Dunoon (Dùn Omhain in Gaelic) is a resort town situated on the Cowal peninsula in Argyll, Scotland. It sits on the Firth of Clyde beside the Holy Loch, and opposite Gourock.


Dunoon pier is over one hundred years old and still receives a connecting ferry with Gourock, run by Caledonian MacBrayne. Until the late 1960s fleets of paddle steamers brought holidaymakers doon the watter from Glasgow to it and numerous other piers on the Clyde, and it is still visited by the sole surviving sea-going paddle steamer PS Waverley. Overlooking it 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. As of summer 2008 the new linkspan remains unused and the breakwater itself is used only by local fishermen and the occasional berthing of the Paddle Steamer PS Waverley.

Holy Loch

As the Cold War intensified the Holy Loch became internationally famous when in 1961 the U.S. Navy submarine tender Proteus brought Polaris ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and CND 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 SUBRON-14 (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 In 1992, the Holy Loch base was deemed unnecessary following the demise of the Soviet Union and subsequently withdrawn.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 June 1992 leading to a major downturn in the local economy and prompting howls of protest from local taxi drivers and publicans. However the town is becoming vibrant again with many new homes having been built and the population is expanding once more.

The 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.


Dunoon is accessible by 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, plies the McInroy's Point to Hunters Quay route, and Government-owned Caledonian MacBrayne sails from Gourock pier to Dunoon pier. 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.

Cowal Highland Gathering

The Cowal Highland Gathering is the highlight of Dunoon's year and attracts hundreds of contestants and many thousands of spectators from all over the world. The largest Highland Games in the world, it is held annually over the final weekend in August.

Tourist attractions

The Queens 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 Blur, The Saw Doctors, David Gray and Red Hot Chilli Pipers, among others.

Castle Toward, built in 1820 and formerly owned by the Lamont clan, is 6.5 miles 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 seven miles 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 150 acres feature some of the tallest trees in Britain, including an avenue of Giant Redwoods, some of which are over forty metres high.

The UK national championships in swamp soccer is played annually in June.

References 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.

Notable people

Possibly Dunoon's most famous resident was Sir Harry Lauder (1870 - 1950) whose mansion, "Laudervale", stood just south of Dunoon on the 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.

Eric Campbell, the silent film comedian famous as Charlie Chaplin's hulking nemesis in several short films, was born in the town, and a plaque to his memory can be seen in the gardens at Castle Hill. Virginia Bottomley (Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone) was born in Dunoon, as were former Manchester United player and QPR manager Stewart Houston, Sylvester McCoy, an actor best know for his portrayal of Doctor Who, and Tom Wisniewski of the Christian punk band MxPx.

Dunoon Grammar School is over three hundred and fifty years old and has many notable former pupils, including the Labour Party politicians John Smith, George Robertson (later head of NATO), Brian Wilson, and also actor Sylvester McCoy.

Julianne Moore, the four-time Oscar-nominated actress, has connections to Dunoon, as her mother is originally from the town. Moore still has family in the area.

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



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