isle of arran
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The Scottish Isle of Arran is the largest island in the Firth of Clyde and with an area of 432 square kilometres (167 sq mi) is the seventh largest Scottish island. It is in the unitary council area of North Ayrshire and the 2001 census had a resident population of 5,058. Although commonly associated with the Hebrides, with which it shares many cultural and physical similarities, these latter islands are located to the north and west beyond Kintyre. Arran is mountainous and has been described as a "geologist's paradise".
There has been continuous habitation since the early Neolithic period, from which time on there are numerous prehistoric remains. From the 6th century on Goidelic-speaking peoples from Ireland colonised the island and it became a centre of religious activity. During the troubled Viking Age Arran became the property of the Norwegian crown before becoming formally absorbed by the kingdom of Scotland in the thirteenth century. The 19th century "clearances" led to significant reductions in population and the end of the Gaelic language and way of life.
The economy and population have recovered in recent years, the main industry being tourism. There is diversity of wildlife, including three species of tree endemic to the area.
Most of the islands of Scotland have been occupied by the speakers of at least four languages since the Iron Age, and many of the names of these islands have more than one possible meaning as a result. Arran is therefore not unusual in that the derivation of the name is far from clear. Mac an Tàilleir (2003) states that "it is said to be unrelated to the name Aran in Ireland" (which means "kidney shaped", cf Irish ára "kidney"). Unusually for a Scottish island, Haswell-Smith (2004) offers a Brythonic derivation and a meaning of "high place" which at least corresponds with the geography - Arran is significantly loftier than all the land that immediately surrounds it along the shores of the Firth of Clyde.
Any other Brythonic place names that may have existed were later replaced as the Goidelic-speaking Gaels spread from Ireland via their adjacent kingdom of Dál Riata. During the Viking Age the island, along with the vast majority of the Scottish islands, became the property of the Norwegian crown, at which time it may have been known as "Herrey" or "Hersey". As a result of this Norse influence, many current place names on Arran are of Viking origin.
The island lies in the Firth of Clyde between Ayr and Kintyre. The profile of the north Arran hills as seen from the Ayrshire coast is a well-known sight referred to as the "Sleeping Warrior" due to its resemblance to a resting human figure. The highest of these hills is Goat Fell at 873.5 metres (2,866 ft). There are three other Corbetts all in the north east; Caisteal Abhail, Cìr Mhòr and Beinn Tarsuinn. Bheinn Bharrain is the highest peak in the north west at 721 metres (2,370 ft).
The largest valley on the island is Glen Iorsa to the west, whilst narrow Glen Sannox (Gaelic: Gleann Shannaig) and Glen Rosa (Gaelic: Gleann Ròsa) to the east surround Goat Fell. The terrain to the south is less mountainous, although a considerable portion of the interior lies above 350 metres (1,100 ft) and the summit of A' Chruach reaches 512 metres (1,680 ft). There are two other Marilyns in the south, Tighvein and Beinn Bhreac.
The island is sometimes referred to as "Scotland in miniature", as it is divided into "Highland" and "Lowland" areas by the Highland Boundary Fault which runs northeast to southwest across Scotland. The island is a popular destination for geologists, who come to see intrusive igneous landforms such as sills and dykes as well as sedimentary and metasedimentary rocks ranging in age from Precambrian to Mesozoic.
The island to the east of Arran is Holy Isle and the tiny island just visible to the south of Arran is Pladda.