I love island hopping in Scotland, it’s part of living and visiting this wonderful wee country. Keen to experience another island, and tick it off the list, over the October break we sailed to the island of Cumbrae on the West Coast of Scotland.
It sounds far flung and remote, but it’s only an eight minute sailing from Largs, so the easiest and quickest ferry crossing we’ve ever done with the tots. Easy peasy!
The island is small, only 2.5 miles in length, with a ten mile road around its circumference, and one town, Millport. So what is there to do with the kids on this tiny piece of Scotland?
1 Catch the Ferry – Getting there is part of the fun, even if it only takes around ten minutes. The ferries run really frequently – every half hour when we were visiting, so it was exceptionally easy to come and go. Sail with Caledonian MacBrayne, kids under 5 go free! We brought our car, but foot passengers are taken by bus directly to Millport (about five miles away from the ferry terminal.
2 Cycling – Whilst in Paris you have to see the Eiffel Tower, whilst in Cumbrae you have to cycle. It’s the island’s signature activity, and a bit of a medal of honour to say you’ve cycled the quiet 10 mile road around the island. Even with a 3 year old and a 2 year old it’s certainly possible. We actually did it! There are a few cycle hire shops in Millport but we dipped into On Your Bike. There are various types of bikes and trikes to hire, but we opted for an adult with a tagalong (for 3 year old Mr Child), and an adult bike with a trailer (for 2 year old Mr Toddler). Despite the occasional grouch, when it got a bit two windy for sensitive Mr Child, we had an absolute ball. Further details to follow on a dedicated blog but I’d thoroughly recommend it.
3 Visit the Aquarium at the Robertson Museum – Obviously don’t turn up expecting SeaLife London as the Cumbrae aquarium comprises of a handful of tanks. I thought we’d be done in minutes but the kids were transfixed by the urchins, prawns, starfish, crabs and plaice. They also enjoyed a wooden toy fishing game that kept them occupied for about twenty minutes. Result.
4 Visit Crocodile Rock – Around the island are randomly decorated rocks, handprinted to depict faces and creatures. The most famous is the crocodile creation that sits at the beach in Millport. In summer kids clamber all over it whilst paddling, in winter its still a curious sight to behold.
5 Eat and Learn – A cafe I’d recommend is situated within Garrison House. This gothic style building once housed naval officers who pursed smugglers in the Clyde. Its modern cafe has a good kids menu, freshly made smoothies, and healthy power fruit juices, as well as treats like coffee and cake. Garrison House is also home to the free Museum of the Cumbraes, and tells the story of (Greater) Cumbrae and its sister island Little Cumbrae. It’s a series of artefacts, information boards and images, so not overly engaging for little ones, but as our tots dashed around we were able to digest the basic history of this gem of an island.
6 – Visit the UK’s Smallest Cathedral – The Cathedral of the Isles is apparently tiny, in Cathedral terms, but it seems huge, impressive and extremely grand on an island the size of Cumbrae. This elegant building worked far better for kids than I could have expected. They really enjoyed running up the tree-lined avenue, kicking leaves as they went, and climbing the stairs to the big, old cathedral.
Once inside my tots are always a bit dumbstruck by churches, the silence, the echoes, the decor, the scale. Inside we found a leaflet highlighting several trails around the grounds. We opted to take the longest one around the forest. This led to lots of splashing in muddy puddles, lots of leaf action and general welly-tastic exploration. A really lovely spot.
7 Discover Your Own Beach – Play on Millport’s white sands, or nip in the car, or on your bike, to find your own isolated beach with nobody else to disturb you.
8 Get Retro at Ritz Cafe – Have a cake and a coffee or an ice-cream at the old-school Ritz Cafe, and be sure to blast out mum and dad hits from the Jukebox. We subjected our kids to Rihanna, Madonna, Whitney Houston (who doesn’t want to Dance with Somebody?), and Mr Husband put on some morose King of the Road style tracks that made me feel I should be crying into a whisky. Right next door to On Your Bike, it was easy to justify a cake after cycling for 1.5 hours. (Just a wee note to say there are no toilets here which is very odd, and you can’t take buggies/prams in so not great for tiny tots.)
9 Eat Ice-Cream at Nardini’s, Largs – I’m including Largs as you can’t get to Cumbrae without passing through Largs so it’s part and parcel of the same trip. Continuing on an ice-cream theme, Nardini’s is one of the most iconic ice-cream emporiums and cafes in Scotland. Really child friendly, yet with its own glamorous art deco style, it’s an absolute delight to indulge yourself at this Italian institution.
10 Meet the Vikings at Vikingar!, Largs – I’ll do a more detailed post on this attraction, but it involves a really interactive tour around a Viking home, meeting a ‘real life’ Viking, watching a scary film of Thor, and discovering how the downfall of the Viking empire on the West Coast of Scotland culminated in a battle in Largs. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. Every day’s a school day.
I had no idea what to expect of this tiny island, but it worked really well for a day trip or an overnight (on the island or in Largs). And with a mix of indoor and outdoor activities it suits the unpredictable Scottish weather. There’s also a wee playpark on the outskirts of Millport, with excellent sea views as you’d expect. After
OUR STORY – On a Friday we drove from Aberdeen directly to the luxurious Gleddoch Hotel and Spa in Renfrewshire, which took 3.5 hours. After spending one night at Gleddoch, we headed south to Largs on Saturday, sailed to Cumbrae and spent one night at the Royal George Hotel, before returning to Largs and visiting Vikingar! on Sunday. Then we headed over to the Falkirk Wheel and overnighted with a good friend in Stirling before returning to Aberdeen on Monday. More info coming soon.
SHOP THE TRIP
If you like what you read then don’t miss a post, enter your email address in the ‘Follow’ box then click ‘Follow’ or join the conversation on Facebook. For any queries or opportunities please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We experienced a complimentary overnight at the Royal George Hotel courtesy of VisitScotland. We received complimentary bikes from On Your Bike and access to Vikingar! for review purposes. All images copyright of Tots2Travel. #scotspirit #HHA2017 #ASVA