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Scotland Isle of Cumbrae and Millport, Ayrshire


In the Firth of Clyde, just off the Ayrshire coast, the small island of Cumbrae is a popular day trip. There is a regular ten minute sailing to the island from Largs. It has a lovely old fashioned relaxed atmosphere.



The island is fairly flat - the highest point, the Glaid Stone, is only 127m above sea level. The main settlement is Millport at the opposite end of the island to the ferry slipway.


There are few roads and little other settlement. Cycling is very popular and the quadricycle is a popular way to explore the island.

The road from the ferry terminal runs above the shore to Millport past the rocky outcrop aptly named Lion Rock.

Millport grew as a town around the bay in the 1700s, linking the two older settlements of Kames and Kirkton. It was an important customs base and used to monitor shipments and smugglers. Garrison house constructed in 1745 held the soldier’s barracks and the Captain’s mansion,

In 1833 Lord Glasgow built a pier at Millport and the town rapidly became a regular port of call for Clyde Steamers until the 1960s. It became an important holiday destination with a wide Victorian promenade around the bay.


In 1849 the 6th Lord Glasgow funded the building of a theological college in Millport. The building was completed in 1851, and in 1876 it was consecrated as the Cathedral of the Isles.


Lord Glasgow lost most of his fortune in a banking scandal in 1886 and Great Cumbrae was sold to the then Marquess of Bute. The golf club at the top of the island was formed in 1888, and is one of the oldest on the Firth of Clyde.

In 1897, the Millport Marine Station opened. Funding ceased in 2013 and the centre was forced to shut. It now belongs to the Field Studies Centre and runs courses.

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The road sweeps round Millport Bay with the small sandy Kames Bay to the east, lined with detached Victorian houses.

There are views across to Little Cumbrae and the hills of the Isle of Bute.


On the shore is Crocodile Rock, the inspiration of Robert Brown who, when returning from the pub, noticed a group of rocks along the shore resembled a crocodile and promptly painted on eyes and teeth. One hundred years later, it is still a popular landmark.


Near it is the more recent community caterpillar made up of painted stones.


The War memorial overlooks the Bay.


Glasgow Street and Stuart Street overlook Millport Bay and are lined on one side by houses and shops. The Isle of Cumbrae Gin Distillery Shop is along here.


The Wedge on Stuart Street, has the smallest frontage of any house in the UK, just the width of front door, but it does widens out behind.


At the far end of the bay is the tiny harbour, now mainly used by small pleasure craft.



Quayhead is the large square by it and is the bus stop


Garrison House on the sea front was built 1745 as a station for Revenue and Customs officers, in an attempt to stop smuggling on the Clyde.


It became the home of the 4th Earl of Glasgow in 1819. It was bought by the Marquis of Bute in 1887 who remodelled the house in 1908 and added the sunken garden in front.

It was briefly used as a hydropathic hotel before World War 2 and during the war it became a hospital with staff and patients evacuated from Glasgow.

It was used as the council offices until 1997 and was gutted by a major fire in 2001. Since then it has been completely restored as a community focal point with library, doctor’s surgery, museum, cafe and craft shop.


The tall square church tower that can be seen above Stuart Street is the old parish church which was built in the C19th.


By 2006, there were concerns about the condition of the roof. Along with the cost of maintenance and inadequate accommodation, the church was closed and a new parish church was built just down the road.


The Catholic Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour is on College Street opposite Garrison House.



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Cathedral of the Isles, Millport

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. It was originally consecrated as a collegiate church and became a cathedral a few years later. The surrounding buildings are now used as a retreat and study centre.


The cathedral is completely hidden by trees and reached through a stone archway off College Street.


The two sides of the cathedral look completely different. The north wall is windowless with the lady chapel attached to the side of the chancel.


The south side has the offset tower with steps up to the entrance and there are window high on the nave walls.


To the east is the side of the cloister building.


A collection of Celtic crosses found around the island are displayed in the porch.



The nave is relatively plain, with simple white washed walls, and a few paintings, including a triptych.



At the back is the stone font.


The chancel is reached up a short flight of stone steps beneath an elegant stone arch.



There are small icons displayed on either side of the arch.


Compared to the nave, the chancel is much more elaborate with multi-coloured tiles covering the walls.


The east window depicts the crucifixion with Mary and John on either side.

There is a small cupboard on the north wall containing the blessed sacrament.


Also on the wall is a memorial to a former Bishop of the Isles.


The Lady Chapel is to the left of the chancel and is simply furnished with a small triptych above the altar.


There are daily services and the cathedral is open from 10-5 every day.


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