Fo­cus On: Firth of Clyde.............................................

This is­sue we fo­cus on the pop­u­lar hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion ‘doon the wat­ter’

No. 1 Magazine - - Scotland's No.1 -

Go­ing “doon the wat­ter” is no mod­ern phe­nom­e­non as the Clyde steamer pas­sen­ger ser­vice is over 200 years old. Henry Bell’s Comet be­gan a pas­sen­ger ser­vice be­tween Glas­gow and Greenock as far back as 1812, with its maiden voy­age tak­ing three-and-a-half hours. Mod­ern ves­sels such as the Waver­ley take far less time but the tim­ing is ir­rel­e­vant. The fact such an en­dur­ingly pop­u­lar ser­vice was up and run­ning is far more im­por­tant. Such was the suc­cess of this in­no­va­tion, other op­er­a­tors sprang up in com­pe­ti­tion and by 1900 there were more than 300 steam­ers go­ing “doon the wat­ter”. Up un­til the early 1960s, this was a boom busi­ness but the emer­gence of cheap flights abroad al­most killed the in­dus­try off. Early steamer ser­vices stretched their des­ti­na­tions as far as He­lens­burgh, Largs, Camp­bel­town and In­ver­aray and a five­pound fine was in­tro­duced for ser­vices run­ning late. Through these voy­ages, small vil­lages orig­i­nally with per­haps only a tiny jetty, be­came re­sorts with piers big enough to berth huge steam­ers. With­out this form of tourism, towns like Dunoon and Rothe­say might never have sprung into promi­nence los­ing what was to be­come a huge and lu­cra­tive in­jec­tion into the lo­cal econ­omy. The Waver­ley still flies the flag for these grand old days of steamship tourism on the Clyde, but the SS Sir Walter Scott still op­er­ates on Loch Katrine while the SS Maid of the Loch waits fi­nal restora­tion be­fore em­bark­ing on a reg­u­lar tourist trade on Loch Lomond.

COME AWA’TAE CUMBRAE! It’s an is­land of ad­ven­ture for all ages. Some might think a 10-mile, hour-and-a-half com­mute would be the ul­ti­mate tor­ture but Calum Mc­ni­col doesn’t mind. He does it by kayak from his home in West Kil­bride to his work as a water sports in­struc­tor at the Sportscot­land Na­tional Cen­tre on Cumbrae. Some call Cumbrae the “jewel in the Clyde” while oth­ers call it the “is­land of a thou­sand bi­cy­cles”. Cy­clists are a com­mon sight on the is­land’s roads but there’s just as much to do off-shore than there is on-shore. Calum is at the heart of Cumbrae’s water sports, and finds that there’s noth­ing quite like the wa­ters of the Firth of Clyde. “It’s as good as you can get, it’s as pic­turesque as any other place on the west coast. The Kin­tyre penin­sula means the wa­ters are rel­a­tively shel­tered, so there’s no rolling At­lantic swell to worry about. “I think just be­ing able to get on the water, fairly af­ford­ably, and get a unique view of the coast­line of Scot­land has to of­fer makes

the west coast of Scot­land a world class des­ti­na­tion. “The Clyde in gen­eral, not just around Cumbrae, is re­ally busy for water-based tourism. It’s a valu­able source of in­come for ho­tels, pubs, restau­rants and shops. There are ac­tu­ally two Cum­braes, Great and Lit­tle. The smaller one is pri­vately-owned but the larger is ex­tremely pop­u­lar with tourists. It’s only a 10-minute ferry cross­ing from Largs, with a bus ser­vice ready to whisk you to the main town of Mill­port for shops, fun on the beach, a visit to the Cathe­dral of the Isles or, if you can try out some of the many water sports the cen­tre can of­fer. Most im­por­tantly there’s some­thing for all ages, mak­ing it very fam­ily-ori­en­tated. Start­ing from the ferry ter­mi­nal, an anti-clock­wise hike takes you through Fin­ntray Bay, round Por­tachur Point and up to Mill­port. On a hot day, there are plenty places for re­fresh­ment be­fore you head for the ferry back to the main­land. SCOT­LAND’S FIRST CRAFT TOWN Scot­land’s first ac­cred­ited craft town, West Kil­bride, is perched on the North Ayr­shire coast­line with un­ri­valled views over Arran. Tak­ing it’s name from the Celtic saint, Bridge of Kil­daire, the pre­fix of ‘West’ was added to dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from the newer town of East Kil­bride. The small ru­ral town of­fers a wide range of in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers in­clud­ing a clock­maker, sil­ver­smiths, choco­latier and tex­tile artist to name but a few. The award win­ning Barony Cen­tre, a con­verted for­mer church, fea­tures craft-based ex­hi­bi­tions and plays host to work­shops and talks. The town also won the vil­lage cat­e­gory in the Great Bri­tish High Street Com­pe­ti­tion in 2016. Lo­cal ini­ti­aitive groups have in­tro­duced a num­ber of pop­u­lar events to en­cour­age com­mu­nity en­gage­ment in­clud­ing a Scare­crow fes­ti­val, where res­i­dents and busi­nesses dis­play com­i­cal scare­crow fig­ures, and the Christ­mas themed evening - Yule­tide, which takes place on the first Fri­day evening of De­cem­ber and sees a pro­ces­sion of res­i­dents fol­low Santa’s sleigh through the vil­lage with stalls and fair­ground rides prov­ing pop­u­lar at­trac­tions. Nearby is Por­ten­cross Cas­tle which fea­tured on the tele­vi­sion pro­gramme, Restora­tion. In re­cent years lo­cal res­i­dents formed a char­ity called Friends of Por­ten­cross and the ti­tle for the cas­tle was passed to them. Af­ter the pe­riod of restora­tion, the cas­tle is now open to visi­tors. Other sites of his­toric in­ter­est in­clude Cros­bie Cas­tle, home to Wil­liam Wal­lace’s un­cle, Ranald Cra­u­fard which was partly de­stroyed by fire a num­ber of years ago, and Law Cas­tle which was built as a wed­ding present for King James III’S sis­ter, Mary. In re­cent years it has been fully re­fur­bished and is now let for func­tions.

Por­ten­cross Cas­tle

Law Cas­tle

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