Fancy an island adventure, but you're cash-strapped and time-poor? Then look no further than the Isle of Cumbrae: it's picturesque, packed with stuff to do, is easy to travel to and from within a day, and best of all – you can do it all for about twenty quid.
Here's the plan for a great (and cheap) day on Cumbrae:
While there are quite a few lovely little pubs and cafes on the island, its crowning glory is its beautiful coastline and famous circuit road, which offers an easy way to take in all the sites by bike. Festooned with bays, beaches and outcrops of rock pools, there are countless places to lunch (or pop the top off a cheeky hip-flask) so pack a few provisions before you go.
Don't even think about driving! The best part about this day trip is that the public transport is a breeze, it's inexpensive and it affords some gorgeous views along the way. An off-peak day return ticket from Glasgow to Largs will cost you less than a tenner. The trains run at regular intervals and take about an hour to get you from the city centre to the ferry port.
The ferry runs every fifteen minutes during summer and every half hour in winter. The journey takes less than ten minutes, costs just over £3 return for adults, and there's no need to book in advance. Once you alight from the boat, the Cumbrae bus will arrive to take you into Millport town centre for another £3.
Explore Millport Millport has some of the quaintest foreshore buildings you'll find in the country, lined up in all their pastel glory. This wee island is also, very fittingly, home to the smallest cathedral in Britain. It has its quirky side too though – keep an eye out for the rock art, particularly the famed giant crocodile.
On yer bike Once you've checked out the town, it's on to the main event – cycling around the island. If you're not much of a cyclist and the very thought of time in the saddle makes your bum muscles twitch, fear not, because this is about as easy as it gets. The road around the island is just 10.5 miles long, runs in a circuit, is wide and smooth and virtually car-free, and most importantly, it's basically flat.
You'll not be riding around in one go either – there's too much to tempt you down to the shoreline: sandy beaches, a variety of seabirds, and rock pools filled with hidden crabs, anemones, pipe fish, speedy shannies, mussels, whelks, periwinkles and starfish.
Backseat driving doesn't work on a tandem bike, unfortunately
Bicycles can be hired from several shops in town at a rate of about £3 per hour (at least two or three hours to do the loop is highly recommended). A word of warning to those who want to attempt a tandem bike though – they are not as easy to ride as they seem in French yogurt ads. Check with the shop-keeper to make sure it's alright to swap for regular bikes if you can't get a handle on it. (Tip: put the bossiest person in front as it's very hard to get going if the back-seat rider insists on 'managing the take-off').