An ‘out of this world’ adventure in Arran on Stagecoach’s 324

It’s one of the most stunning bus routes in the UK and beyond! The 324 is known as the North Island route on the majestic Isle of Arran in Scotland. It runs from Brodwick Ferry Terminal to Blackwaterfoot and provides 70 minutes of the most jaw-dropping scenery.  Arran is a truly incredible place and is often described as encapsulating the ‘best of Scotland – in miniature’ It’s got mountains, forests, beaches, glens. You can cycle round the island in a day, and there are beautiful golf courses . The wildlife is like nothing else and includes over 100 species of birds!

The ferry takes 55 minutes from Ardrossan to Brodwick which is where our intrepid explorer boarded the 324 recently, which is one of three routes scheduled to depart the Ferry Terminal at 10:55 around 15 minutes after the ferry has docked.

The bus leaves Brodick along its sea front.  Brodick really is a wonderful place to visit. Admire the bay’s tranquil beauty while strolling along the sandy shore. Engage in watersports like kayaking or paddleboarding, embracing the serene waters. Discover wildlife on coastal walks, spotting seals and seabirds – simply incredible! Golf lovers can tee off at the scenic course nearby. There’s also ample opportunity to indulge in local cuisine at waterfront eateries, savouring fresh seafood delights. But, make sure, as our explorer did, that you devour the stunning vistas of Goat Fell, Arran’s highest peak. Meanwhile, Brodick Bay harmonizes natural beauty with historical charm, promising a blend of relaxation and adventure in the most picturesque of settings.

The road hugs the bay, passing gardens, hedges, a golf course and what look like large country houses to call at the entrance to the grounds of Brodick Castle, a National Trust for Scotland property.  Brodick Castle, aside from its history, houses a remarkable collection of fossils, including dinosaur footprints found on its grounds, providing a unique glimpse into ancient life.

The shore becomes rocky and views open out towards the beautiful islands of Bute and Cumbrae and the Ayrshire mainland. This really is the most unforgettable of bus journeys possible.

The road is narrow, with twists, turns, ups and downs; progress is made at a sedate pace, the bus halting where it meets oncoming traffic (often a delivery van or lorry or a motorhome). The first settlement reached is the village of Corrie with a hotel and little harbour. Seals may be glimpsed on the shore. There’s not many, if any, bus journeys in the UK where this is possible!

Corrie also boasts the distinction of being home to one of Scotland’s oldest remaining water-powered meal mills, showcasing traditional milling techniques dating back centuries.

The scenery changes dramatically after Corrie, climbing inland on a single-track road through Glen Sannox over moorland with streams in flow and sheep grazing.  With its raw wilderness, this is a captivating glen that embraces visitors with its rugged beauty and dramatic landscapes. Carved by ancient glaciers, its steep slopes and rocky outcrops shelter diverse flora and fauna. The glen’s enchanting trails lead adventurers through picturesque woodland, revealing cascading waterfalls and serene pools. Rising majestically, the eponymous peak, Goat Fell, once again, dominates the skyline, inviting hikers to conquer its summit.

Deer and birds of prey may also be spotted. The bus descends from the glen towards the village of Lochranza at the north of the island, calling first at the distillery and then into the village itself with its castle, harbour and shoreside.

This also is the embarkation point for Arran’s second ferry, a smaller vehicle/passenger vessel that shuttles to and from Argyll, to Tarbert (Loch Fyne) in winter and Claonaig a few miles farther south on the Kintyre peninsula in summer.  

This breathtaking bus route then begins its long progression along the western coast of the island from Lochranza, with views across the Kilbrannan Sound to the Kintyre coast (ultimately as far as the Mull of Kintyre) and views ahead to the unfolding bays of this side of Arran. 

Lochranza holds an unique historical charm as the site where Robert the Bruce landed in 1306, initiating his campaign to reclaim Scotland’s throne. The iconic Lochranza Castle, now a picturesque ruin, served as a medieval fortress integral to Arran’s history, overlooking the serene waters of the Loch. In 1614, King James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) was sailing to Ireland to negotiate a marriage proposal for his son when a fierce storm forced his ship to seek shelter. Finding sanctuary in Lochranza Bay, the King and his retinue took refuge in the then-functioning Lochranza Castle until the tempest subsided. It’s said that during his stay, the King found solace in the tranquility of the castle, admiring the stunning views across the bay. Meanwhile, “this most certainly is the King of all scenic bus journeys”, according to our own intrepid explorer!

Additionally, the area is famed for its resident population of red deer, often seen grazing along the Loch’s shores, adding to Lochranza’s allure as a historic and naturally rich destination.

The views inland are of mountains and glens, and the road crosses many streams and small rivers. Simply sumptuous and utterly breathtaking!

The next small settlement reached is Catacol with a terrace of a dozen cottages known as the Twelve Apostles.  These cottages, named after the nearby rock formations resembling a congregation of apostles, have a tale linked to a tragedy and a shipwreck. Legend has it that twelve fishermen, living in these cottages, set sail despite an impending storm, hoping for a plentiful catch. However, fate took a grim turn, and the storm intensified, causing their boat to capsize. The men perished in the tumultuous waters, leaving their twelve cottages behind. Locals believe that the spirits of these fishermen linger around the area, their presence felt in the eerie calmness that sometimes descends upon the cottages. Some stories recount mysterious occurrences, adding to the mystique and haunting aura surrounding the Twelve Apostles Cottages.

The adventure on the 324 continues unabated…Again, there are many twists and bends, steep climbs and descents, with the route passing through the entrancing settlements of Pirnmill, Dougarie and Machrie, and several spectacular walking tracks.  

On reaching Blackwaterfoot, this bus continued along southern route 323 to return to Brodick. Blackwaterfoot is another coastal village, with a tiny harbour and bridge over a river called the Black Water (could it be anything else?).

The Kinloch Hotel (see picture below) is a cosy, atmospheric place to stay with a delightful bar and restaurant and is in the centre of Blackwaterfoot. Home | Kinloch Hotel (kinloch-arran.com)

There’s also a general store, coffee shop and free accessible toilet maintained by the community which encourages users to make a donation towards its upkeep. The hotel and the facilities are all close to the bus turning point, which is next to the harbour and shore. 

Golf afficionados can tee off at the enchanting Machrie Golf Links, renowned for its challenging course amid breathtaking coastal panoramas. To book a round and get a glimpse of this incredible, world renowned course and its luxury accomodation, check out Golf Hotel Breaks on Islay, Scotland | The Machrie, Hebrides – The Machrie

For history buffs, the imposing ruins of the 13th-century Blackwaterfoot Castle stand as a testament to the area’s rich past, inviting exploration and storytelling.

There’s also more amazing local cuisine to be enjoyed at the charming pubs and eateries in the vicinity with fresh seafood and traditional Scottish fare. Nature lovers can explore the rugged trails of Drumadoon Point, unveiling dramatic cliffs and ancient geological formations.

As it’s so paradisical, it’s no surprise that the Isle of Arran has strong connections with famous folk. Former Formular 1 racing driver David Coulthard owns property here, whilst Neil Oliver, a well-known Scottish archaeologist, historian, and TV presenter, has connections to Arran and has spoken about its historical significance. Meanwhile, Sir Kenneth Calman, a former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland and England, has a residence on Arran and Marin Alsop, the renowned conductor and music director, although not born on Arran, spent part of her childhood here.

If you’re a fan of scenic journeys, then this is potentially the pinnacle – all routes on the map should lead to the 324 across this trip of unbridled bliss, like no other. With every turn on the road, there is jaw-dropping scenery and fascination to consume – it’s the most memorable ride of a lifetime and brought to you brilliantly by customer-centric, Stagecoach. For more details, check out….

324 Brodick – Lochranza – Blackwaterfoot – Great Scenic Journeys