Millport a place of Gentle Pleasures

Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae recently featured in The Guardian as a place of gentle pleasures.  Written by Peter Ross In the Guardian
he described it as a place that “draws me back time and time again.”
For me, Millport has much the same effect – it has drawn me back time and time again from childhood to adulthood. My parents bought a holiday home there when I was aged three, and now with several decades behind me, I feel I know the island like the back of my hand. However, there is never a time that I don’t learn something new. Sometimes it’s an unexpected encounter, or more recently, when doing background research for my children’s novel, “Vikings and Skylarks on Cumbrae”  that I discovered, the Isles of Cumbrae have an ancient Celtic/Christian/Norse history to rival that of Iona.

Let me explain. I am about to publish my first children’s novel set on the island. Although it is a work of fiction, it is inspired by true events, in the years before the Battle of Largs in 1263. Moranna, a young Scots girl and Sten, a Scandinavian boy living in the Viking encampment, become friends. High on the Cumbrae hills, they share stories of Viking Gods and Christian traditions. The impending Battle of Largs will decide their fate. The novel demonstrates how the Vikings lived in peace with the Scots for more than 200 years and how the islands of Arran, Bute and Cumbrae were strategically located and held parliaments to decide laws that were of benefit to the mixed Scots/Celtic/Norse cultures.

Much of my research has been accumulated through various publications by local historians and acknowledged academics over the years. For example, the farm where the main character Moranna lives, is still there today; still bearing the same name after nearly 800 years: Ballochmartin Farm. So too is Ballochmartin Bay where King Haakon landed and attended Mass in the chapel next to the farm. The setting for the Viking encampment is fictitious. I placed it in the Craigengour Woods close to the Standing Stone of Gouklan Pillar, just off Ferry Road. I wanted Moranna to pass by it each day and to be curious about her Viking neighbours. And I wanted some interaction between the Scots and the Scandinavians because I knew that they must have engaged with each other at some level like all settlers do, whether invaders or incomers. Most of all, I wanted to show that the Vikings were not always the marauding, cut-throat villains that our children are so often exposed to. As a former primary depute head, with a good knowledge of current children’s literature, I was too often aware that there was a huge amount of non-fiction books on the Vikings, but very little fiction. The children I worked with wanted to hear a story about what it would be like for the Scots to live alongside the Vikings and this was my motivation to write the story.

As the final draft goes through to publication, and a Book Launch is set for Thursday 11th August at The Garrison in Millport, I feel I need to make sure the current farmer at Ballochmartin Farm is the first to have a copy, as well as the historical Viking Society in Largs. I pop into the library in the Garrison and by coincidence, I am welcomed by a lady who tells me she owns the farm next to Ballochmartin Farm. She says she’d be delighted to pass a copy to the current farmer on Ballochmartin Farm. I can’t believe my luck. She also provides me with the contacts for North-Ayrshire library services in Largs.
As I leave the library, I notice in the reception area some lovely paintings and stories done by Cumbrae Primary School children. They have created excellent tourist brochures of their island and there is an embroidered panel hanging on the wall depicting their island school. It is a thoughtful, touching exhibition.
These are some of the simple pleasures that Millport has to offer and always full of surprises: a stroll through the Garrison; a cycle round the island or a kayak trip in the bay. Not to mention Cumbrae’s strong historical links with our Celtic, Scots or Norse ancestry.

During Lockdown we bought a small rowing boat. We figured if we couldn’t get abroad there would be renewed pleasures in a little sail around the bay. My father used to take us out around the Eilans many a summer’s afternoon and it was a thrill to me as a child. Our little boat, named Florence, had been wintered in the boatyard, close to where the Vikings’ original dwelling place had been located, known as Fou’port (not because of the smell, but supposedly because of the height of the Norsemen – place of tall men). We needed to attach the outboard engine and ensure the tide was in our favour. We got a great send-off from the boatyard crew who helped us launch it.  All went according to plan - and there we were, sailing around the Eilans with the majestic backdrop of Arran, Bute and Wee Cumbrae in our wake and the sun burnishing brightly in the sky. We felt like Earls of the Sea. Just as the Vikings must have felt around 800 years before us.
Vikings and Skylarks on Cumbrae will be launched on 11th August at The Garrison in Millport from 2pm-4pm.

A paperback edition is now available on Amazon for £5.99 and will be available as an ebook soon.

To order a review copy, use this link Contact Maura or via the menu above.

Thereafter available at Largs Viking Festival and museums and gift shops throughout Scotland.
#millport #isleofcumbrae #largs #largsvikingfestival #battleoflargs #childrenswriters #childrensfiction #childrensbooks 

10 responses to “Millport a place of Gentle Pleasures”

  1. Sounds very interesting Maura, looking forward to getting a copy from Amazon and reading it to Blair. Also excited to go a sail in Florence.x

  2. What a lovely narrative of your fond memories Maura. Stimualted mine from childhood and makes me want to plan a trip back. Oh the excitment of boarding that ferry, feeling you were setting sail to new adventures as a kid, I’ll never forget it.
    Heres to making many more memories on the beautiful Isle of Cumbrae!

    • Hello Julie,

      Thank you so much for your comments on my blog on Millport on the island of Cumbrae. It is such a special place for so many people and its rich history is fascinating. I hope you have enjoyed reading my little book: Vikings and Skylarks on Cumbrae – and that you’ve sold a few copies too in Gavin’s Mill! Looking forward to catching up with you soon, Maura

    • Thank you so much for reading my Blog on the lovely place of Millport on the island of Cumbrae in Scotland. It is such a beautiful little place. And thank you for being a fan of my blogs.

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