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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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