The two Caledonian MacBrayne ferries that shuttle back and forth on the 10 minute crossing between Largs and the slipway near the northern end of Great Cumbrae form the island's main link with the rest of Scotland and the world beyond. For current timetable and fare information visit CalMac's website.
The Great Cumbrae service operates between Largs pier, literally in the centre of Largs, and Cumbrae Slip, on the north east side of the island of Great Cumbrae. This is several miles from the island's main settlement, Millport, but there is a connecting bus service allowing foot passengers to travel back and forth between Millport and the ferry.
The vessels operating on the crossing are of different sizes. The MV Loch Riddon, which was built in 1986 in Hessle, near Hull, can carry 12 cars and 200 passengers at 9 knots. The larger MV Loch Shira was built in 2006 at Ferguson Shipbuilders in Port Glasgow and can carry 32 cars and 250 passengers at 10 knots. (Continues below image...)
Both vessels come with internal and external accommodation for passengers, though with a crossing time of just 10 minutes the opportunity to take in the views is strictly limited.
The bus link, coupled with Great Cumbrae's small size, mean that many visitors choose to leave their cars in Largs and travel as foot passengers to the island. Another very popular option is to go by bike: with the 10 mile circumnavigation of Great Cumbrae attracting more cyclists (it can seem) that the rest of Scotland put together.
Today's ferries are simply the latest in a long line serving Great Cumbrae. Historically the link was provided by a passenger only service which ran from Wemyss Bay and Largs direct to Millport. But in 1972 new slips were built in the shelter of Largs Pier and at what became known as Cumbrae Slip, and the MV Coruisk started a roll-on roll-off service for vehicles.
Over the intervening years the capacity of the ferry, and later the ferries, providing the service has increased steadily to cope with the demand. The MV Loch Shira has served on the route since 2007, while the MV Loch Riddon has served on the route, give or take brief excursions to provide cover elsewhere, since 1997.