Pleased awhile to view
The watery waste, the prospect wild and near;
The now receding waters gave them space,
On either side, the growing shores to trace;
And there, returning, they contract the scene,
Till small and smaller grows the walk between.
THIS pleasant little watering-place is situated on the larger Cumbrae, an island in the Frith of Clyde, lying between Bute, and the Ayrshire coast, nearly opposite to Largs. It is built on the northern coast of a fine bay, which usefully indents the island, and consequently has a warm southern exposure. The bay is sheltered at its entrance by two or three rocky islets, and beyond by the island of little Cumbrae, which lies farther to the south, leaving a safe and open channel by which the bay may be entered from the east or the west.
Since the introduction of steam navigation, which has rendered every watering place on the Frith of such easy access, Millport has become a place of considerable resort for sea bathing; so that during the season, notwithstanding its retired and isolated situation, it presents to the visitor a very gay and lively appearance. It is daily visited by steam boats; and has thus a constant communication, not only with Largs, but with Glasgow and Greenock. Every thing necessary therefore for a family, suppose it is not to be had in the island, can with ease be obtained. The houses of the village are neat and clean, and a great part of them newly erected, specially for the convenience of visitors. The walks are not very varied, or extensive around Millport, but the distant view down the channel of the Frith, with the Arran mountains, their lofty summits clothed in clouds, has a very grand appearance. The Earl of Glasgow has a small cottage ornée near the east end of the village, to which he sometimes retires; and from whence there is a fine prospect between the Ayrshire coast and the lesser Cumbrae. It is in the monastic Gothic style, richly ornamented, and has some very fine perpendicular windows.
Millport is the only village in the island. The inhabitants of the village and parish, were in 1801, only 506; in 1821 they were 657; they are now supposed to amount to 800. The two islands of Cumbrae form a parish, the church of which is situated at Millport. There is a parish school at the village in which English, Latin, Writing and Arithmetic are taught. The scholars attending are generally from 40 to 50. Besides the parish school, there is a private one in which about 30 scholars are taught English, Writing and Arithmetic. A number of the inhabitants are employed in fishing; several of the young men serve on board the revenue cutter on this station; and the remainder of the inhabitants of the village are employed in weaving.
The island is about two miles and one half long from north-east to south-west, and about twelve furlongs broad. It is the property of the Earl of Glasgow, and the Marquis of Bute. Limestone is found in abundance; and excellent freestone, of which there was at one time shipped about L200 worth annually. There is a regular ferry from Largs to Cumbrae, and a good road from the ferry to the village. The breadth of the channel at this place is about two miles across.
The island of little Cumbrae is only a mile long and half a mile broad. It is the property of the Earl of Eglinton. On the highest point of this island the first light-house on the Clyde was erected in 1756. It was lighted by a fire of pit coal; and proved very beneficial to the shipping. Experience subsequently showed, however, that its great height was a disadvantage, as it was more frequently obscured and hidden with clouds, than it would have been if erected on a lower site nearer the shore. It was in consequence removed to its present situation, and was then furnished with lamps and reflectors. The light has been greatly improved by the substitution of argand lamps and parabolic reflectors. There are here also the ruins of an ancient castle, which appears to have been a place of strength and surrounded by a ditch. It was the residence of the Earl of Eglinton so late as the invasion of Scotland by Oliver Cromwell. The island is principally used as a rabbit warren, from the profits of which the tenant is enabled to pay a rent to the proprietor.