Millport (Scottish Gaelic: Port a' Mhuilinn) is the only town on the island of Great Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde off the coast of North Ayrshire. The town is 4 miles (6 kilometres) south from the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry slipway.
Tourism is an important aspect of the economy. Due to its small size, the island and its town are often linked in the minds of visitors and residents and Great Cumbrae is often referred to as Millport. The island offers views across to the Isle of Arran as well as of its smaller neighbour which lies barely a kilometre away, called Little Cumbrae. The Cumbraes are referred to as the Kumreyiar in the Norse Saga of Haakon Haakonarson.
The Gaelic name Cumaradh means "place of the Cymric people", referring to the Brittonic-speaking inhabitants of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. Alternatively, the name Cumbrae may derive from Kil Maura meaning "cell or church of a female saint".
The Garrison House in the centre of town, constructed in 1745, was formerly the barracks/Captain's mansion, then the home of the Earl of Glasgow, and is now in community ownership (see "Current Developments" below).
During the development of the River Clyde as a main thoroughfare for goods, shipbuilding and smuggling, Millport was a strategic base for Customs and Excise. Several of the streets in Millport are named after crew members of the Revenue cutter Royal George.
The Victorian era was a period of rapid growth, both in terms of population, governance, amenities and property. To the west and east of the old harbour, many fine Victorian and Edwardian villas were built, along with new tenements. Many of these used rock mined from The Eileans. These large houses still form the backbone of the housing stock.
The Cathedral of the Isles of the Scottish Episcopal Church, completed in 1851, seats only 100 people. It is the smallest cathedral in Great Britain and is variously described as "the smallest cathedral in Europe", "the second smallest in Europe", or "probably the smallest in Europe". Various other churches such as the cathedrals in Nin and Zadar in Croatia lay claim to this title.
The local Lady Margaret Hospital was founded in 1900 and bears the name of Lady Margaret Crichton-Stuart, daughter of John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute as a tribute and mark of respect to the eldest daughter of Lord Bute.
The Garrison House was badly damaged after an arson attack in 2001. Cumbrae Community Development Company, the local development trust, made a successful bid to the National Lottery and other funders to enable the building to be re-constructed for community benefit. After several years of work renovation of the property was completed in 2008 at a total cost of £5 million. It now houses the Museum of the Cumbraes, a library, council offices, a GP surgery and the Garrison Cafe. The Garrison Model Rail Club, located in cabins on the grounds at Garrison House, welcomes visits to its model railway layouts each week.
Currently a large development of around 40 family sized homes is underway between Millport Bowling Club and Penmachrie Farm. It is notable that the houses are being built primarily by private individuals - with the land having been sold off in the form of single plots.
Millport has numerous independently-owned shops including newsagents, butchers, grocers, craft and gift shops, clothes shops, toy shop, fishing tackle shop, outdoor clothing shop, electrical and hardware stores. There are three cycle hire shops, with several hundred bicycles between them. Quadricycles can be hired from one of them, opposite the crazy golf.
As well as numerous tea rooms and cafes, the island has a Chinese restaurant, two chip shops, and several other restaurants, making eating out easy.
Millport, along with Rothesay on the Isle of Bute and the town of Dunoon on the Cowal peninsula, is famous with generations of daytrippers from Glasgow as one of the resorts visited going "doon the watter" (down the water), meaning taking a trip aboard a River Clyde paddle steamer. At one time it was common for visitors to stay for several weeks over the summer, but presently the primary tourist trade comes in the form of daytrippers. This is mostly due to the growth of package holidays to Spain and the Balearics in the 1960s. It is still possible to experience a traditional day out courtesy of PS Waverley which calls at Millport twice a week during the summer, once originating at Ayr and once at Glasgow.
Millport has a hotel and guest house, as well as many holiday lets with details on its dedicated website.
There are wide sandy beaches close to the centre of town, popular for paddling and swimming. A live webcam of Newton Bay shows visitors live weather on the island.
One of the best known landmarks in Millport is the Crocodile Rock on the foreshore. It has been a feature since at least 1913, as it was that year that Robert Brown was acknowledged by the council for the work.
Millport has the world's narrowest house, The Wedge, which at its front, measures just 47 inches or 1.19 metres. The house is 22 feet long by 11 feet wide at its widest point.
Millport Bay contains a number of donation based visitor moorings, and is a popular destination for sailors in the summer. There is a small boat yard at the western end of the town.
As well as its numerous beaches, Millport has an 18-hole golf course with views over the Arran hills and the Firth of Clyde. Other recreational facilities include a crazy golf course, Millport Bowling Club with a putting green, and two football pitches, one at either end of the town. For children, there is a children's play area near the boat yard. For fishing, there are two fresh water reservoirs beside the golf course where fly fishing is available and sea fishing, primarily for mackerel, is available, including from the rocks at Farland Point, just inside the town limits.
Many visitors and locals take advantage of the level perimeter road around the island to walk and cycle the circuit of just over 10 miles, enjoying the many beaches on the way.
Located on the eastern shore of the Isle of Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde, FSC Millport is ideally situated for marine biological teaching and research, sheltered and within easy reach of a range of marine habitats, such as rocky, sandy and muddy shores, salt marshes, a large estuary, and deep water with soft mud, gravel and rocky bottoms.
The Field Studies Council (FSC) began operation of FSC Millport field centre in 2014 following closure of the University Marine Biological Station Millport run by the University of London (UoL) in 2013. The FSC built new classrooms and accommodation to cater for school and university visitors undertaking field studies as well as offering holiday accommodation.
The centre has a heritage which began in 1885 when Sir John Murray, a pioneering Scottish oceanographer, marine biologist and limnologist set up an 84 ft lighter as a floating laboratory which he called 'The Ark'. Murray had previously been naturalist on The Challenger and he selected Cumbrae as the best place to pursue his interest in marine biology. A committee was formed in 1894 to build the Marine Station and although Murray died before it was completed, the scientists he brought to the island helped define early studies in Marine Biology.
David Robertson was a Scottish naturalist, also known as the ‘Cumbrae Naturalist’. He established Millport as an important area for biological research, and at his suggestion more scientists came to study there.
National Watersports Training Centre Cumbrae
Great Cumbrae hosts a Sports Scotland watersports centre which teaches a wide range of courses including sailing, windsurfing, paddlesports, cruising and yachtmasters. The centre has chalet-style buildings offering accommodation as well as teaching spaces and a gym. The centre also accommodates dive groups.
In spite of its relatively remote feel,[tone] Millport is only one hour's travel from major transport hubs. Millport is accessible by public transport via the train at Largs, with a ferry journey of only seven minutes. A bus meets each ferry.
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- "Weather Webcam". Mapes of Millport. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
- Leadbetter, Russell (19 June 2013). "Millport's Crocodile Rock celebrates its centenary". Evening Times. Herald & Times Group. Retrieved 26 May 2016.
- "World's narrowest house sold". BBC News. 2 November 2001. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- "Millport Country Music Festival". Retrieved 23 September 2019.
- Council, Field Studies. "History - FSC Millport". www.field-studies-council.org. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
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