Old-fash­ioned fun

GREAT CUM­BRAE: Paul Kirk­wood and his son get on their bikes to ex­plore the North Ayr­shire is­land on two wheels.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Travel -

AVING in the past cy­cled around the Outer He­brides, Orkney and Shet­land, rid­ing Great Cum­brae was al­ways go­ing to be a breeze. “Scot­land’s most ac­ces­si­ble is­land,” pro­claimed the leaflet I picked up be­fore board­ing the ferry from Largs. In­deed. Af­ter just four hour’s drive from York­shire and the 10-minute cross­ing we were on the is­land. For me Great Cum­brae was al­most not re­mote enough – although it was per­fect for my nine-year-old son, Ber­tie, with whom I hoped this was the first Scot­tish is­land ad­ven­ture of many. No point in hit­ting him with the hard stuff quite yet …

We be­gan our 10-mile cir­cuit in the merry, lit­tle Vic­to­rian town of Mill­port, the only set­tle­ment on the is­land, strung out around a large bay in the south. In keep­ing with the pint-size of Cum­brae the town con­tains the Cathe­dral of the Isles, the small­est in Europe, and what is “recorded as” the nar­row­est house in Bri­tain called The Wedge, which squeezes into a two-yard gap next to a bistro on the seafront.

You can’t go wrong with the route as it fol­lows the B-road that tightly hugs the coast. We set off by cy­cling around the back of the is­land’s best and big­gest beach, Kames Bay. We rounded the bulky south-east­ern head­land and past Lion Rock. Just across the sea to the south we could see Por­ten­cross Cas­tle and Gold­en­berry Hill and, next to them, Cly­de­port freight ter­mi­nal and the Hun­ter­ston marine con­struc­tion yard and power sta­tion, fur­ther re­minders that Cum­brae is any­thing but a far-flung Scot­tish is­land.

There are lots of nat­u­ral things here­abouts too – in­clud­ing shag, cor­morant, ei­der duck and grey seals. The Clyde sea area, swill­ing around on a shal­low plateau of glacial de­bris, is one of Bri­tain’s clas­sic marine her­itage re­gions as we found out at a small mu­seum and aquar­ium at the Univer­sity Marine Bi­o­log­i­cal Sta­tion. Its ori­gins date back to 1884 when the sta­tion was a float­ing lab­o­ra­tory on a boat called The Ark.

To all in­tents and pur­poses the coast road is a cy­cle track. We en­coun­tered a large group of roller skaters, a four-some on a cov­ered quadri­cy­cle and, most ex­traor­di­nar­ily, a team of seven on what’s called a con­fer­ence bike. You can also hire a Raleigh Chop­per to really cut a

BEASTIE BOY: Ber­tie makes a new friend on his ride around Great Cum­brae.

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