Itchy feet. I’ve got them. While I always have a tab open and a tentative eye on Skyscanner, there are other ways to scratch that travel itch without hopping on a plane.Within driving distance, a staycation has all the hallmarks of escapism and excitement of any holiday. And in Scotland? Travel long enough in any direction and you’ll find enough beauty and strangeness to keep you utterly captivated. Arran is less than 3 hours from Glasgow, yet couldn’t be feel more different, with a tranquil stillness you only really can get from an island. I’ve never done the islands (okay, Millport. For a day.) but what a way to begin. And what better place to stay than the spectacular surroundings of the Auchrannie Resort? Perfectly blending together traditional grandeur with contemporary luxury with 2 4* hotels as well as a selection of lodges on site, Auchrannie is the perfect base for an exploration of Arran.
For such a small island, Arran is rich with local produce, something that is taken full advantage of at Auchrannie both in their menu to their extensive drinks list. Our first meal in the spa saw us presented with generous bento boxes that acted a sampler of what you can expect. The islands famous oaties are served with a selection of Arran’s signature cheeses. These dense, creamy cheddars are lightly flavoured, some with chilli, mustard seed or with a refined oak smoke all offset with a moreish apple and sultana chutney (something I made sure to pick up a jar of before leaving.) The hot and cold smoked salmon is produced in a nearby Ayrshire smokery and is sure to sway even the fussiest of eaters in to embracing fish.
There are 3 restaurants on the estate, with 2 in the house hotel and one in the spa. We made sure to visit the 1869 over in the house hotel, Auchrannie’s take on Scottish tapas. You can expect juicy, fat scallops alongside crispy stovies with a homemade brown sauce, or mac and black covered in a rich, creamy Arran cheddar sauce with plentiful chunks of black pudding. It’s ideal, if like me, you can’t help but try a bit of everything. The drinks list is well thought out with a real focus on produce from local breweries and distilleries – and indeed Scottish signature flavours. We made sure after dinner to grab a spot by the fire and pick up a couple of cocktail flights – the ideal way to really sample their list. Stands outs including a particularly lethal irn bru ice and and a deliciously delicious crannacan inspired cocktail I could have drank all night.
Arran is perfect for walks, it really is like scenery bingo with the best of Scotland condensed on one small island. From picturesque coastlines, snow capped mountains, babbling brooks and sweet little rock pools – it looks like it belongs on a god damn post card. We made sure to take full advantage and get out and do a little exploring. We found ourselves on the Fisherman’s Walk to Brodick Castle before walking through the gardens and estate. The town itself is filled with lots of small shops and cafes, all stocking local produce – ideal for gifts (and certainly preferable to a tea towel or fridge magnet.) You’ll find most places to be dog friendly – Auchrannie included – which is all sorts of fantastic. From the ferry over to walking around the island, Arran was perfect for some good old fashioned puppy spotting.
Auchrannie is a little slice of heaven off the beaten track. We were staying in the spa hotel that is styled throughout with a stylish, contemporary low key elegance. Our executive room was spacious with a huge bed and a bathroom stocked with some fabulous Arran Aromatics goodies. Think waterfall showers, baths you can just float away in – it really is all about the attention to detail here, where nothing is spared. The suites themselves have access to some lounges allowing you to take in the stunning views. And if you upgrade to add executive lounge access you can also enjoy the outdoor hut tub.
You can’t really come to Auchrannie without making a trip to the destination Aspa. Low lit with a quiet ambiance, it’s designed to help you completely switch off. I was booked in for a 25 minute neck, back and shoulders with Naomi. I was given two oils to choose from, selected to either uplift or relax. Throughout the massage Naomi would check what would work for me – which for the most part was a very firm pressure to work out some knots. The 25 minutes was a lovely taster but I’d definitely recommend going for something longer. After my treatment I was brought in to the relaxation room which has some gorgeous little nooks and crannies as well as reclining beds so you can simply drift away.
A couples retreat costs as little at £85pp including dinner, bed and breakfast, access to leisure facilities, a treatment AND a bottle of fizz in your room for your arrival. How’s that for an offer? It wasn’t too far out to escape to Auchrannie for a night, but really it felt like being in a completely different world. It’s peaceful and just a little bit magical, and utterly and completely addictive.