Travel: Discovering delights of Firth of Clyde

A child-free get-together with girlfriends being well overdue, my pals and I headed off to Wemyss Bay, on the Firth of Clyde for a few days, with our bicycles and walking boots packed.

Overlooking the Isles of Bute and Arran, and surrounded by the woodland trails and moorlands of Muirshiel Country Park, Parkdean Holiday Park looked like the perfect base for us to explore the countryside.

Arriving in torrential rain, we soon settled in to our caravan. At this point, I had to banish all my preconceptions of caravans being “compact” and cold. This was a big space, with three bedrooms and a comfortable lounge area to just hang out. There was more than enough room for the four of us.

Caravan parks are different to my notion, too. Parkdean has a fantastic range of facilities, from a modern sauna to a great pool, fit for families and those who just want to put in a few lengths. The park even boasts a bar/restaurant for those not wanting to do their own cooking or seeking an evening drink.

Back in the caravan we listened to the rain and wondered if we were facing a few days of soggy Scottish weather. But it soon cleared and, once it did, our spirits were lifted by the spectacular views.

So it was on with the walking boots and an enjoyable evening stroll through the lush, green forest paths along the Clyde Coastal Path, finishing off with a glass of wine on the veranda admiring the views from our home-from-home for the next few days.

We started off the next morning with a swim and a sauna in the Parkdean Holiday Park’s excellent facilities, followed by coffee in the restaurant, where we planned our cycle route for the day.

The plan was to ease ourselves gently into our daily cycle rides with a short eight-mile cycle through Muirshiel Country Park to Loch Thom.

We should maybe have researched that a little better before we embarked on what turned out to be a pretty tough ride over the Kelly Cut, where the path became almost non-existent at times. But the views across the rugged moorlands were stunning, making it well worth the effort.

We soon arrived at Loch Thom and the friendly wee cafe at Ardgowan Fishery for a well-needed hot chocolate. Taking the easier route from here we arrived back at Parkdean in time to reward ourselves with a relaxing float in the pool before a hearty meal at the park’s restaurant.

Up early the next day for a quick dip in the pool, and then, on recommendation of our friendly cafe owner the previous day, we decided to check out the island of Cumbrae, a short ferry ride from the charming coastal town of Largs.

After a bag of chips and a stroll along the promenade we boarded the ferry with our bikes hoping the heavy mist around us would lift. We weren’t disappointed.

As we arrived, so did the sunshine and we set off on a lovely cycle around the island. There’s just one road which loops around the island, passing through the small town of Millport, and as we cycled around the island we took in stunning views of Ailsa Craig, Bute and the Cowal Peninsula, made all the more spectacular by the glorious sunshine and blue skies.

With wild flowers putting on a colourful display along the roadside, oystercatchers nesting on the rocky coastline nearby and some of the most beautiful sandy beaches I’ve ever seen, this was a pleasant contrast to our tough ride the day before and I can see why it’s fondly referred to by some as ‘The Jewel in the Clyde’.

Our final day arrived and we finished off with another island, this time over to Bute, catching the ferry just down the hill from the holiday park.

The ferry port and railway station at Wemyss Bay is a charming A-listed building, with streams of light shining through the sweeping glazed roof.

Enjoying another beautiful ferry crossing, we were lucky to see dolphins as they swam alongside us and again arrived to sunshine and blue skies.

The Isle of Bute provided us with another beautiful cycle ride and, pedalling along the West Island Way, we admired the views of Arran in the distance, stopping to enjoy a rest and an ice cream on the long sandy beach of Ettrick Bay.

Cycling further around the coast we found the more secluded Scalpsie Bay with its spectacular viewpoints perfect for taking in the scenery and wildlife, where we sat and watched seals basking on the nearby rocks.

After another day of cycling in gorgeous sunshine, enjoying how beautiful Scotland can be when the sun makes an appearance, we were all in need of a cold drink! Did I mention that Wemyss Bay railway station also has a pub?

A cosy little olde worlde and very friendly bar, the perfect place to end our day trip before heading up the hill to our comfy caravan.

We were all in agreement that our caravan in Wemyss Bay was perfect for chilling out and enjoying the beautiful surroundings and we’ll definitely be back again, and might even bring the kids next time.

Fact File

A Parkdean holiday at Weymss Bay can cost from £169 for seven nights in a two-bedroom caravan sleeping four to six people.

For the best rates go to http://www.parkdeanholidays.co.uk/

The pet-friendly resort offers a range of accommodation from two-bedroom caravans to luxury lodges, including wheelchair friendly accommodation.

The resort’s facilities include an indoor swimming pool and sauna, amusement arcade and pool tables, an outdoor adventure playground, grocery store, entertainment bar and a restaurant.

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