Monday, 9 March 2015

Millport, Island of Great Cumbrae, North Ayrshire.

The Island of Great Cumbrae in the middle of The Firth of Clyde near Largs is about 4 - 5 miles long. Historically and Geographically, it's prominence in this important navigable waterway made it a hub for Customs and Excise checking on Smuggling and contraband.
The only town on the island is Millport located in a large sweeping bay at the south end which has served Glasgow holiday makers in the past and day-trippers in more recent times.

Garrison   GJC_016589_edited-1

One of the oldest buildings in Millport is the 1745 Garrison House used as barracks for the army.

Garrison, Millport  GJC_016590_edited-1

The building has seen a busy life during the early 21st century as it was damaged by arson, achieved funding from the National Lottery and now houses essential services and community projects.

MV Shira ready to leave   GJC_016543

Picking up from where I left off in the last post of Largs and MV Loch Shira, I arrived by ferry on the north east side of Great Cumbrae. There was a frequent bus service that linked the ferry terminal with Millport in the south.

As a result of this outing today, I realised that the town is more accessible that I first thought. The bus service was difficult to find at first on the internet and seemed complex with the winter / summer / off peak services. However my experiences today were if there's a boat, there's a bus. It was a bit weird at the end of the day travelling north, with traffic light controlled roadworks on the way, seeing the ferry crossing the Clyde nearing towards the island. I needn't have worried because they both arrive and depart at about the same time.

On Your Bike Millport   GJC_016520

Cycling is the main activity of Millport where most people want to cycle around the island on the perimeter road. Bike hire is available at a reasonable cost from a few shops for the 10.25 mile circuit. Many novice cyclists would claim the rounded up distance of 11 miles depending on which guide, book or site they have read !!

I chose the shop with a snappy title of "On your Bike".

Bike Hire, On your Bike  GJC_016593

After a small exchange of money and a quick chat with the staff, I took a hurried photograph which they wanted to know what it was going to be used for. They were keen for me to advertise their shop and mentioned that not only do they do bike hire but also kayaks as well.
I promised them an advert here ...

Biking on Great Cumbrae   GJC_016532

I remember visiting lots of places in the UK as a child with my parents and somehow for either nostalgia purposes, photography or otherwise, I seem to return to them all. Millport and The Isle Of Cumbrae however had to wait until today from as long ago as 1975. As I was going to be sampling the outdoors, I had to choose the best weather day in the week.

Bute from Cumbrae  GJC_016534

Back in 1975, the island or rather the cycle ride seemed a lot longer but this was pleasure and something I had been looking forward to since I planned the trip.

Great Cumbrae sands   GJC_016529

I wasn't in a "race" this time so it was nice to enjoy the beaches on the west side as I headed north from Millport.

Tolment End Monument  GJC_016538

All too soon I reached the northerly side of the island at the figurative half way point. Tolmont End Monument commemorates two seaman who lost their lives from HMS Shearwater back in 1844. With a view across the Firth of Clyde to Largs including the frequent ferry sailings, it seems to be the place chosen by many amateur and rookie cyclists as a half way point for a break.

Bike and Boat   GJC_016547

I had a better plan up my sleeve for a more photographic location a little further on, not so much entitled "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" but more the ones they left out ... "Boats and Bikes" !!

MV Loch Shira   GJC_016550

I had plenty of time over lunch to be distracted watching the frequent ferry arriving and departing. Too many photographs, I had to give myself a quick self indulgent photo processing moment !!

Millport Bay  GJC_016564

After lunch and a few more southerly miles into the sun, I turned the corner into the sweeping concave bay of the more residential eastern end of Millport....

Arran View   GJC_016571
The Isle of Arran from Millport
... and my progress along the seafront at the resort was a lot slower as I took in scenes and seascapes to the south ...

Seat to the south  GJC_016573

Tropical view   GJC_016574

The tropical feel of the gulf stream and the reason why Millport has been popular for many a year.

Croc Rock   GJC_016579

The Crocodile rock is a natural rock feature that was painted over a century ago and is the great seafront attraction of Millport. It is unknown when artist Robert Brown painted the rock, but we do know that he was thanked for his efforts in the summer of 1913. You may think that it looks like something from the circus here at low tide, but images at high tide give the croc rock a bit more realism even if captured on a still photograph. The Local Burns club opted to look after it in more recent years and use the skills of a local painter every few years to keep the croc smiling :-)


 The beaches are prepared nicely and await the day tripper and holidaymaker for the forthcoming summer season.

The Ritz Cafe   GJC_016603

Usually in most Cities and towns, renovations and building makeovers are relentlessly keeping up to date with the times. As a child I remember vividly the sea front and one of the things I noticed arriving in Millport 40 years later was that nothing had changed much at all.

MV Shira on Great Cumbrae   GJC_016608

Finally, as with all islands, it's nice for the locals to welcome and enjoy the trade of the traveller but there a comes a time to leave and return to the mainland. Not all of the visitors seem to be welcome and they don't take the ferry back either ...

Don'f feed the Seagulls   GJC_016599

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Largs and M.V. Loch Shira, North Ayrshire

Largs  GJC_017667 (1)

On day 2 of my North Ayrshire based trip, the weather looked favourable to pursue an outdoor activity highlighted in the next post, so Largs became the primary destination for this day out.


Largs is situated downstream on the Firth of Clyde about 33 miles from Glasgow.


The town has historic Viking links as a result of The Battle of Largs in 1263 when the Norwegian invaders failed in their campaign.
(On a side note I've had spam invaders to my blog recently and even though I may have fought them off, sorry to any commenters from the last post that have got infected with them. I'm considering comment moderation rather than just Google users or followers of this blog. Any thoughts? )


In more recent military times, it was the scene of a conference that planned the successful Normandy Invasion of World War II.

M.V. Loch Striven
From small beginnings, Largs became a fashionable seaside resort during the mid nineteenth century with the construction of hotels and a Pier to import the rich and famous on the Victorian Grand tour.


With the passage of time, Largs is a much sought after place to live thanks to the later arrival of the railway and reasonable commuter times into Glasgow.


My experiences of Largs as a child weren't much and I didn't know what to expect today. Unfortunately the classical railway station no longer survives and the busy street going down to the ferry terminal didn't really lend itself to photography thanks to the human footprint :-)


For the British tourist, Largs isn't thought of much as a destination or an accessible town in Scotland when I tell you you that it's been 28 years since I last visited it albeit briefly. Many resorts around Great Britain suffered in the latter part of the 20th century due to erratic weather and cheap Mediterranean flights with most having some weapon to fight back in the 21st century.


The fighting spirit that conquered the Vikings continues in the town with an unlikely weapon of an Ice Cream shop.

GJC_016663_edited-1 (1)

Nardini's Ice Cream parlour originally opened in 1935 as the largest restaurant in Great Britain.


The Art Deco building was refurbished and re- opened in 2008 under new management after a four year closure and a long running family business feud.

GJC_016657 (1)

The Restaurant gets mixed reviews on Trip Advisor for several reasons but if it's just an Ice Cream in a cone you want to take out of the shop, I'd certainly travel an hour to sample it again.

M.V. Loch Shira
As I mentioned earlier, it has been some considerable time since my last visit here, so I shouldn't have been surprised to see the earlier depicted M.V Loch Striven supplemented by a newer ferry.


Although maybe not as aesthetically pleasing to the eye, M.V. Loch Shira seems to be a lot more substantial.


It was built by the nearby Clyde shipbuilders Ferguson at a cost of £ 5.8 million and launched in December 2006. Unlike many other smaller vessels in the Caledonian MacBrayne fleet, M.V. Loch Shira has plyed it's trade solidly on a single route, Largs to Great Cumbrae (No prizes for guessing where the next post will be from !)


With a speed of 10 knots, the 54 metre long ferry can carry 36 cars and 250 passengers but congestion issues on a busy road may have curtailed this figure to a much more practical 24.


First on board with a welcome from the crew and off to the next destination, leaving me strange questions about Largs in my head ...


Do people travel from all over the world .. and Universe to sample the Largs Fish and Chip shops ?!


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