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This article is about the Scottish town. For other uses, see Dunoon (disambiguation).
Dunoon Pier.jpg
Dunoon, looking north from Castle Hill towards Hunters Quay. The Victorian pier is to the right and the Queen's Hall is to the left
Dunoon is located in Argyll and Bute
Dunoon shown within Argyll and Bute
Population 13,200 [2]
est. 8,310[3] (2006)
excluding Sandbank
OS grid reference NS174764
• Edinburgh 82.1 miles (132.1 km)
• London 434 miles (698 km)
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district PA23
Dialling code 01369
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
List of places
Coordinates: 55°56′49″N 4°55′23″W / 55.947°N 4.923°W / 55.947; -4.923

Dunoon (/dʌˈnn/; Scottish Gaelic: Dùn Omhain) is the main town on the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It is located on the West shore of the upper Firth of Clyde, to the South of the Holy Loch and to the North of Innellan.

The history of Dunoon is dominated by two Clans, Clan Lamont and Clan Campbell. Around the town there are trails for walking, running and mountain biking. Local wildlife includes red deer, red squirrels, and many species of birds.

The largest annual event held in the town is the Cowal Highland Gathering. The Royal National Mòd has been held in the town seven times and in 2018 will again be held at Dunoon.


Dunoon castle[edit]

Very little remains of the 12th-century Dunoon Castle.[4] It eventually became a royal castle with the Earls of Argyll (Campbells)[5] as hereditary keepers, paying a nominal rent of a single red rose to the sovereign. The castle was destroyed during the Argyll Rising, a rebellion in 1685 against James VII.[6][7] Mary, Queen of Scots visited Dunoon Castle on 26 July 1563 and granted several charters during her visit.[8][9]

Dunoon massacre[edit]

The Dunoon Massacre of members of Clan Lamont by members of Clan Campbell, took place in 1646. There is a memorial to this event on Auchamore Road.[10]

Castle Toward[edit]

Main article: Castle Toward

Castle Toward was built in 1820 and formerly owned by Clan Lamont.[11] It is 6.5 miles (10.5 km) south of the town, past Innellan, on the southern tip of the Cowal Peninsula, overlooking Rothesay Bay. Castle Toward was bought by Glasgow Corporation in 1947[12] and they sold it to Argyll and Bute Council, who then sold it on to a private individual in 2016.[13]

Paddle steamers[edit]

From 1812 to the late 1960s, fleets of Clyde steamers[14] brought holiday-makers doon the watter [15] from Glasgow to Dunoon and to numerous other town piers on the Firth of Clyde. The PS Waverley is the last surviving seagoing paddle steamer and berths at the Breakwater when visiting Dunoon, during the Waverley's summer season on The Firth of Clyde.[16]

American navy years[edit]

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

As the Cold War intensified, the Holy Loch became internationally famous when in 1961 the U.S. Navy submarine tender USS Proteus (AS-19) brought Polaris ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament[17][18] 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 1991, 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. 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.[19][20][21]

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.[22]

  • Campbell Clan History.[23]
  • Lamont Clan History. Including the Dunoon Massacre.[10]



Annual events[edit]

Cowal Highland Gathering[edit]

Cowal Highland Gathering[25] attracts contestants and spectators from all over the world. It is held annually over the final weekend in August at Dunoon Stadium.[26]

Cowal Open Studios[edit]

Cowal Open Studios, held over a fortnight in September, gives the oppertunity to visit the studios of artists around Dunoon and Cowal.[27]


Cowalfest, celebrates the outdoors activities espesially walking/rambling and scenery around Dunoon. Held over ten days in October.[28]

Dunoon Film Festival[edit]

In 2013, the first Dunoon Film Festival was held over 3 days and opened with first public screening of Your Cheatin' Heart, a series made by the BBC that had last been shown on television in 1990.[29]

An Comunn Gàidhealach (Royal National MOD)[edit]

Dunoon has hosted the Royal National Mòd a number of times - 1930, 1950, 1968, 1994, 2000, 2006 and 2012.[30] The MOD is scheduled to be held in Dunoon in 2018.[31]

Dunoon In music[edit]

In the late 1960s, it was the subject of a song entitled "Why Don't They Come Back to Dunoon?" by The Humblebums.[32] 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."[33]

In 2014, Damon Albarn revealed that the inspiration for his 2013 song "The Selfish Giant" came from Blur's visit to Dunoon in 1995 and a view he had of the Holy Loch. "It was a beautiful misty evening," he remembers.[34] "There was a single submarine in the Loch – why it was there I don’t know. I had a very strong image of the Loch and submarines and walking down the main drag in Dunoon after the gig, going to someone's house for a party, and a song came out of it." The song includes the line "walking down Argyll Street when the evening colours call".[34] Albarn also stated: "Now every time I sing "The Selfish Giant" I go back to that night in Dunoon, which was a really great night, a fantastic night." When asked if he would consider playing solo in Scotland, he replied: "I’d love to. Maybe Dunoon? Then I can walk down Argyll Street again."[34]

Dunoon In film[edit]

The 1988 film Down Where The Buffalo Go, starring Harvey Keitel, featured many scenes that were shot around Dunoon and the American navy base itself.[22]

Local connection[edit]

Peter Dorschel, who was born in East Germany, briefly rented a house in Dunoon in April 1967. This provided him with a view of the activities in the Holy Loch Polaris submarine base that caused his imprisonment for espionage.[35]

Oscar nominated Actress Julianne Moore has connections to Dunoon, as her mother is originally from the town.[36] Moore still has family in the area.[37]

Grant Morrison, the writer of Batman and Superman comic books, moved from his hometown of Glasgow to a renovated mansion just outside Dunoon,[38] and spends part of the year in the town and part in Los Angeles.[39]


Community facilities[edit]


There are three General Practices (GP) which provide primary health care and referral services to the peoples of Dunoon.

  • Church Street Surgery[40]
  • Drs Taylor-Kavanagh & Mosley, Argyll Street Surgery[41]
  • Dr Hall & Partners, Argyll Street Surgery[42]

Dunoon is served by Cowal Community Hospital,[43] which is run by NHS Highland. The hospital provides a 24-hour accident and emergency department along with a maternity unit, palliative care hospice, dental surgery, and one general healthcare ward providing 10 beds.

There are two Dental Practices in Dunoon.

  • Hollies Dental Surgery in Dunoon, offers both private and NHS service.[44]
  • Argyll Smile in Kirn, Dunoon offers a private service to adults and both NHS and private services to children.[45]

Queen's Hall[edit]

The Queen's Hall[46] is the town's major multi-function hall complex. Situated opposite the head of the Victorian Pier and was built in 1958, officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on the 11th August 1958.[47] The building houses four function suites and a large main hall. The main hall has a full working stage with professional sound and lighting equipment, and in recent years it has attracted popular acts such as Pink Floyd,[48] Blur, the Saw Doctors, David Gray. Morrissey, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Primal Scream[49] and comedians Kevin Bridges, Bill Bailey and Roy Chubby Brown among others.

In late 2015 the Queen's Hall was closed to enable a major refurbishment. As of November 2016 the works were expected to be completed and the hall reopened by May 2017,[50][51] but in December 2016 it was announced that the refurbishment would not commence till January 2017.[52]


Dunoon Library is situated on Argyll Street.[53]

Dunoon Stadium[edit]

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.[citation needed] Its main use nowadays is as the focal point of the Cowal Highland Gathering. Motor cycle dirt track racing (or speedway) was staged at the stadium on 18 June 1932 as part of the annual Dunoon and Cowal Agricultural Show. A demonstration event had been staged in May 1932.

Swimming pool (Riverside Swim and Health Centre)[edit]

This indoor pool and associated facilities is located in the centre of Dunoon, next to the Firth of Clyde on Alexandra Parade. It consists of a teaching pool and a main pool (25m long). There is also a water flume.[54]


Victorian Pier and Breakwater[edit]

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

Dunoon's Victorian Pier was first built in 1835; it was extended to the current structure in 1895.[55][56] The Pier was shortened to allow the building of a breakwater in 2005. The breakwater was built just to the south of the Victorian Pier. As well as protecting the Victorian Pier and the Pier's architecture from storm surges, a new Link-Span was also installed alongside the breakwater. This was to allow the berthing and loading of ro-ro ferries instead of the side-loading ferries that used to serve the Victorian built pier. A tendering competition to serve the new Link-Span between two interested parties, namely Caledonian MacBrayne and local operator Western Ferries, failed when both parties withdrew from the tendering process. Prior to June 2011 the Pier was used daily by Caledonian MacBrayne, who ran a regular foot passenger and Car-ferry service to Gourock. However, after June 2011, the outcome of a renewed tendering process saw a passenger-only Ferry service (Argyll Ferries, owned by Caledonian MacBrayne) using the breakwater for berthing.

During the construction of the Breakwater, the cargo vessel Jackie Moon (82 metres in length), ran aground on the Breakwater, with six people on board at 0500, on 1 September 2004.[57][58]

The PS Waverley struck the Breakwater on 26 June 2009, with some 700 people on board.[59]

Since the Breakwater became operational in June 2011, Argyll Ferries operate from this docking facility.[60]

The Victorian Pier was partially refurbished by Argyll and Bute Council during 2015, now containing meeting rooms, the pier is purely a tourist attraction.[61][55]

Highland Mary (Statue)[edit]

Mary Campbell (1763–1786) also known as Highland Mary and Bonny Mary O' Argyll was born at Auchamore in Dunoon, to Archibald Campbell and Agnes Campbell in March 1763.[62] She started a serious affair with the bard Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) around 1786 however, they knew each other before this date.

The statue of Highland Mary, sculptured by David Watson Stevenson (1842–1904) and erected in 1896.[63] The statue is prominently sited on Castle Hill the remains of a 12th-century castle, overlooking the Breakwater in Dunoon.[64][65][66]

Dunoon war memorial[edit]

The war memorial of Dunoon is located in the Castle Gardens, overlooking the Victorian Pier.[67]

Burgh Hall Dunoon[edit]

The Burgh Hall is now a multifunction space, currently nearing the completion of a refurbishment (11/2016).[68]

Gantocks rocks and navigation beacon[edit]

The Navigation Beacon on the Gantocks Rocks in the Firth of Clyde, is close to the coast at Dunoon. Built in 1886.[69]

Lamont Clan Massacre Memorial[edit]

The Clan Lamont Dunoon Massacre which took place in 1646, when the Campbell Clan attacked the Lamont Clan. The memorial is on Auchamore Road, close to Castle Hill.[10]

Castle Hill and Viewpoint[edit]

Situated on Castle Hill, Castle Gardens this Viewpoint has sweeping views of the Firth of Clyde and Dunoon.[70]


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

Dunoon is accessible by direct land and sea routes. Indirectly by Rail at Gourock.


Dunoon lies towards 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 / Glasgow in the east, from the Inverary / Oban in the north and from Campbeltown in the west.[71]


There are two ferry operators who provide services from Gourock to Dunoon.

Local company Western Ferries LTD carries motor vehicles and foot passengers between McInroy's Point and Hunters Quay, while the Caledonian MacBrayne subsidiary, Argyll Ferries, runs the public service route, which is a foot passenger only service between Gourock Pier and Dunoon Breakwater.[72][73]


At Gourock Pier, an Abellio ScotRail train service provides access to the National Rail Network via the Inverclyde Line at Glasgow Central.


Public transport within Dunoon and the surrounding area is provided under Government subsidy by bus and coach operator West Coast Motors.[74]

West Coast Motors' route 486 provides a regular return journey from Dunoon town centre to Inveraray, where it connects with a Scottish Citylink service 926 and 976 onward to Campbeltown, Oban, Glasgow and points in-between.[75]

McGill's Bus Services operate route 907,[76] a frequent coach service from Dunoon town centre to Glasgow Buchanan bus station. The service travels aboard the Western Ferries river crossing and operates via Greenock and (Braehead Shopping Centre, Weekends only).[77]


Primary Education[edit]

Dunoon is served by two primary schools, Dunoon Primary School is on Hillfoot Street, this building was the original location of Dunoon Grammar School. St. Muns Primary School is on Pilot Street.[78][79]

Dunoon Grammar School[edit]

Main article: Dunoon Grammar School

Dunoon Grammar School is located on Ardenslate Road in Kirn, Dunoon. The Grammar School was founded in 1641.[80] It has many notable former pupils, including the Labour Party[81] politicians John Smith (13 September 1938 – 12 May 1994), George Robertson (later head of NATO),[82] Brian Wilson and the Reverend Donald Caskie,[83] also known as the Tartan Pimpernel (22 May 1902 – 27 December 1983).

University of the Highlands and Islands[edit]

Argyll College UHI has a centre in Dunoon, located in the West Bay, near to the Breakwater.[84]

Religious communities[edit]

There are many religious communities in the Dunoon area. All welcome new and visiting fellow worshipers.

  • St Munn's Parish Church;[85]
  • Cowal Baptist Church;[86]
  • Kirn Parish Church;[87]
  • Holy Trinity Epicostal Church;[88]
  • Strone & Ardentinny Church;[89][90]
  • Dunoon Baptist Church Centre;[91]
  • St. John's Church (Dunoon);[92]
  • High Kirk;[93]
  • Kingdom Hall Of Jehovah's Witnesses;
  • The Free Church[94]


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.


There is an abundance of fishing locations around Dunoon, both fresh and sea water.[95][96][97][98][99][100][101][102] There is also Dunoon and District Angling Club who hold the fishing rights to many areas in the area.[103][104][105][106]

Mountain biking[edit]

There are local Mountain Biking trails.[107]

Dunoon Camanachd (Shinty)[edit]

Dunoon Camanachd was established in 2015. The team started competing in South Division 2, in 2016.[108]

Cowal Golf Club[edit]

Cowal Golf Club is situated on the hillside above Kirn, Dunoon. It is a eighteen hole course of 6251 yards in length with a Par score of seventy.[109][110][111]

Bowling clubs[edit]

There are two Bowling Clubs in Dunoon, Dunoon Argyll Bowling Club on Mary Street.[112] Bogleha' Bowling Club is on Argyll Street.[113]

Swamp soccer[edit]

In 2006 and 2007, the town hosted a six-a-side swamp football tournament that attracted around 500 players and 1000 spectators.[114][115] In 2008 the tournament was held in nearby Strachur.[116]

Cowal rugby club[edit]

Cowal Rugby Club was 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.[117]


Dunoon Amateurs FC, founded in 1975, play matches at Dunoon Stadium and Dunoon Grammar School.

Dunoon youth football league[edit]

The Dunoon Youth Football League (DYFL) is a voluntary organisation to provide development of football skills to all ages between 4 and 17. The DYFL have their own clubhouse and changing facilities at Dunoon Stadium.The DYFL is open for membership to all children between the above-mentioned ages. All coaches are parents who have received coaching certification through the Scottish Youth Football Association (SYFA), and the club has a PGA officer and coaches with Sports Injuries First Aid Certification. As of January 2015 the club had a membership of over 125 children. In the summer of 2016 the DYFL celebrated its 35th anniversary of its foundation.[118]


Castle Tennis Club in Dunoon is situated in the town's Castle Garden], the club has 4 courts, 2 of these are concrete and 2 are all-weather, all courts are flood lit. The clubhouse plays host to social events such as quiz,pool and darts nights.[119]

Notable people[edit]

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.[120]

Conservative Cabinet minister Virginia Bottomley (Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone[121]) was born in Dunoon, as were former Manchester United player and QPR manager Stewart Houston, actor Sylvester McCoy,[122][123] Tom Wisniewski of the punk band MxPx and Lyn-Z, artist and bass player for the rock group Mindless Self Indulgence.[124]

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

MT Carney, co-founder of British nail salon chain Nails inc. and former President of Marketing for Walt Disney Studios Worldwide, was born in the town.

Tourist attractions[edit]


There are many Trails (Walks, Running and Mountain Biking) around the hills surrounding Dunoon.[125]

Corlarach Hill[edit]

Corlarach Hill has way-marked routes for walkers, Mountain Biking and horse-riders.[126][127][128] These trails are located next to the Bishop's Glen on the hills above Dunoon.

Puck's Glen[edit]

Puck's Glen is the very popular short walk set in the hills close to Benmore Botanic Gardens. A tumbling burn (stream), criss-crossed by bridges, is enclosed by rocky walls heavily hung with mosses and overshadowed by dense trees. The walk has clear, waymarked paths. The Glen is named after Puck, Oberon's servant from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.[129]

Morag's Fairy Glen[edit]

Morag's Fairy Glen is a short gorge walk, with trails alongside the Berry Burn (Stream), located on the hill behind the West Bay area of Dunoon.[130][131][132]

Bishops Glen[edit]

This popular Trail (Walk) follows the shore of the one remaining, of once three reservoirs in the Glen, that used to supply the fresh water supply to Dunoon. The reservoir is damming the Balgaidgh Burn (Balgie) and is now a fresh water rod, fly fishing location.[133] There is access onto the hills behind Dunoon, including Corlarach Hill, from the Bishop's Glen Reservoir trails.[134][135]

Benmore Botanic Garden[edit]

The arboretum, part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, is 7 miles (11 km) North of the town, just before Loch Eck. The garden, formerly a private garden for the Younger family,[136] is now open daily to the public. Its 60 hectares (150 acres) feature some of the tallest trees in Britain, including the avenue of Giant Redwoods (Sequoia), some of which are over 37 metres (120 ft) high.[137] There is also the Grade 2 listed Victorian Fernery which was reopened in 2009 after an 18 month restoration.[138]

Castle House Museum[edit]

The Castle House Museum, which has been in existence since 1998, opens during the summer season. Holds historical information and displays for Dunoon and the Cowal Penisula.[139]

Holy Loch[edit]

Main article: Holy Loch

The events in/use of Holy Loch have influenced the economy and social lives in Dunoon with its use as a British Royal Navy submarine base during the Second World War (1939-1945) and as an American Navy Submarine base during the Cold War (1961-1992).[140][19]


As with the rest of the British Isles, Dunoon has a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. It is an exceptionally wet part of the country, particularly so for a place near sea-level, with annual average rainfall totals nearing 2,400 mm (94 in). The closest Met Office weather station is at Benmore Botanic Gardens, around 7 miles (11 km) north of the town centre.

Recorded temperature extremes since 1960 range from 29.6 °C (85.3 °F) during July 1983[141] to as low as −13.9 °C (7.0 °F) during January 1982.[142]

Climate data for Benmore Botanic Gardens 12m asl, 1971-2000, extremes 1960- (Weather station 7 miles (11 km) to the North of Dunoon)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.4
Average high °C (°F) 6.5
Average low °C (°F) 1.0
Record low °C (°F) −13.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 298.76
Source: Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute/KNMI[143]

Local media organisations[edit]

Local newspaper[edit]

Dunoon's local newspaper, published weekly on Fridays, is the Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard. There is an online edition at www.dunoon-observer.com

Local radio[edit]

On 1 December 2009, Dunoon Community Radio was launched.[144] Dunoon Community Radio or often called "DCR" by presenters has a variety of programming to meet the needs of people living in around Dunoon. Broadcasting on 97.4 FM from the Dunoon Observer building, Dunoon Community Radio is an independent social business entirely staffed by volunteers.


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External links[edit]