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Lamlash is the largest settlement on Arran, and the true capital of the island. Brodick may have the ferry terminus, but Lamlash is home to Arran's main hospital, its high school, and its local government offices. And as is obvious when you approach by road from the north, it also has a golf course ideally located to give stunning views.
Lamlash also benefits from being the prettiest and most thoughtfully developed of Arran's villages. It faces south east across Lamlash Bay towards the imposing bulk of Holy Island and benefits from standing a little way back from the shore, allowing space for an informal promenade and pier-related activities on the seaward side of the main road.
Coupled with the island's best and most attractive collection of buildings, Lamlash manages to epitomise the Victorian charm and gentility that originally brought so many trippers to Arran in the latter half of the 1800s, and has kept them coming back ever since.
There was a time when Lamlash vied with Brodick to be the main port on Arran. With the natural protection afforded by Holy Island laying across the mouth of Lamlash Bay, Lamlash had many natural advantages that have long been appreciated. King Håkon IV of Norway sheltered his fleet here before his defeat at the Battle of Largs in 1263. Rather more recently Lamlash served as a naval base during both world wars, with Naval ships frequently taking advantage of the shelter afforded by the bay: and their officers of the hospitality afforded by the Golf Club. The future Kings Edward VIII and George VI both signed the Lamlash Golf Club visitors book when naval ships they were serving on as princes moored in Lamlash Bay.
But when the age of the steamer became the age of the ferry, earlier and faster investment in Brodick's harbour facilities ensured it would become the predominant ferry port, leaving Lamlash to enjoy the title of unchallenged yachting and leisure sailing capital of Arran.
This emphasis on sailing is obvious from any walk along the shore in Lamlash. The bay itself is home to many moored boats of all shapes, sizes and budgets. Back on shore a range of nautically focused facilities are available, and turn up on any day when the weather is favourable and you will find the entire waterfront a hive of activity.
In more recent times, Lamlash Bay has been at the forefront of efforts to conserve our marine habitat. The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) has established a "No Take Zone" (NTZ) at the north end of Lamlash Bay and establish a Marine Protected Area in the remainder of the bay. A NTZ designates an area of seabed from which no marine life can be removed by any means, whether commercial or recreational.
Returning to Lamlash's origins, the story behind its unusual name is a convoluted one. It dates back to an Irish monk called Lais or Laisren who, in about 590AD spent some time in a cave on Holy Island. Lais or Laisren was more usually knows as Molas or Molias or Molio or Molios, and the Gaelic name of Holy Island became, as a result, Eilean Molaise. This seems to have gradually evolved through Elmolaise and Lemolash to Lamlash, which is what Holy Island was called until early in the 1800s. After that time the name was more normally attached to the village that grew up facing it.
Holy Island itself is some 3km long and rises to a height of 1,030ft or 314m at Mullach Mor. It was brought in 1991 for £400,000 to provide a spiritual retreat for Buddhist monks and nuns. Day trips to the island are available from the pier at Lamlash. Potential visitors should note that fires, alcohol and dogs are banned from Holy Island. Perhaps the best excursions on the island are the walk around its coast, or the climb to the summit of Mullach Mor.