Isle of Cumbrae – A Timeless Island
Just off the West Coast of Scotland, the Isle of Cumbrae has long been a popular destination for tourists and day-trippers alike. Also known as Great Cumbrae or simply Cumbrae, it lies off the mainland at Ayrshire. When you disembark from the ferry you could be forgiven for having the feeling that you have arrived in ‘Brigadoon’: this little gem of an island has over many decades remained very much unchanged, as regular ‘doon the watter’ visitors will attest.
Millport the capital of Cumbrae
Millport is the main town on the island, nestled beneath hilly braes in the south side of Cumbrae.
Looking south, only a stone’s throw away, you can see the rugged coastline of Little Cumbrae, also known by the locals as Wee Cumbrae.
The town owes its very existence to the bygone days of smugglers, lighthouse men, customs officers and fishermen and has many a tale to tell!
What to see and do in Cumbrae
Cycling and Walking
The island is an absolute must for keen cyclists and walkers. The circular loop cycle route is 10 miles on reasonably flat roads, with the odd uphill slope and is very popular with all ages. It takes between one and two hours to complete the circuit and it offers spectacular views of Ayrshire, the Isles of Bute and Arran, Kintyre and Ailsa Craig. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can climb to the highest point of the island where, from the Glaid Stane, the most magnificent panoramic views of the mainland and neighbouring islands can be seen.
Bicycles, three-wheelers and even tandems can be rented from several local shops including the famous Mapes Cycle Shop in Millport.
The Millport Golf Club
Previously known as the Cumbrae Golf Club, the Millport Golf Club was formed in 1888. This testing heathland course is perched above the picturesque town of Millport. The friendly golf club offers a warm welcome to visitors, and the course has spectacular views of Arran, Little Cumbrae, the Ailsa Craig and Isle of Bute.
Interesting places to visit on Cumbrae
For generations visitors have enjoyed having family photos snapped on Crocodile Rock’, which sits prominently on the sandy beach in the main town of Millport.
There are several more well-known rocks to discover including the Lion Rock and the Indian Rock.
Cathedral of the Isles and Collegiate Church of the Holy Spirit
The iconic Cathedral of the Isles in Millport was designed by William Butterfield. Construction was completed in 1849, and this ‘smallest cathedral in the British Isles’, opened in 1851. The Cathedral is the tallest building in Millport and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and wonderful woodland.
The Garrison House in Millport was originally built in 1745, as a station for Revenue and Customs Officers. The Captain and Officers of the Revenue Sailing Ship the Royal George, resided in the gothic-style house. The town of Millport itself owes its origins to the people who attempted to smuggle contraband – and to those trying to prevent them – throughout the islands and mainland on the Firth of Clyde.
The Garrison House is now a local hub, housing a Café, GP Surgery, local library, council offices and The Museum of the Cumbraes.
The Isle of Cumbrae Gin Distillery
Indulge in a wonderful gin tasting experience at the Isle of Cumbrae Distillers. An inspiring story unfolds of five ladies from lands afar, combining a love for Island life with a love for the ever popular liquor.
The Wedge in Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae has the narrowest house frontage in the world. At just forty-seven inches wide, it is listed in the Guinness Book of Records and it enjoys wonderful sea views. It is called The Wedge as it gets wider the further back it goes and is shaped like a wedge of cake! It is indeed a fascinating piece of architecture.
Getting to Cumbrae
Cumbrae is only an eight-minute ferry crossing from Largs on the Scottish mainland. The route is operated by Caledonian MacBrayne Hebridean & Clyde ferries which offer frequent crossings every day. The Largs – Cumbrae timetable is listed here.
Where to stay on the Isle of Cumbrae
The newly refurbished Royal George Hotel at Millport Pier is a popular choice with visitors. There are many Air BnB options, from small one-bedroom apartments to larger family houses as well as several bed and breakfast options. You will find something to suit everyone on this magical little island, for young and old alike.