By Bernie Bell
Pics by B Bell
I was watching ‘Antiques Road Trip’ – again – and Philip Serrell went over to Cumbrae on the ferry from Largs to Millport.
In these times Largs is a quiet little town, but on the 2nd October 1263 AD it was the site of a battle between the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland. A storm at sea produced challenging conditions for the Norse fleet, which helped the outnumbered Scots forces, and though there wasn’t a clear victory at the time The Battle of Largs played a pivotal role in ending hundreds of years of Norse domination in Scotland.
Watching this episode of ‘Antiques Road Trip’ reminded me of a visit we made to Cumbrae in 1995. Mike was having a marine sorta meeting at the Marine Station there. I went along with him, and while he talked of fishy things I roamed the island – and it’s a great little place. A fine landscape with views across the sea to the Scottish Mainland and the islands of Bute, Arran and Ailsa Craig – if you’re lucky with the weather!
One day I was standing on the beach looking across to Goat Fell on Arran…..
…….when a man came and stood next to me and simply said ”Head cases”. It was his opinion that folk who go up mountains for fun, are head-cases. I said it keeps them out of mischief! We had a talk about the human impulse to choose to go into danger, which neither of us understood. My memory is of us then standing looking over at the mountains and, after a time of silent contemplation, the man repeated….”Head cases”.
And at the moment I’m reading ‘Mountains of the Mind’ by Robert MacFarlane, which is about just that – why folk risk life and limb to go up a mountain. https://theorkneynews.scot/2022/02/19/observations-on-reading-mountains-of-the-mind-by-robert-macfarlane/
I have a memory of some big rocks here and there around the island which had things painted on them – not graffiti – but where the natural shape of the rock had been used to produce an image. On ‘Antiques Road Trip’ I saw that the crocodile is still there….
And I remember there also being a rock which was known as The Lion – for obvious reasons….
I discovered a small bay in which the beach was covered in broken bits of crockery – some of which looked old – the images on them could be from…..maybe the late 18th Century? It was like a shingle beach – of crockery – very strange to see, and interesting. The crockery will gradually break down into something which resembles shingle even more – what is shingle, but broken up rock?
Some beaches around the world now look like they have a shingle of plastic. I suppose the plastic will break down too, eventually, but crockery doesn’t float, and I don’t think that marine creatures tend to eat it. That makes a big difference.
This isn’t Cumbrae! Thank Goodness!
My memory is of a very pleasant visit – peaceful, much of interest, friendly folk. I can well understand it being a popular place for day trips from Glasgow.
Ed’s note: related images from the Basel Convention