Arran's history dates so far back that it becomes tangled up in Celtic myths and legends of Scotland's past. From the strange standing stones on Machrie Moor to the checkered history of Brodick Castle to the very cave where Robert the Bruce was supposed to have encountered the spider.
The Ancient Standing Stones
A group of standing stones at Machrie Moor
A group of standing stones at Machrie Moor
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Standing stones at Machrie Moor
Machrie Moor on the Isle of Arran ranks along with Stonehenge and Avebury in England as well as the stones on the isles of Lewis and Orkney as one of the best sites for standing stones in the UK. The site includes no less than seven ancient stone circles as well a several chambered cairns, individual standing stones and hut circles.

Various myths explain the existence of these stone circles. One myth tells of a group of fairies sitting on the top of Durra-na-each and passing the time by flicking pebbles onto the moor below. The ‘pebbles’ became the standing stones and the stone circles.

Another legend tells of mythical heroes Fingal and Fheinn clashing with a Viking raiding party on the moor. The Celts won the battle and raised stone circles over the graves of their fallen comrades.

There are many sites for Standing Stones on Arran. The best are...
  • Machrie Moor near Shiskine on the west of the island. Details of the walk.
  • Auchengallon near Machrie on the west coast of the island
  • Auchencar near the Old Byre Showroom on the west coast of the island
  • The is a small stone circle on the summit of the road between Brodick and Lamlash
Standing stones at Machrie Moor
Standing stones at Machrie Moor
Standing stones at Machrie Moor
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Robert the Bruce
Lochranza Castle Lochranza Castle
It is believed that Robert the Bruce landed at Lochranza in 1306 on his return form Ireland to claim the Scottish throne.

Make your way to the western shores of the Isle of Arran and see inside a cave where, according to legend, Bruce is thought to have sought refuge from English forces. On the brink of despair, he observed a spider making successive attempts to spin its web on the walls of the cave. Stirred by the spider’s persistence, Bruce found the fortitude within himself to continue the fight for Scottish Independence. Whether fact of fiction, it may be that the King’s Caves were once inhabited by primitive peoples as evidenced by faint Pictish and early Christian symbols carved on the walls.

Bruce is said to have waited at Kingscross Point, looking for a signal from his supporters in Ayrshire that the time was right for him to cross to the mainland and begin his final - and successful - campaign to claim his kingdom. When he saw a flash of light he mistakenly took it as the signal beacon and set sail, only to find that no-one was ready for him. Happily, it is now a matter of history that he did not allow this small set-back to prevent him from re-establishing Scotland's freedom.

Walk in the footsteps of Robert the Bruce
Inside the King's Cave Inside the Kings Cave.
© Copyright Andy Beecroft and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
The entrance of the King's Cave The magnificent front of the Kings Cave
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Ghosts
Brodick Castle Brodick Castle
The forests, moors and hills of Arran have fostered many tales of fairies, ghosts and other supernatural beings. As you wander through Arran’s beautiful landscape it is easy to see why.

Brodick Castle

Brodick Castle is known to have several ghosts. In the library, a man dressed in a green velvet coat has been seen reading and the Grey Lady is sometimes seen in the back of the building.

The Cat Stone, Corrie

Numerous legends surround the massive Cat Stone at Corrie. Many people have reported seeing an old woman wearing a grey shawl coming up from the beach. She usually appears to be crying or in a state of shock. When the viewer glances away and then glances back the old woman is no longer there.

The Chambered Cairn at Torrylinn

The chambered cairn at Torrylinn is well over 4,000 years old. When the cairn was opened it was said to be filled with human bones which seemed to have been cleft with an axe or a hatchet. The story says that the person who opened the cairn strew the bones over the surrounding field and even went so far as to take one of the skulls home with him. From that moment on his house was blasted by fierce wind even though the weather was calm. In terror he reburied the skull but the strong wind continued until, a few months later he was thrown from his horse down a steep ravine where he was dashed to death on the rocks below.

The Cat Stone at Corrie The mammoth Cat Stone near Corrie
The chambered cairn at Torrylinn The Chambered Cairn at Torrylinn
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Vikings
From around 800AD Arran was part of the Viking empire which stretched from Scandinavia to Ireland. Viking graves have been found in Lamlash, Kings Cross and Whiting Bay. Norse runes can be seen in St Molaise’s Cave on the Holy Isle. Viking influence began to wane with the Battle of Largs in 1263 and during this battle the Viking fleet sheltered in Lamlash Bay. The Vikings clearly believed that the Scots used black magic to help them win the battle. Nonetheless, Norway sold the Isle of Arran to the Scottish crown in 1266.

The Viking world lives again every summer at the Viking Uphellya which is held in the Arran villages of Corrie and Sannox.

Visit the world of the Vikings...
Viking fort at King's Cross Viking grave at Kingscross
The annual Viking Uphellya at Corrie The annual Viking Uphellya
The cave of St Molaise on the Holy Isle The cave of St Molaise on the Holy Isle
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Smuggling
Arran was known to produce the best whisky in Scotland and it was affectionately known as “Arran Water”. Although the island boasted up to 32 distilleries not a single one of them was legal so smuggling became a major Arran pastime. The island now boasts just one distillery which operates completely within the law. The history of Arran’s whisky and smugglers can be learned on the distillery tour.
  • Visit the Smuggler's Cave on the Holy Isle in Lamlash Bay
  • Take the tour of the Isle of Arran Distillery in Lochranza. www.arranwhisky.com
The Isle of Arran Distillery at Lochranza The Isle of Arran Distillery at Lochranza
The smugglers cave on the Holy Isle The smugglers cave on the Holy Isle
The pier on the Holy Isle The pier on the Holy Isle
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Glenisle Hotel & Restaurant, Shore Road, Lamlash, Isle of Arran, Scotland, KA27 8LY Telephone: 01770 600559 Fax: 01770 600966 E-mail: enquiries@glenislehotel.com