We were surprised how easy it was to find good coffee, tea and cake in a small town like Millport. And we loved the Isle Of Cumbrae. Mind you, spending a day here when it’s cold and damp, with not many day-trippers over from the mainland, might not be typical.
We could barely walk 100 yards without a local cheerily asking if they could help or suggesting a place to get shelter. It all began to feel more like a scene from a set in that 1980s classic film Local Hero…
For coffee, it’s very easy to find The Dancing Midge café. Its yellow frontage stands out on the sea front and you’re almost bound to go past as soon as you arrive in Millport.
As well as wonderful freshly-baked scones and good coffee, this place has great views over the Firth of Clyde and, with the help of owner John, we spotted a couple of seals basking in the…rain…on the rocks a few hundred yards away.
A great start to our day on Cumbrae!
The Cathedral of the Isles, just up the hill from the harbour, lays claim to being the smallest cathedral in Britain (and some say in Europe, though we’ll need to compare it to Clogher Cathedral when we get over to Northern Ireland in a few weeks’ time).
When you realise that Liverpool Cathedral can seat over 2,000 for a major service, Millport’s little 80-seater nave really does seem cute and cosy, though I’m not sure how cosy it was on the December night in 1879, when a storm blew the west window in…
Most people get around the island on bikes, and there are apparently 1,300 bikes for hire in Millport. There can’t have been more than 20 or 30 on the whole island today, though, so it felt like we had the road round the coast virtually to ourselves, and it’s an absolutely wonderful experience.
About half way round the island (maybe 4 miles from Millport itself) are the Fintry Bay Tea Rooms, where everyone stops off for a cuppa, and many break for lunch apparently. We say this just because we are told that on warm days and weekends the queue can stretch out onto the terrace.
I guess on days like those, we would never have got the chance to spend 20 minutes chatting to owner Bill Steele, so we count our blessings that the weather was not good today. Bill filled us in on the amazing history of the Tea Rooms, which have been here for 100 years, and seemed almost apologetic that they weren’t the archetypal lace tablecloth loose-leaf tea-type tea rooms you get on the mainland.
With views like these, right over the water towards Bute, and with quality cakes, shortbreads and scones as we tasted today, we had no problem including Fintry Bay in our catalogue of Cathedral town venues. It was a nice cup of tea too, in any case!
The trouble with biking 10 miles round the island is that by the time you finish, you’re gasping for another cuppa. And back in Millport, we couldn’t resist trying the Ritz Café, which has not changed for over 50 years and has actually been in the same family since 1903.
This is a Cumbrae institution, with its knickerbockerglories, its jukebox and its characters serving. It’s also famous for its ’99′ ice-creams…As we sat enjoying our own 99, a coastguard car screeched to a halt outside; an emergency out to sea? Well, the cafe owner rushed out, opened the car door…and handed the driver his ’99′…
Such is life on Millport, Cumbrae.