Sunday, 21 July 2013

Millport. Walks on Great Cumbrae.

Great Cumbrae is a small fertile island in the Firth of Clyde near Largs. It's about an hour's car or bus ride from Glasgow. With prolonged heat wave conditions, no breeze inland and the mercury nudging 30c degrees a trip to the coast was always on the cards for the next outing.
I've always been of the opinion that Scotland and the UK as a whole has a near perfect climate.
We get properly defined seasons; we get very few droughts or wildfires, infrequent heat waves that  occasionally last weeks not months, abundant rain to keep things green and glorious year round and fairly mild winters which are just cold enough at present to kill off any of the really nasty bugs.
Our insects and animals may bite and scratch but apart from sheep ticks carrying a potentially fatal disease we have no natural born people killers in the great outdoors. Even adders, are seldom seen by the public and will only bite if threatened. The venom of the UK's only poisonous snake is mild compared to other toxic snakes in other parts of the world and is only dangerous to the very young or elderly.
So what have we really got to complain about when it comes down to it? We don't get swallowed whole if we swim in the sea ,get chewed pulpy by big predators if we travel away from urban areas and we don't normally find our loved ones halfway down a monster reptile when we return from the shops. No bugs here start eating us from the inside out as we are having breakfast by a tropical lagoon. Maybe we just like a good moan but a spell of unaccustomed heat here can help to put things like that into perspective. Would you really like it hotter than this, or for several weeks longer every year while at work? We would need air conditioning just to survive the summer.
Ron and I decided to get the ferry across from Largs to Great Cumbrae in the hope of  some sea breezes. It was too hot to rush up mountains so a sedate stroll round this beautiful and lush island
was our goal. Alex was asked if he wanted to come... 'no Corbetts on Great Cumbrae'... blah, blah, blah. So he stayed in his dark box in the toy cupboard sheltering from the heat. Bad teddy! It's more fun with three.

Once on the island we let the bus full of day-trippers heading for Millport depart then set off on foot from the pier, following signposted tracks over Horse Hill to reach Ballochmartin farm and then The Glaid Stone, reached via the yellow minor road. An alternative easier route is to stay on the main coastal road then head up the obvious minor roads to reach the same place. Honeysuckle and elderberry flowers adorned the hedgerows all the way up this scenic strip of tarmac. At any time of year its one of the prettiest surfaced roads anywhere. This leads up to the highpoint of the island at 127 metres with a trig point and observation viewfinder in the form of a circular disc. And what a view. We were glad we had thought of having an early start as it had not turned 11:00 am yet. Sea breezes arrived just when we needed them and the walking across the island was excellent. The neighbouring island of Arran was buried in sea mist when we arrived  but a few hours later it had burned off to leave just a few weird doughnut shaped clouds draped over the sharp peaks of its mountainous interior.

The meandering walk down into Millport itself, the island's only town and tourist resort is always a delight.

  We visited The Cathedral of the Isles first, the UK's smallest cathedral at 100 seats, though it always looks impressive enough inside, then descended further into the town itself. There was a sign up on the door of this building.   'Please close door behind you, swallows will come into the cathedral and may injure themselves if you don't.'  The peaceful vibe of island life.  We could hear their soft twittering voices on the power lines above us so different from the bold piercing scream of the swift. The skies above Great Cumbrae had both birds in abundance.
This is the view looking towards the much smaller, harder to access, island of Little Cumbrae. Great Cumbrae itself is only six kilometres long by three wide but it packs a lot into that area. A beautiful rural gem. Surprisingly, even in heat wave conditions on a Sunday, during a school holiday period, with only a £5:40p outlay required on the ferry to get here and back it was not that busy.
I've mentioned before on this blog about certain fashionable, so called 'remote areas' being really  crowded at peak times compared to how I remember them but Bute and  Great Cumbrae never fail me. Only two folk met walking across the hills, a young couple, and an older couple with a car at the trig point who were having a week long holiday here. That was it.
More folk were scattered around the beaches of the town with youngsters and families enjoying the great weather. Some youngsters, as you can see from this picture if you click on it full screen, had kayaks out in the bay, others had hired bikes to cycle round the safe, almost traffic free roads on the island, others just sat on the beach. There was even a big family group enjoying fish suppers for lunch on the sands.
Although there were plenty of folk on the island it was nothing like the numbers I expected  given the weather conditions and the atmosphere was sedate, special and peaceful with none of the oppressive feeling too many tourists in one place can bring. Yet as you can see from these photos both Millport and Rothesay ( Main town on neighbouring Bute) have so much to offer families for a day trip or even a few days. For entertainment and for easy scenic walks. The bouncy castle was in action, as was the crazy golf and small fairground and all were doing some trade but it certainly wasn't hectic. Maybe it's the short ferry trip and additional family fares or it's just not in peoples minds anymore as a  holiday destination but it's perfect for young children. Safe and friendly.
What a stunning backdrop for a walk along the boulders. You can keep Benidorm and beach resorts abroad  A fiver gets you this. Heaven for me at any time of year. Instant regression to my own childhood store of happy memories I've had here. It's an island built for families to enjoy.
Simple pleasures are sometimes the best. The Indian Face Rock. A good friend of the Lion Rock and the Crocodile, also seen as you walk or bike round the island. We reached this by going up past the Caravan park on another minor road out of Milllport which leads to a signposted right of way across cattle dotted fields to Fintray Bay where there is a sandy beach and cafe. Here we discovered a few mixed groups of Italian teenage tourists who were cycling round the island on bikes and really enjoying themselves. Boys and girls that age always do though. Haven't a clue why so many Italian youngsters were here but they seemed to think it was fashionable enough for a trip.
We must have passed about 40 all speaking Italian along with two Spanish couples, a young polish family and, I think, Belgian? Anyway, maybe it's just we Scots who seem to have forgotten how nice, quirky and unique this small island still is?
Love the fact they cant get the E in here :) A well known front door in the centre of Millport. The sunken Garden in Millport was also looking resplendent in the heat. Tropical looking with its flowering palm trees and quaint circular ponds. Old fashioned is what Millport does best and it should never change that too much as that's a big part of its charm.
Back at the ferry terminal we congratulated ourselves for having the bright idea of coming here. Sunny with just enough breeze to make walking round the island a real pleasure.
Spotted this thrush digging up worms as we sat on the grass waiting for our return back to the mainland. It obviously had hungry chicks nearby.
View of the mainland hills above Largs.
Twin Kayak takes on the ferry to see who is top dog of the bounding millpond. Ferry wins.
Unusual doughnut shaped wave caused by a jet skier as we approached Largs. Unlike Millport, Largs did have the heaving holiday crowds, the noisy music shows and the flashing light arcades. Don't get me wrong, I really like Largs at any other time but on a hot crowded day like this one you cant beat an island retreat. A fantastic day out. Great for a sunny day at any time of year. It's in the title.


Unknown said...

Great post as always. Really enjoy the walks on this blog. Had a great day on Cumbrae with the family this week as well. Superb in this weather. Don't think I've ever seen Largs or Millport as busy. Can't beat Ayrshire in the sun ;)

blueskyscotland said...

Thank you Tookie Bunten. Glad you enjoyed Millport Too. This warm spell is good for local shops and business facilities on the island.
Unusual blog you have.

Unknown said...

It's true what people say if you could guarantee this weather you wouldn't go anywhere else.

Thanks, never sure that google sends folks to my prefered blog mind you it needs more posts...

Robert Craig said...

Never managed to get to Cumbrae, always wanted to take my mum back for a cycle round the island as she remembers from her holidays. As for the heat - if we were guaranteed this every July and August I would be delighted :)

Neil said...

I try to get to Cumbrae at least a couple of times every year. It's like going to another world, leaving all the tourists, the fun fair and so on behind in Largs. For such a small island there is so much to do. Walking along the coast road on the north side with the views of Arran is like being in the highlands. Your pics brought back memories Bob....and a reminder that I need to visit again before the year is out.

The Glebe Blog said...

Never been to Cumbrae but remember my dad telling me it was one of his favourite places when he used to cycle around Scotland.
I remember seeing a lot of photographs of seals he'd taken.
Nice tour Bob.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Craig,
It's a great island for flat but spectacular cycling.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
Yeah,it's very impressive in mid winter even if you get a clear day with snow on the Arran Peaks.

blueskyscotland said...

Well worth a visit to the Firth Of Clyde Islands Jim with your club members if you ever get too used to the wonders of the south west. Mind you, you get around the country more than me judging by the last year:)

Carol said...

I have to admit to not looking around Millport much as I was just between 2 ferries I think. I hired a bike from there and cycled round the island - was great. You're right, it is a very peaceful and beautiful spot. My Mum & Dad went up over the hill on the island I think.

Only saw one of those stones - don't know which it was but it wasn't that Indian Face one...