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Cumbrae [1], also known as Great Cumbrae or the Isle of Cumbrae (Scottish Gaelic: Cumaradh Mòr) is situated in south-western Scotland, in the Firth of Clyde near Glasgow. Measuring approximately 4.5 square miles in area, it has a population of approximately 1,500. Cumbrae is the forty-fifth largest island in Scotland, but is not technically one of the Hebrides, being the one of the southernmost of the Scottish islands.


Legend has it that St Mirren, on his return to Scotland from Ireland around AD 710, arrived in Cumbrae and, following the example of St Patrick, rid the island of snakes. The Cathedral of the Isles is reputed to have been built on the site where St Mirren preached. Cumbrae to this day remains snake-free. St Mirren then went on to found a community in Paisley.

In 1263, Haakon IV, King of Norway may have used the eastern coast of the island as an anchorage for his fleet, before the inconclusive Battle of Largs.

Cumbrae has long been linked to Christianity in Scotland. At one time the island had many standing stones. The Aberdeen Breviary of 1509, printed in Edinburgh, tells of two of the island's early female missionaries, Saints Beya and Maura.

For many centuries the island was under shared ownership, with the Marquess of Bute in the west and the Earl of Glasgow in the east. In 1999 the final feudal landowner, Le Mans winner Johnny Dumfries, now Bute, of Mount Stuart House, put the island up for general sale, with first refusal given to his farmer tenants.

Tourism grew in the 20th century, and Millport became a popular stop for Clyde steamers and families going 'Doon the Watter for the Fair' (Glasgow Fair holidays). Today most visitors are daytrippers, mostly due to the growth of foreign package holidays in the 1960s. It is still possible to experience a traditional day out on the PS Waverley [2] which operates from both Glasgow and Ayr during the summer.

During the summer, the population grows by several thousand every weekend. Hiring a bike and cycling around the island's 11 miles (18 km) encircling coastal road is a popular activity for visitors, as the roads are quiet compared to the Scottish mainland.

Get in[edit]

By ferry[edit]

Unless you have your own boat, the only convenient way to get to Cumbrae is by the regular passenger and vehicle ferry service from Largs to the slipway at the north of the island, which is operated by Caledonian MacBrayne [3]. The ferry operates every 15 minutes during the summer season and every 30 minutes outwith the summer season, with the crossing taking approximately 10 minutes. The only fare available is a return, which costs £5.40 (or £4.75 if you intend to stay less than 5 days). Tickets must be bought before boarding the ferry.

Local buses to Millport connect with every ferry at the Cumbrae slipway.

By train[edit]

ScotRail [4] trains operate every hour from Glasgow Central station to Largs.

By bus[edit]

McGills [5] and Stagecoach Western [6] operate regular buses to Largs from Glasgow, Greenock and much of Ayrshire.

By road[edit]

Largs is located on the A78 road.

Get around[edit]

By bus[edit]

Cumbrae Coaches and Millport Motors operate a bus service from the slipway to Millport via the east side of the island. All buses connect with ferries to Largs.

By road[edit]

Cumbrae has one coastal road, with a length of 10.25 miles, plus various short cuts through the centre of the island.

By bike[edit]

Thanks to the lack of traffic and the size of the island, Cumbrae has an excellent reputation for family-friendly cycling. Bike hire is available in Millport [7].

See[edit][add listing]

  • The Cathedral of The Isles - the smallest cathedral in Europe [8].
  • The Marine Biology Station at Keppel Pier – has an aquarium of sea creatures from the Firth of Clyde, and a museum which tells the story of the sea and of the Clyde area.