Long long ago, before the age of budget airlines, internet search engines and all-inclusive beach resorts, Scottish city dwellers used to vacation by going ‘doon the watter’ (down the water, to you non-Scot speakers) to seaside resort towns. This 19th and 20th century means of vacation is still possible for those looking for a quaint getaway, and though the towns have lost their luster of yesteryear, you will be rewarded for your effort with fair prices and few crowds. During my time in Scotland I was mainly positioned in Irvine, a small town on the west coast from where I was able to take day trips to Oban, Dunoon, Largs, and most recently Millport.
I love the inherent nostalgia in this kind of travel. It reminds me of going to Coney Islands in New York City, or Lake George in Upstate New York. It feels fun to come and relive the holidays of generations past, but also makes you grateful for how accessible the whole big world is for us now!
To break up a drudgery of an otherwise business filled week, we planned a day tip to Millport. This was my best foray ‘doon the watter’ yet! Setting off on an affordable, ten minute ferry across the Clyde, we were soon on the teeny isle of Great Cumbrae, population 1,200.
Millport, the only settlement on the island, is made up of a long stretch of Victorian seaside houses, two penny candy stores, a three bike rental shops, and Britain’s smallest chapel.
Not looking so small here, eh?
As we walked through the town we found out that the chapel wasn’t the only “smallest …. in Britain” to be found in Millport!
Britain’s Narrowest House
Our first stop was to rent bikes and start the traditional 10 mile pilgrimage around the island. For each bike the shop took a £10 deposit and simply charged you when you got back for whatever amount of time you had the bike. I loved the small town feel already. As pictured in my Photo of the Week, we took a little off-road detour to begin.
For most, to circumnavigate the island takes about an hour and a half. That time, however, does not factor in speedo modeling detours.
Ever since Mark saw a pair of tartan speedos online, he became obsessed with owning them. Once he had them, he was itching to break them in. So no sooner did we stop for a drink of water did Mark rip off his clothes and go running into the Clyde wearing nothing but his patriotic swimwear. I wish I could say his brother and I didn’t encourage him, but in truth we went a little camera happy. Other bikers riding by were alternating between shocked and amused.
Not long after Mark got out of the water, we saw a seal swimming alongside us in the water! Perhaps he too was a fan of the speedos. Unfortunately he was a bit far out so I didn’t bother taking a photo but rather enjoyed watching his head bob along the sea.
The ride was flat, smooth, and heartachingly scenic. Other than our swim break we didn’t stop for the first 3/4ths of the way. The final quarter, there were a few roadside attractions that had us pulling over and thank goodness for that, as my bum was seriously starting to ache.
Cumbrae is famous for its many notable rocks. I am not kidding. In one shop I saw for sale a guide to Millport’s special odd shaped or painted rocks. Well, we skipped the guide but stayed on high alert and spotted a few along the way anyway, for free! You know us. Always fighting the man.
On the way back into Millport we stopped at the Robertson Museum and Aquarium, a teeny diversion that is a part of a larger research station on the island. Despite its small size, the museum was well worth a stopover. I was amazed to learn how many creatures were living in the cold waters of the Clyde! It made me second guess our decision not to dive in Scotland.
After our bike ride we were starving and felt we had earned a customary grease laden chippy. Fish and chips may be the usual go-to in Britain, but even forgoing seafood I was able to enjoy the tradition with a chicken substitute. Dessert was an indulgent trip to one of the local sweet shops.
What could make our day by the sea even better? Mini golf! (Did you know the Scots call it Crazy Golf? What is so crazy about it?) It was so nice to play right on the boardwalk overlooking the sea. Even better was beating the pants off my smug boyfriend by three glorious points. I think I may have found my new sport!
Largs is not just the site of ferry departures to Millport, it is a destination onto itself. I had been to Largs previously to attend a beautiful Scottish wedding, so this time we only stopped briefly on the way home to partake in two more Scottish seaside summer traditions: eating ice cream and losing money in an arcade.
Mark trying to smash ice cream in my face
Largs is beautiful and I’d love to spend more time here on a future visit. In addition to the beach and all it’s amusements, it has nice cafes and restaurants, a bowling alley, a fantastic modern hotel, and did I mention a Viking Museum? I was cruelly banned from attending this well priced (£4) attraction.
The best part of the whole day? The fact that the entire thing cost less than £23, which is the equivalent to $35USD. That might not seem like such a great deal to some, but compared to a day out in Edinburgh or other nearby isles it was a steal!
Total Cost for the Day
Bus from ferry £3.00
See my entire set of photos from this day out on Flickr here.