Isle of Cumbrae


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Additional Information

Find more Isle of Cumbrae information on the sites listed below.

Great Cumbrae (Scottish Gaelic, Cumaradh Mòr; also known as Cumbrae or the Isle of Cumbrae) is the larger of the two islands known as The Cumbraes in the lower Firth of Clyde in western Scotland. Home to the National Watersports Centre, the Cathedral of the Isles and the University Marine Biological Station, Millport, the holiday island has an 18-hole golf course which sweeps almost to the summit, and a round-island road much favoured for family cycle runs.

The island is 3.9 km long by 2 km wide, rising to a height of 127 metres above sea level at "The Glaidstane" - a large, naturally occurring rock perched on the highest summit on the Island. There is a triangulation pillar nearby, as well as a geographical indicator which annotates the breathtaking panoramic views. Sightlines pass over the upper Clyde estuary and onwards to Ben Lomond in the north, and over the larger islands of Bute and Arran then the Kintyre peninsular to the distant Paps of Jura to the west. Looking south, Ailsa Craig (commonly referred to as Paddy’s Milestone) is visible, around 40 miles distant beyond Little Cumbrae. Ailsa Craig roughly marks the halfway point to Northern Ireland, which itself may be glimpsed in extremely clear conditions.

Millport, the island's only town, is spread around a large bay which constitutes the entire south coast of the island. The usual island population of 1,434 (2001 census) increases substantially during the summer tourist season due to the high proportion of second homes.

The land on the island is primarily owned by the farmers, with the other major land owner being the Millport Golf Club.

Flights across the Atlantic from Glasgow International Airport can provide a good view of the island.

During the summer, the population grows by several thousand every weekend. Hiring a bike and cycling around the island's 11-mile encircling coastal road is a popular activity for visitors, as the roads are quiet compared to the mainland. There are informal walks all over the island. Fintry Bay, around 3 miles from Millport on the west coast, has a small cafe.

Millport Bay, with visitor moorings, is a popular destination for sailors in the summer. The National Watersports Centre at the ferry slip provides tuition in most boating disciplines, such as powerboating and kayaking, all year round. The most dived site on the Clyde is just south of the ferry slip – a Second World War Catalina flying boat.

A curling pond near the top of the island has not been playable for several years.

Other attractions include:

- Cathedral of the Isles – William Butterfield, one of the great architects of the Gothic revival designed the cathedral church of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, within the Episcopal Church of Scotland (Anglican Communion). George Frederick Boyle, 6th Earl of Glasgow acted as the founder and benefactor. Construction finished in 1849 and the cathedral opened in 1851. Formal gardens and woodland surround the cathedral, the highest building on Great Cumbrae and one of the smallest cathedrals in Europe.

- College of the Holy Spirit – attached to the Cathedral, this former seminary for ordination training is now a Retreat House and the Argyll Diocesan Conference Centre. It was the base for The Community of Celebration, or Fisherfolk, an international group of artists and musicians sharing a Benedictine lifestyle during the 1970s and 80s.

- The Wedge – a private residence which has the smallest frontage in the UK – the width of a front door.

- Museum of the Cumbraes occupies part of the Garrison, built originally for the captain of an anti-smuggling revenue cutter.

- Marine Biology Station, Keppel Pier – has an aquarium of sea creatures from the Firth of Clyde, and a museum which tells the story of the sea and of the Clyde area. It has a hostel which provides accommodation for visiting parties of marine biology students from around the UK - primarily over the summer months.

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