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Millport is a seaside town on the Isle of Cumbrae, a small island about 10 minutes ferry from Largs. We drove up from Dumfries via Glasgow, rather than driving directly to Largs, so we could visit someone from New Zealand. Driving back into Glasgow had a feeling of familiarity and was quite enjoyable. I was just following google’s navigation and then close to where our friend was staying I became sure that we had been on these streets before as the church we went to the Sunday before was just around the corner. We talked for an hour or so and then loaded ourselves back in the car to drive to Largs, just over an hour to the west. Once at Largs we had to do quite a grocery shop as there are no supermarkets on the island. Unfortunately we couldn’t fit very much into our car as it was already full with our luggage.

Location Map Millport

I was a little unsure what to expect with the ferry crossing. The ferry we went over on was small and could only fit 8 cars. It was kind of fun and we were excited to finally get to Millport which was about 10 minutes’ drive from the ferry slipway. Millport is a lot larger than I had anticipated, which is a relief as I was wondering what we would do if it ended up being a small fishing village without a café. Of course there are no McDonalds, we can live without that, but there are a few cafes so I will be able to get a good coffee here.

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Our apartment was in the middle of town directly opposite the beach on the third floor above the Post Office Van in the photo.

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The view from our window was brilliant:

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The owner was very kind to let us rent her lovely holiday home as she doesn’t usually rent it out. We were on our best behaviour.

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It rained solidly on Sunday and Monday so we didn’t venture out to explore the island. Monday was Daniel’s birthday and one thing he didn’t want to do was sightseeing. He had a great day and enjoyed opening presents, mostly Lego, looking around on the internet, watching a GI Joe episode, and later watching Star Wars. In the evening I went outside for five minutes of fresh air and just loved staring out at the ocean, watching the waves throwing their weight around and the rocks trying to dry out from the rain.

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The sun came out briefly Tuesday morning, it had potential but by the end of the day it was cloudy with a few attempts to rain. I guess that’s a good day weather-wise in Scotland. Evidently it was 31 degrees in London! This afternoon we drove around the island, I surveyed the path for a run but even at 10pm Tuesday night I wasn’t sure if I could or should try to run around the island. It is flat enough, just a couple of small hills but it is 10 miles, that’s 16 km – I have never run that far even when I was almost feeling fit. After our drive around we caught the ferry over to Largs. We wandered around the shops for a few hours, Daniel and Amy had a go on a simulator ride in an amusement centre, Amy also had a ride in a fun car, and then we went grocery shopping. No ice cream this week as it would melt on our return journey.

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I also discovered, after chatting with a local, that the buildings directly opposite us over the harbour house a nuclear power plant (the Hunterston Power Station)! Evidently in the 1970’s when the person I was speaking to was delivering a car to a worker at the plant the reactor cracked. He was told that they had five minutes to get it under control or it would melt down and kill everyone in a 50 mile radius! There was no point him trying to drive away fast … It’s a fairly common occurrence for the reactor to overheat and then they pour gallons of water in to cool it off. The water immediately turns to steam and then you see white clouds everywhere and it can even make very loud noises as the water flashes to steam. Interesting neighbourhood …

Wednesday arrived and it was D-day for my run around the island – I wasn’t sure I’d even make it halfway. Karen and the kids went to hire bikes while I set off.

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It couldn’t have been a nicer day – which makes all the difference to the enjoyment of a run. My first goal was to reach a restaurant about half an hour away and if I wasn’t handling the run too well I’d just turn around and it would still be a good enough distance. I arrived at the restaurant feeling okay except I had a dozen flies chasing me so I briefly went inside to lose them. Honest I didn’t stop for a coffee! I had expected Karen and the kids to reach me by that point but there was no sign of them so I continued on. Another half an hour past and still no sign of them and that meant no sign of my bottle of water! I asked two people who had walked from the wharf how far away it was and they said they had been walking for about 40 minutes. I figured that was about a 20 minute run – I could make that but I wasn’t sure how I would get back home. They had an extra bottle of water which they offered me but as I didn’t want to carry the extra weight I declined. After insisting I thankfully agreed and it was a life saver because it was getting really hot, and well, Karen and the kids must have gone to another island!

I was listening to an interesting lecture on my mp3 player so that lessoned the pain and I kept going. Another landmark I had hoped to reach was a memorial to several sailors who had drowned in the harbour. I reached it at the same time as another family out biking so I asked them to pass a message on to Karen should they come across her and then I moved on with the encouragement that the wharf was just around the corner. Well it was a very long corner but a while later I saw the wharf which meant I only had three or four miles left to go and also that Karen and the kids must have got lost on the one road around the island! I gave up looking backward to see them and kept my focus on the road ahead. It was getting tough now but I managed to get a good rhythm going in between jumping off the road to avoid being hit by vehicles. You might not believe it but Karen and the kids did catch up to me before I finished the run. They had had a few teething problems and at some point Amy had fallen off her bike. They now played the important role of my support crew and cheered me on the rest of the way. It was with great relief that I made it back to our apartment at two hours and three minutes. A slow run for a real runner but not bad for me after all my dream was just to finish the 16 km! That was an awesome start for the day; the rest of it was spent at the beach and relaxing in the sun.

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The next day was probably one of the first days in this entire trip to date when I felt like I was on holiday. It was sunny again, probably only the second time in the past month, so we wanted to make the most of it rather than doing our usual thing inside our apartment. So we went down to the beach to walk over the rocks and check out the marine life in the rock pools.

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Then in the afternoon while Karen had a sleep I took the kids geocaching (see www.geocaching.com) where you go hunting for hidden containers using a GPS device that can tell you how far to go and in what direction. This was our first time and I really hoped we could find a couple of geocaches. Amazingly we found our first location Guns of Navarone and so excitedly we opened the container and made an entry in the log book. Amy also swapped a small treasure from inside it. We had walked about a mile to reach this one and the kids were keen to look for another.

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What a great way to get kids out of the house. This time we looked for a geocache called Bedazzled which was less than a mile away. That one was not so straight forward and involved climbing over fences and walking along a gravel road on farmland. If it wasn’t for reading the log file online I don’t know if we would have found this stash as it was hidden inside the top of fence post.

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Next we returned home so Daniel and Amy could get their togs for a swim. It was about 5pm by now and most people had left the beach an hour ago because there was a cold wind and the sun had all but disappeared. Stubborn as usual they were determined to get in the water so I took them down to the beach and watched them freeze ….

By Friday the weather had packed in again. In the morning I was able to get a little work done while Karen schooled the kids. After lunch we visited a small aquarium …

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… and then on the way home I drove over the island to a lookout point.

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It was absolutely freezing in the wind so after taking a photo I raced back to the warmth of the car while Karen and the kids fluffed around outside. That night we packed up our bags as much as we could and then we watched some of the Olympic opening ceremony. It was a fantastic week in Millport but it was time to move on again.

(Week 23: Saturday 21 July – Saturday 28 July 2012)