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Great Cumbrae

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The Great Cumbrae lies in the Firth of Clyde, and is located approximately half a mile (1 km) north of the Little Cumbrae, the two together form The Cumbraes. It is also known as also known simply as The Cumbrae or the Isle of Cumbrae). Less than 2.5 miles (5 km) long by 1.5 miles (2 km) wide, rising to just over 400 feet (127 m) at The Glaidstane, a naturally occurring rock perched on the highest point on the island, Barbay Hill, the island has an area of some 2,886 acres (1,168 Ha). It has a population of approximately 1,400 (2001 census), but this increases by several thousand during the tourist/holiday season. Access is by vehicle ferry from Largs, one mile to the east.

Most of the land is owned by the resident farmers, with the Millport Golf Club owning the remainder.

Features on the island include the Cathedral of The Isles, the smallest cathedral in Britain, possibly also Europe, and the Millport Wedge, the world's narrowest house (as recognised by the Guinness book of World Records)

The University of Glasgow, and University College, London, jointly operate the University Marine Biological Station, Millport. This was founded in 1885 by Sir John Murray and David Robertson, and operates a variety of research programmes, together with an academic curriculum visited by students from around the world, and is located near to the town.

Described in its literature as Scotlandís premier watersports centre and instructor training facility, the island is home to the sportscotland National Centre Cumbrae, said to offer many varied facilities for watersports enthusiasts of all levels.

During World War II, an Acoustic Listening Post was established at Eerie Port, toward the north end of the island. This used an array of underwater microphones to listen for vessels approaching the Fi rth of Clyde.

Millport Gasworks

Millport Gasworks, 1979
Millport Gasworks 1979
© Chris Allen

Formerly located at the east end of the town, Millport Gasworks is described as having been the last gasworks in Britain produce coal, or town, gas.

The building shown in the 1979 photographs is described as having contained steam engine driven Beales exhausters. The condensers are to the left, and a Livesey washer to the right. The works operated hand fired horizontal retorts.

Millport Gasworks, 1979
Millport Gasworks 1979
© Chris Allen

In the second picture, the coal heap can be seen to the left, with two purifiers to remove sulphur by passing gas through iron oxide. Living near the town's gasworks would not have been a pleasant experience, as the resultant fumes from the process were described as "very smelly".

The works were demolished after their closure in 1981.

Millport - The radio series

The island featured as the setting for a comedy series which first aired on BBC Radio 4, running as three short series broadcast between between March 22, 2000, and December 6, 2002. Simply titled Millport, these were written by and starred Lynne Ferguson, the voice of Mac in the animated film Chicken Run. The series have since been repeated on BBC 7 on a number of occasions.

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Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-

Aerial views



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