Just a short hop across the Firth of Clyde from mainland Scotland sits Great Cumbrae. (map) Much smaller than it’s more famous neighbours of Arran and Bute, (and smaller than it’s name might suggest) Great Cumbrae is absolutely ideal for an outing. We drove around the island, stopping here and there to take in the scenery – we also some time at Millport, Great Cumbrae.
Calmac run a frequent ferry service from Largs, which itself is just a short drive up the coast from Saltcoats in North Ayrshire. (map) The crossing takes a nifty 10 minutes, and whilst you are permitted to get out of the car, Hooves was happy to stay inside the car with me. No advance booking is necessary…you can simply rock up at Largs ticket office, buy a ticket, and go on the next available sailing. Easy!
Once you are on the island you can simply follow the road out of the tiny ferry port to the left and just enjoy the scenery. You get cracking views of the mainland on this side, and the island is peppered with places to pull over to have a wander, and maybe a little doggy-paddle.
As the road reaches the end of the island and you feel you are beginning to bear round the bend you’ll see the Lion Rock perched up on the hillside to your right. Standing roughly 10 meters in height and over 50 meters in length, this imposing structure has graced the island of Great Cumbrae for some 65 million years. It looks more like a prehistoric crocodile than a lion to me, but it’s worth a nod nonetheless.
Once you have driven round the headland Millport, the only town on the island, comes into view. (map) It really is rather sweet and there is just enough to keep you entertained for an afternoon with a selection of eateries, ‘drinkeries’, and shops to explore, as well as an open sandy beach, a secluded sandy bay, a prom, and a little harbour. (streetview) It’s got a bit of everything as far as a small seaside town is concerned. Millport gets involved too: The weekend we were there (3rd & 4th September) there was a country & western festival. Even though we arrived the day before it started we were delighted to see people in full costume: Indian chiefs were taking in the sea air with a couple of chaps whom looked like Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill. It certainly added a bit of spice to what we thought would be a quiet Friday morning! We stopped for a latte and a hot chocolate at the very appropriately named “The Jailhouse”, which is roughly half way along the main stretch opposite the sea. Dogs are not allowed inside, but there is seating out front so you can sit and watch the world go by….which, when we were there was fascinating! The staff here were so very friendly, and despite being busy they found time to chat and make you feel welcome…regardless of how little we were ordering. We’d definitely go back. Parking was easy and there was no charge for parking on the seafront, so we were able to amble along the front and around the harbour for as long as we wanted.
It’s worth mentioning that there seems to be loads going on on this little island throughout the year, including a full on scooter rally, a festival of light, a raft race, a comedy festival and so on…
Once you are ready to move on from Millport you can simply continue along the same road as it wends its way along the coastline until you are back at the ferry ‘terminal’. As I mentioned before, there are plenty of places to pull over and have a wander or just take in the views of the mainland or the neighbouring islands. Roughly half way round you’ll find yourself at Fintry Bay, which has a proper parking area, picnic tables on the grass verge overlooking the sea, and loos…very handy when you’re out all day. There is a tea room here but it was closed when we were visiting so I can’t offer an opinion.
If you keep your eyes peeled you might see all five of the good luck posts that have been positioned around the island. If you touch all five you are said to receive good luck…we didn’t know about them and only saw the last three (one of which was leaning at a jaunty angle)…and our luck wasn’t too bad that day…!