Tips on Cycling Cumbrae with Kids

When you visit Paris you've got to see the Eiffel Tower. When you visit Cumbrae you have to cycle!

Stanley Baxter spent his childhood peddling round Cumbrae so we thought we'd follow in his footsteps.

When we visited Largs and the tiny island of Cumbrae (I do mean tiny, it’s only 2 miles long), we returned with a top ten list of things to do with kids. That’s about eight more things than I expected! It’s such an easy island to reach, and when you arrive the biggest challenge is cycling the perimeter of the island, a distance of roughly ten miles. We actually did it. I’m still shocked, as we’re not exactly fitness fanatics, so here’s how…

Trying out a tagalong for size

Get Your Gear. There are several reputable bike hire companies on Cumbrae. We went with On Your Bike!, which served us well. I’d emailed in advance to say what kit I thought our family needed, to ensure it would be waiting for us on arrival. When we arrived it was bucketing down so we postponed till the following day. We found the owner, Sean, really accommodating, informal and flexible.

The following morning we picked up two adult bikes, a tagalong for Mr Child (aged 3) and a trailer for Junior (aged 2). On Your Bike! also has tandems, trikes, electric bikes, conference bikes (perhaps too much family interaction on this one), child seats and helmets. Sean made sure we were comfortable with the kit before we headed off. Mr Child had never tried a tagalong before, he’s just newly on his bike with stabilisers, but he took to it like he had a wee yellow jersey on.

Hire bikes from On Your Bike, Cumbrae

Route Planner. Now here’s a tough one, the choice between clockwise and anti-clockwise. We were a bit unsure how Mr Child would get on so we opted for anti-clockwise because this route takes you from the main town, past the tourist attractions, up to the ferry terminal before you head to the quiet west coast of the island. Therefore this route gets the most traffic (and by that I mean hardly any) so if we got into difficulty we felt we could get help. It also meant that if we cycled a wee bit, then turned back, we’d still feel like we’d achieved something and seen a bit of the island.

The Sights – Once peddling furiously you can drop by Garrison House, the Aquarium, the Cathedral of the Isles (Britain’s smallest cathedral) and Crocodile Rock – click here to find out more. And the scenery, it’s lovely – you can find isolated beaches, watch birdlife, hear the waves crash against the shore. Gorgeous.

The quiet main road circling the Isle of Cumbrae, with the Calmac ferry docking in the background

What Are the Roads Like? Cumbrae is a tiny, quiet island. There’s hardly any traffic. Whilst the road runs the full ten miles (no dirt track or paths) it feels like you’re experiencing a coastal wilderness. There isn’t a cycle track as it really isn’t required. Locals are used to cyclists on the roads, and most tourists are taking a quiet Sunday drive. Of course, you have to be careful whenever you’re sharing a road with vehicles, and accidents can happen, but I had no qualms about cycling this quiet route.

Mr Toddler being towed around Cumbrae in his trailer

The Weather. You’re in Scotland, as Billy Connolly says, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little.” So that’s what we did. The eldest kept warm peddling furiously, but needed gloves to grip the handlebars. The youngest sat like a pudding in the back, but needed wrapped up as he was doing nada to assist. Chances are at some point the wind will hit you: at the top of the island we cycled into a headwind, it wasn’t pleasant. Mr Child whinged, but we told him the only way to escape was to pedal. I wouldn’t venture out in heavy rain or a howling gale, but on a bright, crisp day it worked out grand.

Duration. It took us 1.5 hrs. We would have been faster if our kids could cycle for themselves. We’re not particularly fit or unfit so after about 8.5 miles I’d kinda had enough, but I managed it.

What to Bring. Waterproof clothing (the weather can change swiftly), water, snacks (cereal bars etc. something to give you a sugar boost), mobile phones and of course your cameras.

Results. I feel that we have now experienced Cumbrae. We gave it 100%. We were windswept, exhausted, but so proud. We’d done it as a team, and our little family had achieved something. I suspect you’ll feel the same way.

SHOP THE TRIP

If you like what you read then don’t miss a post, enter your email address in the follow box and You’re In, or join the conversation on Facebook. For any queries or opportunities please email scots2travel@hotmail.com. We received complimentary bike hire from On Your Bike for review purposes. 

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20 Comments

  1. Reply

    katykicker

    November 19, 2017

    Sounds like something you definitely should be proud of! We cycled a lot on our holiday and really enjoyed it. Wish we had space for bikes!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      November 20, 2017

      We hired ours, definitely no room to be dragging four bikes around! 🙂

      • Reply

        katykicker

        November 20, 2017

        Yeah we always hire them on holiday – just meant when we are home we would LOVE some bikes! x

        • Reply

          scots2travel

          November 20, 2017

          Got you! I see what you mean. 🙂

  2. Reply

    dearbearandbeany

    November 19, 2017

    I can’t wait for both my girls to be able to ride their bikes and we can do more family cycles!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      November 20, 2017

      Yes, cycling the trailer around isn’t the most aerodynamic addition. The tagalong wasn’t too bad, but it will be great when they can cycle under their own steam.

  3. Reply

    LovelyLu

    November 19, 2017

    Sounds like a beautiful place to explore on bicycle. My daughter and I used to use one of those tagalongs. They’re great!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      November 20, 2017

      I hadn’t appreciated how well they’d work. My boy could never ride a bike on his own yet, but the tagalongs are so well designed he peddled for 1.5 hours. Incredible.

  4. Reply

    Cathy Glynn

    November 20, 2017

    It certainly looks a great way of seeing the sights of the island x

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      November 20, 2017

      A great pace. You can also stop and start relatively easily to explore.

  5. Reply

    Claire justine

    November 20, 2017

    I always wanted to cycle more when my children were small. This looks like a great way of getting out and aboutand seeing so much more.

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      November 23, 2017

      I was really nervous at first but my husband got the kit for our first baby and off he went. He made it look easy so I’ve kind of followed suit!

  6. Reply

    Kira

    November 21, 2017

    We are teaching Alessia to ride a bike . We love cycling and hopefully can all go out by next summer – fingers crossed! 🙂

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      November 22, 2017

      My son can’t ride a bike yet, he’s ok with stabilisers but amazingly he could peddle on the tagalong. It was a huge help.

  7. Reply

    Little Pickle's Mom

    November 21, 2017

    Ah wow, what a little adventure! I love going on cycling trips as a family – and I need to get more in the habit of seeking local cycle hire places when we go travelling. We don’t have a bike rack, you see. This looks like a fantastic, if blustery, day out!

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      November 23, 2017

      We don’t have a rack either. It was so much easier hiring than carting all the kit around for one morning of cycling. We did bring our own helmets as they all fit the kits well so we avoided a fair amount of faff with that one!

  8. Reply

    Wayne

    November 23, 2017

    I really dont do enough cycling. We used to have a tagalong, made everything far less stressfull

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      November 26, 2017

      If seemed far easier than the cajoling I imagine will be necessary when he can finally peddle under his own steam!

  9. Reply

    Kara

    November 23, 2017

    Looks like a fabulous adventure. We are looking forward to adventures like this now the kids are a bit bigger

    • Reply

      scots2travel

      November 26, 2017

      The places you will go ! 🙂

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