Dog-friendly Isle of Arran guide: We love taking Angus on our adventures with us; he loves exploring new places, and so we thought it would be fun to take him to his first island! Dubbed ‘Scotland in miniature’, the Isle of Arran has a wee bit of everything – historic sights, rugged mountains, coastal views, and amazing food. We spent three days on the Isle of Arran which was the perfect amount of time to explore the island and see everything we wanted to.
The Isle of Arran is a fun dog-friendly island with plenty of hiking, history, and amazing food. If you’re looking for a holiday where you can go walking and exploring during the day, and cosy up with a dram and a delicious meal in the evening, Arran is just your place!
For history-lovers, there’s an abundance of historic sites including standing stones, stone circles, cairns and religious and spiritual locations. It can be quite fun hunting out many of these sacred sites with your furry friend.
In my guide to the Isle of Arran, I’ve included a list of things to do in Arran with a dog, a description of our dog-friendly accommodation, as well as the dog-friendly restaurants we enjoyed.
Now, let’s go to the bonnie Isle of Arran!
How To Get To The Isle of Arran With Your Dog
There are two different ways to reach the Isle of Arran and explore this bonnie island with your furry pal:
- Option #1: Car + ferry
- Option #2: Public transport + ferry
Option #1: Exploring Arran With Your Dog: By Car + Ferry
We opted to drive as it gave us more freedom to go wherever we wanted. You can take your car across to the Isle of Arran on the CalMac ferry, and dogs are welcome on board too! The main ferry leaves from Ardrossan and arrives in Brodick, the main village in Arran.
There’s another ferry that travels between Claonaig and Lochranza, however, this is a smaller ferry that operates on a first-come, first-served basis – this option isn’t that wise when you’ve got accommodation booked!
There’s a special dog section on the ferry where you can sit with your dog! There are water bowls available, and tables if you wanted to have a coffee or a snack on your journey across to Arran.
Option #2: Exploring Arran With Your Dog: By Public Transport
There are trains from Glasgow that will take you to Ardrossan. Once you disembark the ferry, the easiest way to get around using public transport is by bus.
Stagecoach West Scotland is the main bus service on Arran, and they allow dogs on their buses. Please bear in mind this is at the discretion of the bus driver.
There are a few different routes available:
- the 324 goes via Lochranza to Blackwaterfoot (North End)
- the 323 goes via Whiting Bay to Blackwaterfoot (South End)
- the 322 heads across the String to Blackwaterfoot
You can view the timetables for Arran on the Stagecoach website.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation Arran
Our accommodation was at the Lochranza Youth Hostel, which is located in the beautiful hamlet of Lochranza in the north.
The Lochranza Youth Hostel is one of the many dog-friendly owned by Hostelling Scotland.
The hostel is enveloped by nature and wildlife. When we pulled up to the hostel we spotted two wild deer grazing happily; the only sounds we could hear was the cheerful chirrup of a great tit flitting from tree to tree, and the gentle rushing of water from the river, plump from the week’s rainfall.
Three hills shelter the village, the view extending as your eyes fall on Loch Ranza and the peninsula where the ruin of a 13th century castle stands. Though tucked away neatly on the wildest part of Arran, our hostel was the perfect location for exploring the island. The north is certainly where Arran gets its nickname ‘Scotland in miniature’ from, the rugged and rising terrain is similar to what you’d see in the Highlands.
We had a comfortable private room with an ensuite, with plenty of space for the two of us and Angus. Our room backed on to a private garden, with views of the surrounding hills. Birds fed from the feeders hanging from the trees, and we often spotted wild deer circling the grounds.
The hostel has a large, well-equipped, self-catering kitchen so you can cook your own meals; you can also order a continental breakfast which consists of cereal, fruit, toast, yoghurt, coffee and tea.
Though dogs aren’t allowed in the kitchen, they are allowed in the two living rooms which have views of the loch and surrounding nature. We enjoyed relaxing here with a beer (the hostel has an alcohol license!) while Angus napped at our feet after a long day of exploring. The feature window in the lounge boasts views of the river, tall hills, and if you are patient enough, you might just spot some local wildlife or rogue sheep grazing along the roadside.
A laundry and drying room, bike storage, and free parking for up to five or so cars, is also available.
Read more: A Dog-Friendly Guide to Loch Lomond
Things To Do In Arran With A Dog
Drive the circuit around Arran
The highlight of our trip to Arran was driving the circuit around the island. As you’ll see from the map below, there is a road that runs around the perimeter of the island. There is also a road that runs through the middle of the island from Blackwaterfoot to Brodick.
It takes around two hours to drive the entire circuit around Arran, however, you need to allow at least five hours if you want to stop and explore along the way.
We started in Brodick and headed south, and then along the west coast to our accommodation in Lochranza.
There are many things to see and do on this drive, and it’s a great way to familiarise yourself with the island.
I’ll go into a little more detail about the things you can see along this drive below.
Located a short walk from the Lochranza Youth Hostel, this castle ruin was originally a medieval hall house that was built in the 1200s and was developed into a larger castle during the 1500s.
The hallhouse is a rare example of its kind in Scotland.
The castle sits on a peninsula and has views across Loch Ranza.
Walk the Cock of Arran
The Cock of Arran is a scenic walk which makes up part of the Arran Coastal Path. It’s the highlight of the entire route, so if you don’t have time to walk it all, I recommend doing this section!
This route takes in both mountain views of north Arran and coastal views across to the Isle of Bute and Ayrshire. You also have the opportunity to spot seals, porpoises, and dolphins if you’re lucky!
You can begin this walk from the Lochranza Youth Hostel, and it takes between 4-6 hours to reach Sannox.
There is a bus that can take you back to Lochranza, once you reach Sannox.
Machrie Moor Standing Stones
One of the most fascinating things to see on Arran, the Machrie Moor Standing Stones are a marvel!
There is a flat 30-minute walk across farmland to reach the standing stones, six stone circles, cists and burial cairns. Activity at this site dates back 4,500 years!
Be sure to keep your dog on a lead, as there is livestock grazing in the paddocks to the stones.
There is an interesting piece of dog folklore attached to the second stone circle. The stone circle is known as ‘Fingal’s Cauldron Seat‘, and it is said that the giant tethered his mighty war dog, Bran, to this stone while he enjoyed a meal in the centre of the circle.
Hike Goat Fell
One of the most popular dog-friendly activities on Arran is the hike up Goat Fell, Arran’s tallest peak. At 874m, Goat Fell is a Corbett and takes between 4-6 hours to complete.
You are rewarded with views of the great granite ridges of the other Arran peaks, and on a clear day, you can spot Ireland!
There are a few different routes you can take, but the easiest route is from the Cladach Centre, 1.5km north of Brodick.
This guide by WalkHighlands is a good one to follow.
Explore Arran’s beaches
Kildonan Beach is one of the best beaches to explore with your pooch on Arran.
It is located on the south coast of Arran, and is home to glowing white sand and majestic views to Ailsa Craig and the small, private island of Pladda.
This beach is also great for seal spotting. It’s no surprise that seals are called the ‘Labradors of the sea’ with their quirky demeanour, fondness for naps and unrelenting appetite (when they can be bothered to fish).
We were lucky to spot several seals on the rocky beaches of the west coast near Pirnmill, and also at Sannox Beach on the east.
The circular route to the King’s Caves is a great choice if you’re looking for an easy walk filled with history. The route begins just north of Blackwaterfoot, and after a short walk through the forest, you’ll reach the coast. I recommend hiking the path clockwise, so you approach the caves from the south.
The King’s Caves rise dramatically from the coastline, and they’re pretty fun to explore. The main cave (where Robert the Bruce was rumoured to have a famous encounter with a spider) is protected by a tall metal gate. There are Christian and pre-Christian carvings inside this cave – see if you can spot the giant cross that has been carved into the wall!
There are some small ascents and descents as the path drops down to the beach.
Check out this guide for hiking instructions.
Lamlash is a picturesque village on the east side of Arran. It has gorgeous views across to the historic spiritual retreat, the Holy Isle.
There are some lovely shops that sell artisan and homemade items – Craig didn’t mind standing outside with Angus while I had a quick browse.
There is also a handful of dog-friendly cafes and restaurants including The Old Pier Tearoom and Glenisle Hotel.
Believe it or not, dogs are allowed on the Crazy Golf course in Brodick. They need to be on a lead, however, Angus was enthralled the whole time. Putting a ball… in a hole? No fetching? His little mind was baffled.
It also allowed the Haggis and I to indulge in an activity that we normally can’t do when we travel with Angus.
The course is Scotland-themed, and there’s even a mini replica of the Forth Bridge!
More dog-friendly things to do on Arran
- Brodick Castle – dogs are allowed on the grounds of Brodick Castle, but unfortunately they’re not allowed inside the castle.
- Torrylin Cairn – a Neolithic Cairn that was used for ritual and burial for more than 1,000 years.
- Auchagallon Cairn – an ancient burial place that has views across to the Holy Isle.
- Torr a’Chaisteal – an Iron-Age fort with views to Kintyre and Ailsa Craig.
Dog-Friendly Restaurants Arran
Little Rock Cafe, Brodick
The Little Rock Cafe is one of my favourite dog-friendly restaurants on Arran. They have a dog-friendly area complete with art prints of dogs and a snack stand where you can buy treats for your dog.
We purchased a bag of Arran Dog Bakery treats, which are handmade using natural ingredients. Angus loved them!
The human food is also great – I recommend the chicken burger.
Ormidale Hotel, Brodick
The Ormidale Hotel is a classic locals pub and restaurant. If you’re looking for relaxed dining and home cooking, the Ormidale is your place!
The Haggis and I both had the homemade Steak Pie, which was lovely. Angus was treated like a VIP, getting lots of pats from the staff and patrons.
Their menus are printed on old records, which is pretty quirky!
Buying some cheese and mustard from the Arran Cheese Shop is a must-do for anyone visiting Arran, and but not many folk know there is a dog-friendly cafe located nearby.
Janie’s has a dog-friendly area, and some of the most delicious toasted sandwiches I’ve ever tasted. Try the Arran Cheese and Chutney toastie – it’s out of this world!
The Douglas Hotel, Brodick
We had a fabulous meal and fabulous customer service at The Douglas Hotel. Even though the restaurant is quite fancy, we weren’t treated any differently to the other diners when we brought a boisterous labrador with us!
The Haggis said the steak was incredible, and my meal of haddock and chips was delicious too. I highly recommend having dinner here one night as a treat.
Glenisle Hotel, Lamlash
We stopped at the Glen Isle Hotel for a beer; they have a lovely beer garden outside, and when the rain closed in they had a dog-friendly section inside the restaurant too.
More dog-friendly restaurants in Arran:
- The Corrie, Corrie – A popular dog-friendly restaurant on the island. Unfortunately, it was closed when we visited Arran.
- Crofters Arran, Brodick – Dog-friendly up until 7pm
- The Old Pier Tearoom, Lamlash – A popular seaside cafe that is dog-friendly.
Dog-Friendly Packing List
To help you plan your adventure, I’ve created this packing list for our dog-friendly trip to the Isle of Arran:
- If you’re driving across to Arran on the ferry, I recommend you have a Dog Car Seat Cover to keep your car as tidy as possible. This is the one we have and it has saved our car from muddy paws many times!
- Food bowl
- Food for your dog. We measure out what Angus needs, and place each meal in individual bags. We always take extra.
- Portable water bottle with drinking bowl
- Biodegradable poo bags
- Poo bag carrier. This one is great.
- Dog collar, harness, and leash
- Treats and carrier bag
- Dog bed
- Tick remover (one for dogs and one for humans too). We pulled five ticks off Angus in one day! One of the best preventative measures you can take is ensure your dog is up to date with their flea and tick treatment.
- A couple of old towels
- Dog-friendly first aid kit
What do you pack for your dog when you’re going island hopping? Leave a comment with extra packing tips.
This blog post was part of a paid partnership with Hostelling Scotland. All words and opinions are my own (and Angus’s!).
Monday 24th of October 2022
Thanks so much for this - I used so many of your tips to put together a recent trip to Arran with our golden retriever. We had the best time!!
Wednesday 31st of August 2022
Great article with useful information I will use when planning my trip, thank you