I’m rather ashamed to say that, even though I’ve lived all of my life in Scotland, I’ve only actually seen a small fraction of the country. Sometimes it is all too easy to get drawn into the hustle and bustle of the central belt (aka Glasgow and Edinburgh) while forgetting that right on my doorstep is some of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet.
Recently, I made a pledge to change things and to get out and see lots more. It was only last year that I took my first trip to Speyside and to a few of the small fishing towns that dot their way along the east coast. This year I really fancied getting over to a couple of the islands that lie on the west. At the top of my bucket list remains Skye but as a warm up I thought I’d pay a visit to somewhere a little closer to Glasgow and after doing a little research, I thought Arran looked perfect.
A while back Hyundai had asked me if I fancied taking their hot new hatchback, the new i30 N for a spin and I realised that this would be the perfect opportunity to try see what it was capable on some very scenic and unpredictable roads. Until I started planning my trip I hadn’t realised just how easy it was to get to Arran from Glasgow, the ferry terminal is under an hour’s drive from the city and offers multiple sailings (which take about 50 minutes) back and forward each day. I’d never actually been on a car ferry before (sheltered life I know), so the whole experience of actually getting on was rather exciting too. They really pack the cars in like sardines, so I was a little worried at first for about the Hyundai getting scratched or scrapped but she came off at the other end looking fantastic.
Somehow, I managed to luck out with the weather – not something that happens all that often on the west of Scotland – so the ferry journey over was quite breath-taking. I even heard someone say that they had spotted some dolphins off the side of the vessel, but unfortunately, I was too slow to catch a peek myself.
Arran is a pretty sizeable island and is home to around 5000 people but it’s still small enough that you can do it in a day trip. I had chosen to spend the night at Auchrannie Resort though as I’d heard some really great things about it. As the check in time was mid-afternoon, I headed off on a little recce in the car beforehand. There’s only really a couple of main roads so it’s pretty hard to get lost. I just headed in a westerly direction and ended up driving right across the middle from the main town of Brodick to Blackwaterfoot. The views were stunning as we dipped in and out of valleys. The roads were quiet and in good condition too, so it was a really enjoyable drive.
I took a shine to the Hyundai i30 N instantly, it looks absolutely epic in the ‘engine red’ colour and the black trim just works perfectly, my favourite colour combo. The interior isn’t exactly attention grabbing but I quite like that understated look, the large infotainment screen takes centre stage and worked really well. I instantly paired my phones Bluetooth to it and didn’t experience any snags at all with streaming music or making calls.
As for the drive itself, it was a lot of fun. I found the car to be really responsive, and I noticed it turn a few heads as I made my way around Arran, I’m guessing the locals hadn’t spotted one before. Once I popped it into sport mode, I don’t think I came back out of it. The sweet sound of the engine and I found that it handled the road quite well. I’m quite a careful driver but even in sport and didn’t notice the car slipping at all, even at speed or on some of the windier stretches of road.
After a lovely night in a tranquil and cosy spa resort room at Auchrannie, we loaded up with a hearty Scottish breakfast before once again heading out to explore a little more before catching the ferry back to the mainland. This time, I headed right up to the top of the island with a stop off at Lochranza Castle. This was probably the most stunning stretch of road I’d seen on all of the trip. The run cut right through a really wide area of moorland than was flanked by rugged hills and glens. My speed was brought down to a crawl midway through as a family of sheep decided to take a wander across the road, but I guess that is a peril of island life right there!
I’ve said it before but I’m not a petrolhead by any means, but I judge a car on a few things, look, comfort, sound system and my driving experience. I have to say that the i30 N ticked just about all of my boxes. If you are in the market for a powerful hatchback then at £28,000 this one offers a great proposition for the price and is definitely worth adding to your shortlist.