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Great Cumbrae: cycling round the island

Hired bicycles on Cumbrae

Hired bicycles on Cumbrae

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.

View from ferry

View from ferry

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

This bicycle spotted on Cumbrae can be rode by eight people

This bicycle spotted on Cumbrae can be rode by 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
  • Watersports
  • Playing golf
  • Playing bowls
  • Sailing

For more information on these activities see the Isle of Cumbrae Tourism Association's website at

The highest point on the island. This stone is known as the 'Glaid Stone'.

The highest point on the island. This stone is known as the 'Glaid Stone'.

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

Model railway

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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.

Cathedral of the Isles

Cathedral of the Isles

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.

Map of Great Cumbrae


More information

A video of Cumbrae from youtube


Anna Sherret (author) from Scotland, UK on February 11, 2013:

Thank you for the comment - it is a really lovely part of Scotland on a sunny day. I will try to write about more islands and daytrips in Scotland (and go on more this summer too, because there are loads of places I haven't explored).

The cycle ride really isn't that bad even if you are unfit, because it is so flat (and you can even rent an electric bike there).

Catherine Taylor from Canada on February 11, 2013:

I enjoyed this hub, it was well written and the pictures were great. Not sure I'd be up to the cycling, but the area sounds lovely. Full of great information, Up and useful and interesting.

Anna Sherret (author) from Scotland, UK on February 10, 2013:

Thanks. I have only actually been there once, but it was such a lovely sunny day when I went I thought it would be a good trip to recommend (might not be quite so great if it rained though- I suppose).

Gordon Hamilton from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on February 10, 2013:

Welcome to Hub Pages, daydreams. I visited Millport a few times as a child and have always meant to return but for some reason have never got round to it. I would love to visit again and enjoyed your guide. Though I don't know that I would be up for the ten mile cycle route... :)

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