Did you know that there is an island off the West Coast of Scotland that is only a 10 minute ferry crossing from the mainland? Great Cumbrae is one of two islands known as The Cumbraes, they lie between the island of Bute and the seaside town of Largs in North Ayrshire. Little or Wee Cumbrae can be accessed from its larger cousin Great Cumbrae, but it is Great Cumbrae aka The Isle Of Cumbrae that I am visiting today.
Calmac Ferries run ferries every 15 minutes to the island from Largs. And tourists have been travelling over to the seaside resort of Millport on Great Cumbrae for decades. In fact some thirty odd years ago my Uncle Tommy and Auntie Joyce took my family over and we cycled around the Island. We have some happy memories of that time and I’ve always hoped to repeat the experience. So when my sister booked us a family holiday nearby, an island visit was definitely on our itinerary.
The 10 minute crossing was quick and efficient. We went as foot passengers, but you can take your car along too. Many people travel with their bicycles and dogs are welcome on board. You don’t have to book, but you can if you like. Here’s the Calmac Website for guidance.
Once on the island there are buses waiting to transport travellers the 4 mile journey into Millport if they so desire. Most of Great Cumbraes inhabitants live in the pretty coastal town , which curves around an attractive bay.
Millport has a couple of well stocked Bicycle Hire Shops on the main Street , so if your interested in riding around the island, you are spoilt for choice. As for the journey round?? Well it’s a 10 Mile mostly flat route that hugs the coastline. Perfect for a family outing!
Now, we always knew it was probably going to be difficult getting Mum on a bike. She’s In her seventies, with a dodgy knee, I don’t think we all quite thought the logistics through. Especially as Mum hasn’t actually ridden one in over 50 years. And looking back to our trips to Cumbrae, Mum never actually ventured out with us on a bike, even then. Ooops! As determined as poor Mum was to cycle out of Millport , it wasn’t to be. I ended up volunteering to look around the town with her, whilst the others pedalled away. Wil too had forgone the bike ride, to take our dog Hugo for a walk instead. That was my fault though, as I had suddenly jibbed out of putting H into a doggy daycare in Largs. Over-protective Dog Parenting issues…….
Mum and I took a walk along the promenade and a rather grand looking piece of architecture struck our interest. The 18th Century Garrison House was built to house The Captain and officers of Revenue Ship ‘ The Royal George ‘ which was stationed at Millport, The Royal George played a part in catching smugglers that frequented the area. Today the impressive building contains a Doctor’s Surgery, Council Offices, Library, Cafe, Shop and Museum , it’s quite a hub for the community. Mum and I had a quick look in the Museum and around the pretty sunken garden.
Another building that we noticed in Millport was The Wedge. Though this abode on Stuart Street is definitely a blink and you’d miss it type of place ! The frontage of the skinny terrace is only 47 inches wide, which means that The Wedge has earned its place in The Guinness Book Of Records, as The World’s Narrowest House. Happily The Wedges shape does mean that the living space widens to 11 feet at the rear. I spied a Purple Bricks sign in the upstairs window and yes the petite property is currently for sale. Anyone fancy buying a Bijou Bolt hole ??
Time for a brew? On a sunny Thursday morning at the end of August, we would have expected more of the towns shops and cafes to be open, but sadly quite a few were closed. I think perhaps because Scotland’s children returned to school after their summer holidays in mid August, it was no longer the height of the tourist season. The Dancing Midge Cafe ( love the name! ) seemed to be doing a roaring trade however.
After purchasing hot drinks to take away, Mum and I sat on the seafront watching the world go by. It wasn’t long before Wil and Hugo arrived back from their walk, joining us for a brew.
Opposite the Dancing Midge Cafe there is a jagged piece of rock called The Crocodile Rock. Astonishingly the brightly painted beast has been the subject of paintings and photos since 1913, when its creator Robert Brown adorned the landmark with its crocodilian features. 🐊
The cyclists arrived back after a couple of hours. Seals and seabirds had been seen. Some legs were tired, some opted to pedal around the island again ! Wil and I would leave Hugo with the family and bicycle around Cumbrae with my nephew and my cousin who had joined us for the day. So after a take-out lunch from The Dancing Midge, four of us set off on our bike ride.
The 10 Mile loop around Great Cumbrae has plenty of stopping off points to admire the beautiful views, across to the mainland and also toward the islands of Bute and Arran. We didn’t stop too many times though, as the hire bikes had to be back by a certain time. Unlike the others , I’m not the fastest on two wheels!
I think it took us about 2 hours to cycle around the island. There are various viewing points and things to see, some of these are incorporated into The Cumbrae Sensory Trail, we passed the green waymarkers on our way round. Another painted rock was spied. The Indian Rock spookily peers out from under trees on the West side of the island. It has been here since the 1920s and was reportedly first painted by a hermit called ‘ Fern Andy’. Nearby the rock is The Fintrybay Cafe, an ideal place to stop off for refreshments.
I was so glad I had gotten to pedal around The Isle of Cumbrae once again, and especially so, on such a beautiful afternoon. My legs were pretty tired by the time we got back to Millport! The rest of the family had been rock pooling and playing crazy golf in our absence.
I have fallen in love with Great Cumbrae once again!
Have you ever been? Which of the Scottish islands is your favourite?