cycle Network). A distillery opened in 1995 - look out for the copper pagodas. Guided tours daily between 10am and 6pm. Gift shop. Restaurant open all day. Evening meals served from 7pm - 10pm (closed Monday evenings) - booking advisable.
For ferry times visit www.calmac.co.uk
You'll know this is the right place when you get on the ferry - quite often in summer the bikes out-number the cars. When you start to cycle you'll find a bit of traffic between Brodick and Whiting Bay - other than that no problem. If you listed the most attractive features of Scotland, then tried to squeeze them all on to one medium size island you'd end up with Arran. The description here is given as a circular route on the coast road (A841), starting from Brodick travelling north. The tourist office is at Brodick.
Brodick - Sannox - Lochranza (14 miles)
Turn right after leaving the ferry terminal, shops, hotels and tea rooms on the left, sea on the right. After a mile you will be clear of the town. You'll pass the Arran Heritage Museum on the right; this is worth a visit.
Shortly after this is the left turn for The String road, this crosses the centre of the island to the west coast and Blackwaterfoot. It climbs to a height of 230m, giving good views of Arran's highest mountain Goat Fell. An alternative way of going to Lochranza is to cycle over The String, then cycle up the west coast. This is 24 miles, but either way there will be a serious hill. Continuing by the sea you pass Brodick Castle which has a tea room.
Brodick Castle (NT) is mostly Victorian but parts date from the 13th Century. There's a lovely wooded garden with masses of rhododendrons, and a nature trail with a path leading to Goat Fell. The castle has collections of paintings, furniture and porcelain. The Dukes of Hamilton liked to shoot things as you can tell by the number of stags heads in the hall. After the castle you go along by a rocky coastline to reach the village of Corrie (shop and hotel). Continue north again by the sea to Sannox; the golf club tea room here is open to passers by. You will need these calories for the climb afterwards.
The road from Sannox sweeps round to the north-west, climbing to 200 metres, before dropping down to Lochranza. There are views of the mountain ridges. Lochranza is a pretty village with a castle by the loch, a post office and shop, a hotel (bar lunches) and a cafe. The youth hostel here is a lovely old house in a beautiful setting. Lochranza is also the terminal for the summer ferry to Claonaig on Kintyre. This can be connected with a short cycle, to another ferry crossing to the islands of Islay, Jura and Colonsay.