North Ayrshire is well known for its miles of sandy beaches, huge range of outdoor pursuits and famous Viking connections. But delve in a bit deeper and you’ll also discover a land filled with myth and legend, castles and heritage, craft and culture, abundant wildlife and superb local produce. Add in whisky, Burns, festivals and world class golf, and you’ll find North Ayrshire has everything Scotland is most famous for.

With its excellent marinas, sheltered anchorages and free moorings, North Ayrshire is perfect for visiting by boat. Here’s a quick guide to the towns and villages you can easily step ashore to.



Irvine is the principal town and commercial centre in North Ayrshire. The attractive harbourside area offers some locally owned moorings and a pontoon system used by the Scottish Maritime Museum. It’s also home to several restaurants, cafes and bars; the Harbour Arts Centre and Courtyard Studios where you’ll find local artists at work.

The nearby Beach Park with its dragon on the hill has masses of green open space and a children’s play area. There’s also a superb stretch of golden sand. In Irvine you can also indulge in golf, Burns and the famous Marymass Festival with hundreds of events over 12 days. The new Portal Leisure Centre is due to open in the town centre in 2016.



On arrival at Ardrossan harbour, you’ll find Clyde Marina ( has all the services you need, with Cecchini’s Italian Bar-Bistro and Restaurant overlooking the marina a much welcome sight for tired yachtsmen! The harbour is also the site of Caledonian MacBrayne’s Ferry Terminal to the Isle of Arran, Campbeltown and Kintyre.

Ardrossan itself offers traditional seaside family fun, with beautiful golden sands at the North and South beaches, rock pools, picnic spots and an adventure playground. Ardrossan Castle sits in a prominent position above the town with beautiful views across the bay. Playing a key role during the Scottish-English wars in the 13th and 14th centuries, it’s fabled with many ghost stories and legends and said to be haunted by ghost of William Wallace who wanders the ruins on stormy nights!



Largs is the main town on the north coast and a much loved, traditional Scottish seaside resort. Largs Yacht Haven, Scotland’s largest marina and rated a Five Gold Anchor Marina, offers superb facilities and services. Home of the Scottish Sailing Institute, it’s also the venue for national and international sailing competitions and regattas.

There’s so much to do and discover in Largs. The seafront and promenade offers children’s play areas, putting and the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry terminal to the Isle of Cumbrae. The town has many bars, shops and restaurants, including the famous Nardini’s ice-cream parlour. Away from the hustle and bustle, there are great walks and loads of history to explore. The Vikings, of course, are prominent, with the Pencil Monument just a short stroll from the marina, Vikingar! Visitor Centre and the annual Largs Viking Festival in September.



Fairlie is a small resort south of Largs, but with important maritime connections. Historically it’s the name of the famous shipyard and spiritual home of the classic yachts designed by William Fife. For today’s sailors, it offers Fairlie Quay Marina, storage and repair facilities for yachts and motor boats, and a small chandlery.

Known as Scotland’s first Fair Trade village, Fairlie has a good variety of restaurants, including seafood. It’s also the location for one of Ayrshire’s top visitor attractions, Kelburn Castle & Estate, ancient home of the Earls of Glasgow, with dramatic waterfall walks, beautiful glens, a children’s adventure course and the popular Secret Forest Trail.


With its mix of mountains, wildlife, outdoor activities and history, the breathtakingly beautiful Isle of Arran is known as ‘Scotland in Miniature’. A hugely popular family holiday destination, Arran attracts sailors from far and wide and with the new moorings around the island, it’s never been easier to step ashore.



Brodick is the official island capital and offers plenty of cafes, shops and hotels to choose from. There are lots of visitor attractions, including the beautiful Brodick Castle, Garden & Country Park, owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Next door you’ll find the Arran Brewery where you can watch beer in the making via the viewing gallery in the Visitor Centre and taste some samples too. At the Home Farm you can try the best seafood around at Creelers Restaurant, see cheesemakers at work in the Island Cheese Company or take home a few gifts from Arran Aromatics, Scotland’s leading producer of soap, body care products and fragranced candles. For an insight into the social history, archaeology and geology of the island, try Arran Heritage Museum. Or if you’d rather spend the rest of the day doing something energetic, venture up Goatfell - at 2866 ft its highest peak on Arran offering spectacular views.



Lochranza is the most northerly village on Arran, and easily accessible for visiting yachts with a pontoon, complete with disabled hoist and access bridge. There’s a camping and caravan site with showers which yachtsmen may use by arrangement.

The imposing grey ruin of Lochranza Castle dates back to 1200s, where Robert the Bruce is said to have landed in 1306. Lochranza Hotel is a welcome site for parched and famished sailors. With a comfortable lounge bar offering home cooked food, it also has one of Scotland’s most extensive malt whisky collections. There’s also a sandwich and coffee bar. A visit to Arran Distillery in Lochranza is a must or pop next door to see Arran Cheese in the making at the Visitor Centre.



Lamlash bay is a sheltered natural harbour and haven for sailors. Home to the Arran Yacht Club, visiting sailors are welcome to store their boat in the harbour during their holiday. A pretty village with Victorian charm, Lamlash is the largest settlement on Arran, and to many is the island’s true capital. It offers a good choice in places to eat and drink along the seafront. For a taste of Arran, pop into Paterson Arran Kitchen Shop for the full range of Arran Fine Foods including mustard, chutney, preserves and marmalade. Lamlash is also home to Johnston’s Marine Stores, one of the oldest established chandlers in Scotland, which offers a comprehensive chandlery stock as well as hundreds of maritime books, many scarce or out of print. The Holy Isle lies a mile off the coast from Lamlash, rising 1000ft out of the sea. The site of an early Christian monastery, it’s now home to a Buddhist Community promoting environment, peace and spirituality.


Whiting Bay

New moorings introduced in 2016 have made the popular seaside destination of Whiting Bay on Arran’s east coast easily accessible by boat. A pleasant well serviced holiday resort, Whiting Bay is the third largest village on the island, after Brodick and Lamlash. It thrives on an excellent range of accommodation, wide selection of eateries and good variety of shops, as well as arts and crafts outlets. With a sandy beach, children’s play area and pitch and putt, it’s ideal for families. Services include a post office, two petrol stations and public toilets.

For walkers there are plenty of interesting forest trails in this area, especially the well-known trek through the woods of Glenashdale Falls, the island’s most impressive waterfall, to the mysterious Giants’ Grave. In the burial mound at King Cross, you can see evidence of Viking occupation.



With its new moorings at the harbour introduced in 2016, Blackwaterfoot on Arran’s West Coast is now a ‘must stop’ for sailors. With its superb expanse of winding golden sand, Blackwaterfoot is a popular spot for holidaymakers all year round in the summer months who come for the outstanding views towards the Mull of Kintyre. The village has a small selection of shops, including a well stocked and licensed grocer, the island’s only butcher, a bakehouse and a paper shop. Services include a post office, garage, toilets and children’s play park.

The Kinloch Hotel, one of the larger hotels on Arran, offers a swimming pool, spa and gym facilities. There are also B&Bs, two pubs and two other café/restaurants within walking distance. Local activities include pony trekking and hacking at Cairnhouse Riding Centre. There’s also Shiskine Golf and Tennis Club, with its 12-hole golf course (one of only two in Europe) and two all-weather tennis courts. At nearby Drumadoon Point you’ll find Arran’s largest Iron Age fort, and at King’s Cave you can relive the legend of Robert the Bruce and the web-spinning, inspirational spider.



Pirnmill is a small village on the beautiful north west coast of Arran, which now offers moorings for visiting sailors. It has an excellent shop, tearoom/restaurant, post office, swings and toilet.

The beach has a huge stretch of winding sand that runs adjacent to the main road, offering spectacular views and sunsets over the Mull of Kintyre. There are plenty of walking opportunities around the area, with great scenic walking around the shoreline and gentle climbs in the surrounding hills, which are lower than many on the island, making an easy and pleasant walk for those looking for something not too strenuous.


Holy Isle

Located off the picturesque Lamlash Bay, Holy Isle has an ancient spiritual heritage stretching back to the 6th century. At the north of the island is the Centre for World Peace and Health, founded by Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master in the Kagyu tradition. Lama Yeshe is also Abbot of Samye Ling Monastery in Dumfriesshire. The Centre offers an ongoing retreat and course programme from April to October, where guests are welcome to stay for personal retreats or holiday breaks. There's also a closed Buddhist retreat at the south of the island. You can visit the Holy Isle for the day, taking a ferry from Lamlash.


The Isle of Cumbrae has a coastline of just over 10 miles, and yet this small, friendly island has more than its fair share of historical, cultural and leisure attractions. Known as the ‘Jewel in the Clyde’, Cumbrae offers the chance to experience life at a gentler place and remains a favourite day-trip destination for many Scots holidaymakers. With x new moorings and all the facilities you need, Cumbrae is the ideal location for sailors to come ashore and explore.

Millport is the main town with its picture postcard prom offering plenty of shops, cafes, bars, ice cream parlours, confectioners, crazy golf, swing-boats and trampolines. The beach is great for building castles and the safe waters make paddling a must! There’s also a large play park and excellent hotel at the pier head. The Museum of the Cumbraes has fascinating artefacts and showcases the island’s colourful history, while the Cathedral of the Isles is the smallest cathedral in Europe. Famous sites to spot are the Crocodile Rock, loved by children and adults alike, and ‘The Wedge’, the world’s narrowest house.

Scotland’s National Watersports Centre on the island has superb facilities for watersport enthusiasts of all levels, while the Robertson Museum & Aquarium offers family activities, sea life exhibitions and a collection of animal species from the Clyde.

Cumbrae is famous for cycling and several bike hire shops offer over a thousand in all shapes and sizes for the leisure cyclist. Almost entirely flat, no visit to the island is complete without a cycle all the way round. If you’d rather explore by foot, follow the Cumbrae Sensory Trail and its five Sensory Point Markers where you can pause to indulge and stimulate your senses in peaceful and calming surroundings.

The waters around Cumbrae are abundant with sealife, including dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks, minke whales and a large colony of seals. The island is also popular bird spotting and rock pooling.

Or if you fancy a taste of Nashville, join locals and visitors alike at the annual Country & Western Festival in September.

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