Course participants hiking along the coast of the Isle of Arran in Scotland.
Camera Rich Brame

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Backpacking Scotland's Isle of Arran - Alumni


Apr 21 - 28, 2024


8 days


18+ yrs



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Join us for an eight-day circumnavigation of Scotland’s Isle of Arran, a rugged, remote and historic island with such topographic diversity that it’s called “Scotland in miniature.” This 65-mile trip pieces together trails, coastal beach and boulder walking, highland-like grassy peaks, and shuttles to connect lodging at small inns and hotels. Features of this island trip include ferries to and from the mainland, a hike up Goat Fell peak, a visit to Brodick Castle, exploration of a local Buddhist retreat, and a tour and tasting at the Arran Distillery.

Connecting a string of small hotels lets us savor local cuisine and culture while mixing with other, mostly European travelers. Lodging at small hotels allows us to considerably lighten our packs for our daily hikes (average move is ~8 miles) along the rocky coast, through small villages, and across steep valleys, beaches, forests and open highlands.

The trip starts and ends on the island in the village of Brodick, about an hour’s ferry ride from the mainland south of Glasgow, on Scotland’s southwest coast. Consider staying extra days on either end of the trip to explore Scotland’s sights.

As a group, we’ll spend eight nights in the "field" at small hotels and seven days hiking, including an optional walking attempt at the summit of Goat Fell. Unlike a standard NOLS expedition, we won't carry cook gear, heavy rations, or sleeping bags, but we'll do "real" walking up and down varied terrain and along country roads with our light packs. Be aware: although the terrain is not steep, hiking distances are long and the weather often inclement. Be prepared for a physical challenge.

On day eight , the team rounds the coast below Goat Fell and heads down the final beach back to Brodick. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment for completing the uncommon circumnavigation of this historic and scenic island.

The Isle of Arran trip reacquaints you with NOLS skills in a convivial, relaxing and visually stunning location. Instruction is geared to your interests, with optional Scottish "word(s) of the day," time for journal-writing, photography, a distillery tour and more. Of course, non-alumni adult friends and family members are also invited— this is a great way to introduce NOLS to your sidekicks.

Activity Rating*:

*Enjoy light packs, challenging hikes, and inn living, but the hiking can be strenuous. 

Hiking Scotland's Isle of Arann Media