Millport, Isle of Cumbrae

A Knickerbocker Glory at The Ritz Cafe, Millport

Millport is the only town on the island of Great Cumbrae, which sits one and a half miles off the coast of north Ayrshire. Alongside other towns like its island neighbour Rothesay it used to be a popular destination for holidaymakers coming "doon the watter" on paddle steamers from Glasgow. Today, its popularity has waned but its charm has not and it's still a great place for a day out. At first glance there isn't a lot to do but on closer inspection there are lots of things to make a visit memorable. One of the advantages of its location means there's been less pressure to change. What's there may be old-fashioned but it's the sort of holiday fun that has worked for generations.

To get there, take the ferry from Largs. The crossing only takes 10 minutes. Once you arrive, the traditional way to see Millport is by bike. It's only 11 miles round and the road is flat so it's a great place to cycle. The road from the slip to the harbour passes two of Millport's famous novelty rocks. The first, Lion Rock really does look like a crouching lion so it's pretty easy to spot. The Millport website explains:

Houllan Keipel Dyke or lion rock as it is now known was supposedly made by the bad elves. According to a traditional rhyme the good elves were making a bridge to the mainland at Deil’s dyke and so the bad elves decided to copy them. When they eventually realised that they couldn’t manage, in frustration they kicked the holes now seen in the bottom of the rock making the shape we now know as lion rock. The shape of the lion is apparently frightening to elves and this is why to this day you never see elves on the East of the island, only on the Fintry bay side.

Queen Victoria Rock further along on the same side is harder to spot the first time but once you catch it from the right angle you can't miss her.

With that excitement over it's time for some refreshment and the best place to go is The Ritz Cafe - a 1960s dayglo formica heaven, run by the Giorgetti family since 1908. Here you can enjoy toasties, burgers and hot peas with a Knickerbocker Glory chaser. The ice cream is home made and the specials come topped with a little Italian flag. At time of writing, it's for sale so who knows what's in store. Hopefully some new owners who will appreciate this little gem.

Crocodile Rock, Millport

Across the road you can enjoy a few holes of crazy golf on a fairly uncompromising course. Walking along the road (away from the harbour), look out for "The Wedge" signposted as Britain's narrowest house. In a nice touch, all these words can't fit onto one line and the 'E' of house has to be carried onto a second one. According to the Guinness Book of Records it's the house with the narrowest frontage in the world - only as wide as the door. The rest of the house doesn't get much bigger, at only 11 ft wide at its widest point.

Further along past the Garrison, a striking 18th Century building currently being restored there is another record-breaker, Europe's smallest cathedral, The Cathedral of the Isles which seats 100. Carry on walking and there are many shops to peer into. Some of the newsagents are so old-fashioned they look like they might have a stash of Spangles in the back. Finally as the shops start to peter out look on the shore for local landmark Crocodile Rock, a jagged rock formation painted like a crocodile - a treat for kids and Elton John fans. For more painted rocks check out Indian Rock round the other side of the island on the way to Fintry Bay.

In the west of Scotland Millport is the sort of place that has become a byword for dreariness. Travis reputedly wrote "Why does it always rain on me" during a stay there. But it's a lovely place for perfect seaside fun. Although on the surface here isn't much to see with nary a bouncy castle in sight, ambling around soaking up the atmophere can keep you going for hours. Make sure you get some fish and chips and a stick of Millport rock before the short trip back to the mainland.

How to get there

Car ferries run every half an hour (with breaks at lunch and teatime) from Largs. The crossing takes 10 mins.
Caledonian MacBrayne ferries: Cumbrae. On arrival at Millport if you're on foot, there's a bus from the slip to the town centre. There are plenty of bike hire shops if you fancy a cycle.

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Lovely little place, but a minor point .... it's only about a mile and a half off shore. If it were 10 miles the ferry would take longer than 10 minutes :-) Have enjoyed reading your articles, especially some of the ones closer to home.

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