For those who wish to explore a little further afield, for a true seaside holiday experience, the Paddle Steamer Waverley, thought to be the last seagoing paddle steamer in the World, makes regular trips from Largs across to Cumbrae. This small but accessible island is home to the Catherdral of the Isles, the smallest cathedral in Britain, designed by William Butterfield and completed in 1851, and is a mecca for water-sport enthusiasts, with windsurfing, yachting, power-boating, and paddle-sports like canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding, all available to try. These activities are a great way to explore the Island’s coastline, which is home to a splendid range of wildlife including seals and basking sharks. Alternatively, the Robertson Museum & Aquarium is a great place to learn about Cumbrae’s marine life without getting wet.
For anyone who particularly enjoys maritime pursuits, North Ayrshire is also home to the Scottish Maritime Museum, with sites in both Irvine and Dumbarton. The collections are nationally recognised and include a variety of historic vessels and artefacts, including personal items and art, plus the largest collection of shipbuilding tools and machinery in the country. The buildings in which these collections are housed are also of maritime significance, with the Irvine collection located within an A listed glass-roofed Victorian Linthouse, formerly the Engine Shop of Alexander Stephen & Sons shipyard, and the Dumbarton collection located on the former William Denny Shipyard.
If you much prefer keeping your feet firmly on dry land, Kelburn Castle & Estate is also just a short drive from Largs. Built in 1143, the Castle is now instantly recognisable as the ‘Graffiti Castle’, with walls covered in vibrant designs by leading Brazillian and Scottish graffiti artists.
The Estate offers space for children to run and explore, with a range of distractions including the Secret Forest, horse riding, coastal woodland trails and garden walks amongst unusual ‘heritage’ trees like the 1000 Year Old Yews and Weeping Larch.
Longer walks, hiking, a wide range of other outdoor activities – in fact just about any aspect of Scotland which may be of interest to a holidaymaker – are also on offer on Arran, and no visit to North Ayrshire should be completed without a trip over to the island dubbed ‘Scotland in miniature.’
The Island boasts a fascinating history featuring giants, ancient stones, Gaels, Vikings and castles. Places like Brodick and Lochranza castles, the Giant’s Graves at Whitling Bay and the Machrie Moore Standing Stones are great locations for any holidaymakers interested in Scottish history. The coastline is ever-changing, with sheltered beaches like Sannox, caves such as the King’s Cave system, found at Blackwaterfoot, and curiosities like Pirates Cove, where glacial erratics rest on ridged red sandstone bedrock. The mountains and glens are dramatic – Goatfell is the highest peak on the island, at 874m, whilst Glen Rosa is simply breathtaking – and the forests are vast, with almost a quarter of the entire island covered in trees. It’s no wonder then that the Island is home to some of Scotland’s most iconic wildlife including red deer, who wonder freely across Lochranza golf course, red squirrels, golden eagles, otters and seals. There is a wealth of tasty, local produce available including Arran Ice Cream, Wooleys Oatcakes and Arran Cheeses, locally brewed beer and, of course, whisky, as well as luxuries like the soaps and fragrances made at Arran Aromatics. Arran really is a delight, well worth a visit. Daytrips to Brodick, the main village on the Island, and Lochranza, on the northern tip, leave Ardrossan on a daily basis but should be booked before the day of travel.
Not for you? Perhaps you might prefer South or East Ayrshire.