By David J Whyte
I’m still in North Ayrshire picking up where I left off yesterday. I drove north from Troon to take the 10-minute ferry crossing from Largs to the island of Great Cumbrae and Millport Golf Club.
As I drove through the holiday hamlet of Millport, I glanced across the sandy beach harbour which was admittedly a nice view - if it wasn’t for Hunterson B Nuclear Power Station dominating the skyline. On my right was the ‘Dancing Midge Cafe’. Hmm!
This must have been a delightful little community in its heyday; the genteel but faded villas with their pink or baby blue facades and ever-hopeful bucket & spade shops overlooking the bay with it’s bobbing boats. 40 years ago a trip “Doon the Watter” to places like Millport was de rigeur for middle-class Glaswegians looking to escape the city. The River Clyde was the source of much of Glasgow’s Victorian wealth but it was also a means of escape from the industrial smog and clatter. Now flights to Bodrum, Alicante or Sharm El Sheikh whisk Scots sun-seekers away for more reliable dozes of radiation and leave Millport as a distant collective memory.
When I arrived at the golf club, the weather was dull and it didn’t look like it was going to brighten anytime soon. I decided to play a few holes hitching my camera gear to an electric golf trolley just in case it did clear up. This was not a good idea as the camera bag & tripod were as heavy as my golf equipment and kept slipping to one side. It took me 6 holes just to get the rig stable.
Millport’s course climbs and slopes for the first few then drops and slopes every other way for the remainder. Its main plus is the panoramic views over the Firth of Clyde to Bute and the Cowal Peninsula with the Isle of Arran dominating to the south with the craggy peaks of Goat Fell and the Sleeping Warrior offering an outstanding prospect.
By the time I reached the 14th, curtains of rain joined the clouds and the Clyde making it one impenatrable mass of grey. It didn't look like I was going to 'get the picture' and I looked around for a shelter to get out of the inevitable rain. But wait! What was this appearing out of the drizzle? A monster, a leviathan steaming into view in the wide strait between Cumbrae and Bute. It was a huge, black nuclear submarine attended by what looked like high-speed inflatable dinghies, no doubt full of SBS troops armed to the back teeth. I grappled with the camera gear to get a shot. The tenders suddenly broke away from the sub which was the length of small city street and zipped shore-wards. I wondered if they had spotted me, clearly a hostile but slightly incompetant enemy operative pretending to be a golfer and toting an array of sophisticted surveillance equipment.
Thankfully a couple of minutes later the sub and its escorts regrouped and kept moving towards the open ocean while having got the picture, I put the camera away and returned to my disguise as a golfer. I descended the 15th which was to my mind the best hole of the day, a good, downhill two-shotter. Millport’s course is rough & ready but a great ‘golf adventurers’ option with if the light allows, some stunning views. Here's a link to their website where you can possibly find some better pictures than I managed.
I think I'll write a feature on courses such as this for folks that want to get away from the well-trodden, sometimes overcrowded Scottish offerings. The fact is people just don't get to hear about such places. Maybe the MOD prefers it that way!
Then the sun came out! Being dedicated to my work and desperate to get a decent shot of the marvellous views surrounding Millport Golf Club, I had to climb all the way back up the hill! The things you have to do! There was a bit of transient sunlight but you still couldn’t fully appreciate the magnificence of Arran. I got at least one decent shot of the course and clubhouse (see above) and a few clandestine shots of a nuclear submarine - which I’m not sure if I should publish here - but what the heck...! I'll keep it small!
Having climbed back up to the 5th and cloud-cover coming in again, I put away the photo-gear for good and played the 15th for a second time (that’s how good a hole it is) and then the remaining holes back to the clubhouse.
Millport might be somewhat faded as a holiday town but for golf adventurers looking for something different with the best views on this part of the west coast, it’s worth taking the ferry to Great Cumbrae and playing this little gem. Remember and pack a camera, make it a small one and watch out for the Special Boat Service operatives.