Exploring the Isle of Cumbrae
The Isle of Cumbrae, also known as Great Cumbrae, lies on the Ayrshire coast and is roughly four miles long and two miles wide. The circumference of the island is very much up for debate with many people not managing to settle on an exact distance however it is measured without argument as 10.25 miles (16.5km) round (if you go left or counter clockwise). If you use a plan my cycle it says 9.9 miles.
The island is just a short ferry trip of under 15 minutes from Largs, this has allowed Cumbrae to become regarded as Scotland’s most accessible island.
Marine Environment and Wildlife
Cumbrae has a marine climate and can experience gale-force winds from the Atlantic at any time of year; these westerly or south westerly gales can be severe and destructive. However, while the west of the island might be in the throes of a 70mph (113km/h) gale, the sheltered east side facing largs can seem like a duckpond.
Local wildlike includes owls, polecats, rabbits, common kestrels, buzzards, and the occasional golden eagle and sea eagle, as well as a large seabird population: fulmars, cormorants, oystercatchers and many more. Other marine life includes seal, basking sharks, porbeagle sharks, porpoise, dolphins, minky and orca whales.
The island has been inhabited since the end of the last ice age.
Legend has it that St Mirin, on his return to Scotland from Ireland around AD 710, arrived in Cumbrae and, following the example of St Patrick, rid the island of snakes. The Cathedral of the Isles is reputed to have been built on the site where St Mirin preached. Cumbrae to this day remains snake-free.
In 1263, Haakon IV, King of Norway, may have used the eastern coast of the island as an anchorage for his fleet, before the inconclusive Battle of Largs. Ballochmartin Bay and Portrye (derived from Gaelic elements meaning "king's harbour") are suggested locations for the Norwegian-anchorage.
For many centuries the island was under shared ownership, with the Marquess of Bute in the west and the Earl of Glasgow in the east. In 1999 the final feudal landowner, Le Mans winner Johnny Dumfries, now Bute, of Mount Stuart House, put the island up for general sale, with first refusal given to his farmer tenants.
Tourism grew in the 20th century, and Millport became a popular stop for Clyde steamers and families going 'Doon the Watter for the Fair' (Glasgow Fair holidays). Today most visitors are daytrippers, mostly due to the growth of foreign package holidays in the 1960s. It is still possible to experience a traditional day out on the PS Waverley which operates from both Glasgow and Ayr during the summer.
The only settlement is Millport, a seaside town with a Victorian promenade which curves around an attractive hilly bay on the south coast. Millport is home to Britain's smallest cathedral, the Cathedral of the Isles, which was completed in 1851 to a design by William Butterfield, one of the leading Gothic revival architects of the day.
Cumbrae is a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts. Cycle hire is available from the main town of Millport, and the island will not fail to delight with its miles of stunning coastline. Follow the 10.25 miles of the circular loop around the island’s main road, which is suitable for families and offers view of North Ayrshire coast and the Isle of Bute.
For more information on places to see visit this really useful site: http://www.naheritagetrails.co.uk/heritagetrails_cumbrae.php
Great attractions & events
Garrison House is home to the Museum of the Cumbraes and here you can learn about the history of Millport and the isles. Learn of 18th century smuggling tales and gain an insight into life on the island during the Second World War. At the Robertson Museum & Aquarium, visitors can learn about the wide variety of marine life and local habitats on the island.
Cumbrae is also the host of a great range of events, from the annual Millport Country Festival, Scooter Rally, September Weekend, to the up and coming Resurrection event to name but a few, more events will follow making the island a Mecca for Music Lovers.
Have fun and enjoy the Island...