The Isle of Cumbrae
Millport HISTORY….Back in 1745 Millport consisted of not much more than The Garrison House’, where the customs and excise men stayed and kept watch on the movement of shipping up and down the Clyde. As Millport developed the new streets that started to surround the building were named after the customs men and their ship, the Royal George, hence George Street and the George Hotel.
In Edwardian times Glaswegians began to take boat trips “Doon the water”. Millport has a pier and the Isle of Cumbrae, with its sheltered, sunny bay, soon became popular and holiday houses started to be built. Its popularity continued throughout the Victorian period but as holidays abroad became possible, it was no longer the ‘in place to go’.
In many ways its lack of popularity in the 1970’s and 80’s has helped to preserve its charm. As soon as you leave the ferry the laid back, friendly atmosphere is apparent. The locals know each other, crime is almost none existent, there is a real community and it feels like a step-back in time.
There are shops on the island. Also restaurants, pubs and craft shops. Millport is built around a beautiful sandy, award winning beach. Many people come to the Isle of Cumbrae to enjoy the walks because wherever you go there are fantastic sea views. Beautiful sunrises and stunning sunsets.
Here are a few suggestions for things to see and do while on the island
Birds the island is extremely rich in bird species. Cumbrae has more than 100 different species including Hen Harriers, Red and Black Throated Divers, Grebes, Terns, Fulmars, Godwits, Ravens, Buzzards, Sparrow Hawks and Kestrels and a Colony of Sand Martins.
Seals In winter a seal colony resides in Millport bay and seals can be seen playing in the sea. There are some locals that do ad hoc boat tours of the bay to see the sea life or there are boat trips from Largs. (Cumbrae Voyages Tel: 0845 257 0404)
Wild Flowers Wild flowers and ferns are numerous on the island. Particularly marsh and moor land species. There are also nine species of orchids.
Smallest Cathedral in Europe Just off the sea front is a driveway which leads up to the Cathedral of the Isles. It is the smallest Cathedral in Europe. It attracts visitors from all around the world and holds a programme of classical musical events throughout the summer.
The Garrison House This beautiful building dominates the centre of Millport and is very near both apartments. It was built as the barracks for the Customs and Excise men in 1745. As ships came up the Clyde, the government offices sailed out to meet them and claim taxes for the state. It later became the residence of the 6th Earl of Glasgow and later for the Marquis of Bute. It eventually fell into disrepair and was almost destroyed by fire in 2007. It was returned to its former glory and is now a community building housing the Museum of Cumbrae, a coffee shop, library, model railway and public toilets.
Britain’s Narrowest House The Wedge’, the narrowest house in Britain and listed in the Guinness book of records. Don’t blink or you will miss it. It is in the centre of Millport but the house is not much wider than the front door.
University Marine Biological Station For decades the biological station has had links with Glasgow University and London University. Students studying marine biology stay at the station and explore the waters around the island. The student’s bright blue exploratory boat can be seen in the waters around Millport. here is an exhibition area with tanks of sea creatures and information. It is nothing like the razzmatazz of ‘Sea-world’ but never-the-less there is some interesting information about the waters around the island hidden away in the literature on display and in the film shows. www.gla.ac.uk/marinestation
Cycling The island is cycling mad. People come over on the ferry with their own bikes or hire them on the island. Sometimes coaches even bring parties of people over to take part in sponsored events. Everyone is good humoured and there are cyclists everywhere. It is a perfect island for cycling around. The road is flat, interesting and sociable. A total of ten miles in circumference and there are a couple of places to stop for refreshment along the way.
Walks there are many stunning walks on Millport. The views across the sea, from every direction, make them so interesting and there is so much to see. There are leaflets in the apartments giving details of the walks available.
Millport Golf Course An 18-hole golf course traces the tops of the hills and offers some of the best viewing points on the island. For further information about the golf course look at www.millportgolfclub.co.uk The web site shows some lovely pictures of the Isle of Cumbrae. There are many excellent golf courses on the mainland, including the nearby Ayrshire courses at Royal Troon, Turnberry and Prestwick where the first Open was played.