The colourful tale behind the origins of Millport's famed Crocodile Rock

·2-min read
The Crocodile Rock on the beach at Millport on Great Cumbrae in Ayrshire. Picture: Kenny Lam/VisitScotland
The Crocodile Rock on the beach at Millport on Great Cumbrae in Ayrshire. Picture: Kenny Lam/VisitScotland

IT IS a familiar toothy grin that has graced countless happy snaps across the years, the jagged reptilian smile beaming out over a popular Scottish island beach.

This much-beloved Millport landmark – the aptly nicknamed Crocodile Rock – has welcomed generations of holidaymakers and day trippers to Great Cumbrae in Ayrshire.

While the stone itself is millions of years old, the artwork is a tad more recent, first coming into being when local man Robert Brown decided to give it an eye-catching lick of paint just over a century ago.

The story goes that Mr Brown was heading home after a pub lunch when the distinctive shape of a craggy formation on the foreshore drew his gaze. Returning later with a brush and paint, he set about creating the now famous Crocodile Rock.

The mimetolith creature gets repainted every few years, with these touch-ups remaining true to the original design. In 2013, a party was held to mark its centenary (while the precise date of the inaugural paint job is unknown, Mr Brown was first publicly thanked for his efforts in 1913).

Millport is also home to the Cathedral of The Isles which, dating from 1851, lays claim to being the smallest cathedral in the British Isles. It was commissioned as a theological college for the Scottish Episcopal Church and viewed by some as a "new Iona".

Great Cumbrae is synonymous with cycling. A pedal around the "Island of a Thousand Bicycles" is a rite of passage for many Scots enjoying a trip "Doon the Watter" to this little corner of the Clyde Riviera.

Wheeled steeds to suit all levels of experience can be hired from Millport’s bicycle shops, including mountain bikes, tricycles, tandems, trailers to carry children or dogs, mobility scooters, and even an eight-seater contraption.

The island's 10-mile circumference proffers quiet, winding roads and spectacular scenery, while the hillier, inner route rewards with sweeping panoramas over the Firth of Clyde. The Glaid Stone marks the highest point on Great Cumbrae at 417ft (127m).

Another historical marker to look out for is the HMS Shearwater Monument, erected in memory of two young officers from a Royal Navy survey vessel who perished in nearby waters in 1844.

Elsewhere, an ancient standing stone, known as the Gouklan Pillar, can be found in Craigengour Wood. Over the years it has been toppled and reset in concrete. The area under and around the stone has been dug up, but no artefacts discovered.

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