Great Cumbrae: cycling round the island
Known as the 'island of 1000 bicycles', Great Cumbrae off the West Coast of Scotland is an excellent place to visit for a day trip and relaxed cycle ride.
How to get to Great Cumbrae
Cumbrae is only a short ferry ride from the town of Largs on the west coast of Scotland. Ferries are run by the operator Caledonian Macbrayne. The journey lasts 10 minutes, and ferries leave every 15 minutes in summer.
Largs is a small town with a population of just over 10,000. It is easily accessible by public transport with regular trains running from Glasgow Central station along the Ayrshire Coast line. Buses also run to Largs from Buchanan Bus station.
You can bring a bicycle with you on both the ferry, and on National Rail services. It may be sensible to reserve a space for your bicycle on the train, especially during the summer as services may be busy and space for bikes are limited.
Cycling on Cumbrae
When you arrive at the ferry you can catch a bus to Millport, a town where you can hire a bike. The route around the island is a distance of around 18 kilometres (10.25 miles). The cycle ride offers stunning views across the Firth of Clyde, to Little Cumbrae, to Arran and Bute and to the hills on the mainland.
The bicycle hire companies on Cumbrae cater to ages, and bikes for kids, to bicycles to carry kids, tandems, and even fancier bicycles are available.
The route around Cumbrae is flat, meaning it is easy for beginners and not strenuous. There are also two cafes on route meaning you can stop for a break and a nice cup of tea.
Bicycle for eight people
The more strenuous cycle
If you fancy a bit more of a challenge there is a further cycle route which will take you to the highest point on the island. This has a steep incline, so it not so easy for unfit people.
Other activities on Cumbrae
Other activities you can partake in in Cumbrae include:
- Diving & sea angling
- Playing golf
- Playing bowls
For more information on these activities see the Isle of Cumbrae Tourism Association's website at
What you can see on Great Cumbrae
The Cathedral of the Isles on Great Cumbrae was designed in the gothic revival style by William Butterfield in 1851. It only has space for 100 people and is the smallest cathedral in Great Britain.
University Marine Biological Station, Millport - museum and aquarium
Garrison House is an important building in the history on Cumbrae. First built in 1745 for tax inspectors attempting to stop smuggling, it has recently been restored and includes the Museum of the Cumbraes as well as a cafe.
Eating at Cumbrae
There are restaurants and cafes where you can eat in the town of Millport.
About the Cumbraes
Great Cumbrae is the bigger of two islands about a kilometre apart, the smaller of which is known as Little Cumbrae, or Wee Cumbrae. The islands lie in the Firth of Clyde in Ayrshire. Great Cumbrae is 3.9 kilometres by 2 kilometres in size with a total area of 1168 hectares. Little Cumbrae is only 313 hectares.
Only about 1500 people live on Great Cumbrae, although the population increases during the summer due to holiday homes. Little Cumbrae is uninhabited.
Lttle Cumbrae is privately owned. It was purchased for £2 million in 2009 by Sarwan and Sunita Poddar, Scottish millionaires with Indian heritage who planned to turn it into a yoga retreat.
The name Cumbrae is said to come from a name used for the Britons who inhabited Scotland and other parts of the British isles for thousands of years. Great Cumbrae also has links with the vikings. More recently it was owned by the Marquess of Bute and the Earl of Glasgow. However it was put up for sale in 1999. It became popular with tourists in the Victorian era, and is a very popular place to visit to this day.