Fun in the Firth – Visiting Cumbrae With Dogs


Visiting an island with a dog is a dream for many pet owners. Luckily for UK residents, there are plenty of amazing spots off the coast which can be easily visited. One popular island destination is Great Cumbrae, a small island easily visitable from Glasgow and its surroundings.

We took a trip to the island with Chase. Let’s find out how our favourite hound handled the journey!

Getting to Cumbrae

Cumbrae is accessed by ferry from Largs. Getting to the town is simple, with great transport links available. If you’re going by public transport, you can take the train or bus as you prefer. Both offer excellent views,

Our Bus Journey

Our multi-stage journey began with the 904 bus from Paisley to Largs. This is a very pleasant bus route, taking in some beautiful Renfrewshire and Ayrshire countryside. You’ll pass by rolling hills, glittering lochs, and the occasional landmark like the mysterious Kenmure Hill Temple.

As beautiful as the scenery is, it’s worth noting that the roads are somewhat winding, and the driver may take corners at speed. If you’re travelling with your pet, keep a careful hand on them to ensure they stay safe on this bus ride. The whole journey lasts about an hour and 20 minutes.

The bus journey ends in the pleasant, seaside town of Largs in North Ayrshire. There are sandy beaches, a beautiful park, and some interesting museums in town. But our destination was a short way over the Firth of Clyde, so we picked up some snacks from a local shop before queuing for the ferry.

Largs train station

The Ferry

Calmac operates a regular ferry service over the water. If you’re travelling by foot, it’s £6.95 for a return ticket. You can take vehicles on the ferry too, with an additional price depending on the size of your ride.

This was Chase’s first time on a ferry, but he managed the journey with ease. He was very interested to explore the large boat and wanted to go inside all the different rooms. However, dogs are not allowed inside Calmac Ferries, so we were restricted to the deck which offered good views of the water.

Chase was excited to board the ferry

The ferry ride across takes about 10 minutes, and you can enjoy views of Great Cumbrae and its small neighbour, Little Cumbrae. There are some loud announcements over the tannoys, and the air can be bracing out on the deck. Consider bringing an extra blanket if your pet is liable to get cold.

Enjoying the views from the boat

The ferry port on Cumbrae is somewhat isolated, sitting around a mile from Millport. A local bus company, Millport Motos, runs a regular service into town directly from the port. The ride only takes a few minutes and you can enjoy good views from the window.

The Island of Cumbrae

Cumbrae is a small but fascinating island. It’s home to just over a thousand people and is a popular spot with tourists. Cumbrae has only one town, Millport, although some small farmhouses and guesthouses are spread throughout the island.

Cumbrae is home to a few major attractions, like the National Water Sports Centre. But most people choose to visit Cumbrae for its beautiful nature and relaxed vibes.

Going Loopy!

We chose an ambitious walking route for this trip, covering the entire perimeter of the island. This is a 10-mile loop, lasting around three to four hours. Although this is a fairly long route for most dogs, it was ideal for retired athlete Chase, especially as the route features very little elevation.

Coastal views

The route runs mostly alongside paved roads, with the occasional footpath. The roads do not always have pavements, so it’s important to keep a close eye out for traffic and to keep your dog on a lead. But the island’s roads are quiet, and we encountered very few cars.

It was a beautiful walk, allowing us to take in stunning coastlines and countryside. We saw plenty of wildlife, including oystercatchers, cormorants and rabbits (which certainly had Chase on his toes!). The unspoiled countryside is home to a wealth of other creatures, including polecats and golden eagles.

A 10-mile walk was no match for Chase

The loop took us through Cumbrae’s sole town, Millport. Millport is a classic seaside town, filled with pubs, cafes, and gift shops. Many of these businesses are dog friendly and one gift shop owner excitedly revealed that she too had adopted a dog from Greyhound Trust West of Scotland.

On the north shore of the island, we came across the HMS Shearwater Memorial. This imposing monument commemorates the lives of two sailors who drowned in the area.

We stopped regularly to ensure Chase was well-rested. There were lots of pleasant grassy areas allowing everyone to sit down comfortably. We also came across a few beaches that were ideal for a paddle.

Taking a break

Walking on Cumbrae is a deeply peaceful experience. Although the mainland is just a mile across the Firth, the island somehow feels as if it’s in another world. Away from Millport, the only sounds that can be heard are the gentle waves, birdsong and the wind rustling the grass. It’s no wonder so many people from the city enjoy taking a break here.

Other Walks

You don’t need to complete the 10-mile loop to enjoy walking on Cumbrae. If you’d prefer a more relaxed day out, take the bus into Millport and browse the shops. Consider wandering a short way out of town and you’ll find some beautiful footpaths.

Cumbrae walking leaflets are available from Garrison House

One interesting spot, just north of Millport, is the Cathedral of the Isles. This peaceful church is the smallest cathedral in the United Kingdom and it’s well worth a look if you have any interest in architecture. Dogs are not permitted inside the cathedral itself, but they may enter the cathedral grounds.

Lunchtime

Anyone doing a long walk like the Cumbrae Loop requires lots of fuel. Naturally, we stopped twice for a bite to eat.

Our first stop was at Garrison House, a historic building once home to a ship’s officers. The historic building has a small café and restaurant. Although the inside is not open to dogs, there is a courtyard where pets are welcome. Garrison House also provides leaflets about Cumbrae which are perfect for learning more about local walking routes and wildlife.

Relaxing in the Garrison House courtyard

We enjoyed taking a break, eating sandwiches, and drinking coffee. Chase had a piece of sandwich and a cucumber to keep him hydrated on this warm day.

The next stop came an hour or so later. On the West side of the island, we came across Fintry Bay Patio & Restaurant. This pleasant restaurant offers a full menu, but we only stopped for ice creams. There is a large patio with excellent views of the ocean.

Staying Ovcr

We have never stayed the night on the island. But if you’re visiting Cumbrae with dogs, you have a few options. Jack’s Alt-Stays is said to be an excellent pet-friendly spot, with cabins available near Millport. Alternatively, stay in the Woodhouse Hotel in Largs.

We didn’t stay over but Chase had a quick sleep in the grass

Go Cumbrae!

Cumbrae is an excellent island to visit with pets. The journey is pleasant and stress-free and this is a cheap and easy destination for Glasgow-based travellers. Next up for Chase, we’ll try a more ambitious island trip, perhaps to another Forth and Clyde Island like Arran or Bute.

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