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Dunoon (D n Obhainn in Gaelic) is a resort town situated on the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll, Scotland. It sits on the Firth of Clyde to the south of Holy Loch and to the west of Gourock.



Ruins of Dunoon Castle, 1830 engraving by William Miller after W. Brown
Ruins of Dunoon Castle, 1830 engraving by William Miller after W. Brown

Dunoon Pier originated in 1835[1] however, the current structure was built in 1895[1] Prior to the late 1960s fleets of paddle steamers brought holidaymakers doon the watter from Glasgow to it and numerous other piers on the Clyde. Until June 2011, the pier was used daily by Caledonian MacBrayne who ran a regular car-ferry service to Gourock and by the PS Waverley, the last surviving sea-going paddle steamer .

Overlooking the pier is a large statue to Robert Burns' love Highland Mary, also known as Bonny Mary O' Argyll, which is located on Castle Hill, just below the remains of the 12th century Dunoon Castle. Very little remains of the castle, which would originally have belonged to the Lamont family but became a royal castle with the Earls of Argyll (Campbells) as hereditary keepers, paying a nominal rent of a single red rose to the sovereign, presently Queen Elizabeth. In earlier times, Mary, Queen of Scots, stayed at the castle circa 1563 and granted several charters during her visit. The castle was destroyed during the rebellion in 1685.

In the spring of 2005, Dunoon seafront received a new breakwater, located just to the south of the main pier. As well as protecting the Victorian pier, a new linkspan was installed alongside the breakwater to allow the berthing and loading of ro-ro ferries instead of the side loading ferries presently serving the main pier. A tendering competition to serve the new linkspan between two interested parties, namely Caledonian MacBrayne and local operator Western Ferries failed when both parties withdrew from the tendering process. In June 2011, the outcome of a renewed tendering process saw a regular passenger only ferry service using the breakwater for berthing. The Paddle Steamer Waverley also berths there during the Summer months.


Dunoon Pier in 1978
Dunoon Pier in 1978
The PS Waverley leaves Dunoon Pier, to sail up the Firth of Clyde
The PS Waverley leaves Dunoon Pier, to sail up the Firth of Clyde

Dunoon is accessible by both land and sea routes.


The town lies near the southern end of the A815 road. At its northernmost point, near Cairndow, this road joins the A83 and provides access to the town by road from Loch Lomond and Glasgow.


There are two ferry operators who provide a fast and frequent service from Gourock to Dunoon. Local company, Western Ferries, carries motor vehicles and passengers. They ply the McInroy's Point-to-Hunters Quay route, whilst David MacBrayne Ltd subsidiary, Argyll Ferries run a passenger only service from Gourock pier to Dunoon breakwater. At Gourock Pier, a First ScotRail train service provides access to the national rail network via the Inverclyde Line.


Public transport within Dunoon and the surrounding area is provided under Government subsidy by bus and coach operator West Coast Motors.

The West Coast Motors 486 service provides a regular return journey from Dunoon town centre to Inveraray, where it connects with a Scottish Citylink service onward to Campbeltown and Oban. McGill's Bus Services operate service 907, a frequent coach service from Dunoon to Glasgow Buchanan Street Bus Station. The service travels aboard the Western Ferries crossing and operates via Greenock and Braehead Shopping Centre.[2]

Tourist attractions

The Queen's Hall is the town's major multi-function hall complex. Situated at the head of the pier and built in 1958, the building houses four function suites and a large main hall. The main hall houses a full working stage with professional sound and lighting equipment and in recent years it has attracted popular bands such as Pink Floyd, Blur, The Saw Doctors, David Gray. Morrissey and Red Hot Chilli Pipers, among others.

Castle Toward, built in 1820 and formerly owned by the Lamont clan, is south of the town. It is now used as an outdoor education centre.

The arboretum at Benmore Botanic Garden, part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, is situated north of the town just before Loch Eck. The garden, formerly a private garden for the Younger family, is now open to the public. Its feature some of the tallest trees in Britain, including an avenue of Giant Redwoods, some of which are over high.

In recent years, Dunoon has returned as a 'doon the watter' destination. Throughout the era of the paddle-steamer, residents of Scotland's largest city enjoyed the freedom offered by a short trip down (doon) the Clyde to Dunoon and helped to develop its resort status.


As with the rest of the British Isles and Scotland, Dunoon experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. It is an exceptionally wet part of the country, particularly so for place near sea level, with annual average rainfall totals nearing 2,400mm per year. The closest MetOffice weather station is at Benmore Botanic Gardens, around 7 miles north of the town centre.

Recorded temperature extremes since 1960 range from during July 1983[3] to as low as during January 1982.[4]

Holy Loch

Holy Loch seen across the Firth of Clyde with Dunoon on the left
Holy Loch seen across the Firth of Clyde with Dunoon on the left

As the Cold War intensified Holy Loch became internationally famous when in 1961 the U.S. Navy submarine tender brought Polaris ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament protesters to the Firth of Clyde at nearby Sandbank, and Dunoon provided shore facilities. Holy Loch was, for 30 years, the home port of US Navy Submarine Squadron 14. In 1992, the Holy Loch base was deemed unnecessary following the demise of the Soviet Union and subsequently withdrawn. The last submarine tender to be based there, the USS Simon Lake, left Holy Loch in March 1992 leading to a major and continuing downturn in the local economy and prompting howls of protest from local taxi drivers and publicans. In May 2012 Dunoon and Campbeltown were jointly named as the most vulnerable rural places in Scotland to a downturn in a report by the Scottish Agricultural College. The "vulnarability index" ranked 90 Scottish locations according to factors associated with economic and social change.[5][6]

The US Navy base was the subject of the 1988 film Down Where The Buffalo Go starring Harvey Keitel. Many of the scenes were shot around Dunoon and the navy base itself.

Holy Loch was also the location of the boat yard Alexander Robertsons, builders of the America's Cup challenger Sceptre, a 65-foot, 17-tonne yacht designed by David Boyd.


Dunoon Stadium during the 2008 Cowal Highland Gathering. In view is the larger of the stadium's two grandstands. Dunoon town centre, to the south, is in view.
Dunoon Stadium during the 2008 Cowal Highland Gathering. In view is the larger of the stadium's two grandstands. Dunoon town centre, to the south, is in view.

The town's sporting arena is Dunoon Stadium, which is located in the north of the town, near Dunoon Grammar School. When it hosted football matches, it had the largest capacity of any amateur ground in Scotland.[7] Its main use nowadays is as the focal point of the Cowal Highland Gathering.

The UK national championships in swamp football were held in Dunoon in 2006 and 2007.[8][9] For 2008 they were held in nearby Strachur.[10]

Cowal Rugby Club is the home of rugby in the Cowal Peninsula in Scotland. Formed in 1976 the club reached its peak in 2008 with its first league victory in the Scottish hydro Electric Western Regional League West Division 2.[11]

Cowal Highland Gathering

The Cowal Highland Gathering attracts hundreds of contestants and many thousands of spectators from all over the world. It is held annually over the final weekend in August.


Dunoon's local newspaper, published weekly on Fridays, is the Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard.

In March 2010, Dunoon Community Radio was launched.[12] Programming is broadcast from the Argyll Business Centre.[13]


Dunoon is served by Dunoon General Hospital, which provides 24-hour accident and emergency cover, a maternity unit, a palliative care hospice, a dental surgery, and two general healthcare wards providing 23 beds. Ambulance cover is provided by the Scottish Ambulance Service. The Emergency Medical Retrieval Service encompasses Dunoon within its catchment area, enabling rapid access to the skills of a consultant in emergency or intensive-care medicine, as well as facilitating transfers to larger, better-equipped city hospitals.

Notable people

Laudervale, a residence of Sir Harry Lauder (now demolished)
Laudervale, a residence of Sir Harry Lauder (now demolished)
Possibly Dunoon's most famous resident was Sir Harry Lauder (1870 1950), whose mansion, Laudervale, stood just south of Dunoon on Bullwood Road. After a fire, which burnt over half of it, it stood ruinous until c. 1980 when it and the stable blocks were demolished. Much of the grounds were subsequently sold for housing development. The development there today preserves the Laudervale name.

Conservative Cabinet minister Virginia Bottomley (Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone) was born in Dunoon, as were former Manchester United player and QPR manager Stewart Houston, actor Sylvester McCoy,[14][15] Tom Wisniewski of the Christian punk band MxPx and Lyn-Z, artist and bass player for the rock group Mindless Self Indulgence.[16]

American actress Julianne Moore has connections to Dunoon, as her mother is originally from the town.[17] Moore still has family in the area.[18]

Neil MacFarlane, a professional footballer who reached the 2008 Scottish Cup Final with Queen of the South, was born in the town.

Grant Morrison, writer of Superman and Batman comic books, has moved from hometown Glasgow to a renovated mansion just outside of Dunoon,[19] and spends part of the year in the town, and part in Los Angeles.[20]

Actress Emma Thompson married husband Greg Wise in Dunoon in 2003. They also keep a second home near the town.[21][22]

Dunoon Grammar School

Dunoon Grammar School was founded in 1641.[23] It has many notable former pupils, including the Labour Party politicians John Smith, George Robertson (later head of NATO), Brian Wilson and the Reverend Donald Caskie, also known as the Tartan Pimpernel.

In popular culture

In the late 1960s, it was the subject of a song entitled "Why Don't They Come Back to Dunoon?" by The Humblebums. This was a less than flattering ditty, mourning the declining tourist trade in the town. "There was a competition in a Glasgow newspaper," Billy Connolly once said, in a short interjection during a 1969 performance of the song. "The first prize was a week in Dunoon, and the second prize was a fortnight in Dunoon."[24] Dunoon is referenced in the 2010 Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre sketch 'The Getaway', in which the bank-robbing Socks mistakenly heist four kilos of small denomination coins and are forced to scale back their hideaway destination from Venezuela to the small Scottish town.


There are many Churches in Dunoon and surrounding areas.

  • St Muns Catholic Church
  • Cowal Baptist Church[25]
  • Kirn Parish Church
  • Holy Trinity Epicostal Church
  • Strone & Ardentinny Church
  • Dunoon Baptist Church Centre
  • St Johns Church
  • High Kirk
  • Kingdom Hall Of Jehovah's Witnesses
  • The Free Church


External links

de:Dunoon fr:Dunoon ga:D n Omhain gd:D n Omhain simple:Dunoon

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