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Dunoon is the ferry port and only town on the Cowal peninsula, in Argyll and Bute in the Scottish Highlands. It's 30 miles (48 km) from Glasgow yet cut off by Loch Long to the east and Loch Fyne to the west. The peninsula is broken up by the inlets of Loch Goil, Holy Loch and Loch Striven, so the roads have to wind around. A narrow channel separates Cowal from the island of Bute. The area is hilly, containing the "Arrochar Alps" or Argyll Forest, the western portion of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. In 2020 the population of Dunoon was 7660.

Get in

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By boat

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There are two ferry crossings to Dunoon: see Gourock for fares and other details. By public transport, use the foot-passenger ferry from Gourock, which has frequent trains from Glasgow Central via Paisley, Port Glasgow and Greenock. Calmac ferries sail every 30 min from Gourock to 1 Dunoon ferry pier, taking 25 min. Until end of March 2024, the return fare is £10.20 adult, £5.10 child.

By car, follow M8 > A8 > A770 west through Gourock and continue west to McInroy's Point. Western Ferries sail every 20 min (7AM-11:40PM) to 2 Hunters Quay, at the north end of Dunoon by the mouth of Holy Loch. The crossing takes 20 min.

You can reach both ferries on McGill's Bus 901, which runs from Glasgow Buchanan station hourly to Gourock, and continues south to Wemyss Bay and Largs. Don't take the 906, which runs further inland.

Two other roundabout routes to Cowal and Dunoon are the ferry from Tarbert (Loch Fyne) to Portavadie, then follow B8000 / A8003 northeast; and to cross the Isle of Bute (ferries from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay, then Rhubodach to Colintrave) and drive north.

By car

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The car ferry to Hunters Quay is the quickest way, see above. But you can do it all by road, to create a circular itinerary, or if the weather's rough and the ferry is likely to be cancelled. From Glasgow take M8 west to cross Erskine Bridge, then A82 north past Dumbarton and Loch Lomond to Tarbet, then A83 west over "Rest and Be Thankful" to the A815 turnoff. Follow this south past Strachur and Lock Eck to Dunoon; maybe two hours altogether.

Get around

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You really need a vehicle or to be a keen cyclist. Buses are sporadic M-Sa and there's nothing on Sunday.

West Coast Motors Bus 486 runs four times from Dunoon north along A815 to Sandhaven, Whistlefield Inn, Strachur, Cairndow and Inveraray. Bus 484 runs twice M-F along the same route to Strachur then turns south to Lochgoilhead and Carrick Castle.

Bus 478 runs three times from Dunoon west along the B-roads to Sandbank, Auchenbreck, Tighnabruaich and Kames and Portavadie, which has ferries to Tarbert (Loch Fyne) on Kintyre. Colintraive is covered via the journey to connect with the Bute ferry.

Bus 489 follows the coast from Toward to Innellan and Dunoon, and continues north round Holy Loch to Sandbank, Kilmun, Strone and Ardentinny, roughly every couple of hours.

Bus 480 loops hourly between Dunoon, Hunters Quay pier and the holiday village.

Over in Tighnabruaich, Bus 471 serves a local service in a village from the north end to the south of Kames and over to Millhouse and Portavadie on Tuesdays-Thursdays about 5 or 6 times. Bus 473 connects Kilfinan, Otter Ferry and Largiemore to Tighnabruaich via Millhouse at least twice M-Fr

Bike hire: Start Line MTB are at 50 Wellington St, open M-F 9AM-5PM. They have recreational, mountain and children's bikes.

Taxi firms are Tuckers (+44 1369 701710), DM Taxi[dead link] (+44 7568 330108), Clyde Taxis (+44 1369 706444), and Taxi George which offers tours (+44 7913 601442).

See

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Paddle-steamer Waverley off Dunoon
  • 1 Benmore Botanic Garden, Uig, Dunoon PA23 8QU (on A815), +44 1369 706261, . Mar-Oct: daily 10AM-5PM. 120-acre estate managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh, you enter through a towering avenue of 150-year-old redwoods. RBGE have placed many of their Chinese and Himalayan collections here, where the climate suits, and the rhododendrons are rampant in early summer. Wear sturdy shoes. Adult £8, conc £7, child free. Benmore Botanic Garden (Q2371650) on Wikidata Benmore Botanic Garden on Wikipedia
  • 2 Kilmun Arboretum is on the hillside north of Holy Loch: suddenly you're among sequoia, redwoods, Oregon maple and eucalyptus. Deliberately non-native: over 260 species were planted here in 1930 to see what would grow in Scottish conditions, and these are the survivors.
  • Castle House Museum, near Dunoon ferry pier, is open M-Sa 10AM-4PM, adult £3.50, conc £3.
Benmore Botanic Gardens
  • Castles around Cowal are mostly just scenic stumps, you come for the view. These are
    • Dunoon Castle survives only as a hillock above the harbour, though it had artillery emplacements during World War II.
    • Hafton Castle by Hunters Quay is a lodge with mock castellations, available for upscale self-catering at £7000 / week.
    • 3 Lamont Castle or Old Toward Castle is 6 miles south of Dunoon, little more than an overgrown hummock. It's within the grounds of the 1820s Toward Castle, which served 1942-46 as HMS Brontosaurus, making it Scotland's only castle to operate as a Royal Navy warship named after a dinosaur. No visits there, but the owners permit responsible access to the old castle, follow the marked trail.
    • 4 Dunans Castle on A886 above Ormidale is a 19th-century baronial mock-castle ruined by fire in 2001 and unsafe to enter. The owners run an equally bogus "lord and lady" scheme, you buy a square foot of land and get an ornate scroll declaring you Lord / Lady of something or other, but it's meaningless.
    • 5 Old Castle Lachlan is on B8000 at Cairndow - the nearby New Castle Lachlan is a baronial pile used for weddings and so on.
    • 6 MacEwan Castle is by Kilfinnan, further south on B8000. You'll need to use your imagination with this medieval lump.
    • 7 Ascog Castle two miles west of Kames village is similarly dilapidated but tenaciously defended by midges.
    • Carrick Castle below Lochgoilhead is a long way round by road, and it's closed for restoration. The village takes the same name.
  • 8 Auchnaha Cairn is a chambered tomb maybe 5000 years old. It's broken up and in later times a Latin Cross has been carved into one of the stones.

Do

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Gatehouse of 1820s Castle Toward
  • Walk: Walk Highlands describe routes for 18 good local walks. Easiest and closest to town is Pucks Glen, a short hike through an atmospheric ravine. Beinn Mhòr (741 m / 2431 ft) is the peak west of Lock Eck, a 5-hour hike via Glen Massan. Toughest of all is the 55-mile Loch Lomond and Cowal Way, which takes a week.
  • Cycle: agreeable routes are along the coast north round Holy Loch to Strone and Ardentinny; and along Loch Eck and up Glen Massan. The Five Ferries, often done as a charity challenge, is a one day cycle itinerary from Ardrossan, across Arran to Tarbert, then to Portavadie and Colintraive, finally across Bute to Wemyss Bay.
  • Treasure Trails: you buy a booklet online for £10, it sets you a murder mystery that takes you walking round Dunoon while solving clues.
  • Hunters Quay Holiday Village: see Sleep for activities based here.
  • Riverside Leisure Centre is on Dunoon promenade 400 yards north of the ferry pier. It has a gym and swimming pool. It's open M-Th 6:30AM-8:30PM, F 06:30AM-7:30PM, Sa Su 8AM-4:30PM.
  • Scuba diving: Wreckpeditions run dive trips from Holy Loch Marina.
  • Cowal Highland Gathering is held at the end of August in Dunoon, with pipe bands, caber-tossing and so on.

Buy

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Police pipers at Cowal Highland Gathering
  • Morrison's on John St is open M-Sa 7AM-10PM, Su 8AM-8PM.

Eat

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  • 51st State & La Cantina, 200 Argyll St, Dunoon PA23 7HA (within Argyll Business Centre), +44 1369 705550. Daily 11AM-9PM. Bar, grill and pizzeria in retro-America diner style.
  • Anselmo's[dead link] does fish & chips at 36 Hillfoot Place, open M-Sa noon-1:45PM, 4:30-9:30PM.
  • Inver Restaurant is on B8000 facing Old Castle Lachlan. It's open Apr-Oct: W-Su noon-2:30PM & 6:30-8:30PM; March Th-Su and Nov to mid-Dec F-Su same hours.
  • Loch Fyne Oyster Bar is on A83, see Inveraray.

Drink

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  • Bars in Dunoon include Tryst, The Clansman, Ingram's, Sinbad's, the Victoria and the Lorne.
  • Out of town, The Whistlefield (see Sleep) is the best for a traditional atmosphere. Or try Coylet Inn on the same road, which also has rooms and a restaurant, or Strone Inn on the far shore of Holy Loch.

Sleep

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Hunters Quay
  • The Anchorage, Shore Road, Sandbank, Argyll PA23 8QG (On A815 one mile north of Hunter's Quay), +44 1369 707646. B&B with great views of Holy Loch and a family-run feel, welcoming and comfy. It remains closed in 2023. B&B double £95.
  • 1 Hunters Quay Holiday Village, Kirn PA23 8HP, +44 1369 707772. This has static caravans (no tourer pitches), self-catering lodges and leisure and entertainment facilities. Open all year, min stay 2 nights, dog-friendly.
  • Royal Marine Hotel, 251 Marine Parade, Kirn PA23 8HJ (by Hunters Quay pier), +44 1369 705810. Friendly hotel in a charming old building, built in 1856 in mock-Tudor. B&B double £75.
  • Cedars Guest House is a welcoming B&B at 51 Alexandra Parade, half a mile north of Dunoon ferry pier.
  • SGE Argyll Hotel, 54 Argyll St, Dunoon PA23 7NE, +44 1369 702059, . Overlooking the pier, decent enough mid-range hotel with 33 rooms. Sometimes noisy from nearby pubs. B&B double £90.
  • SGE Esplanade Hotel, Victoria Parade, Dunoon PA23 7NE (by Dunoon ferry pier), +44 1369 704070, . Dated but clean and friendly. B&B double £100.
  • Selborne Hotel is on Clyde St 100 yards west of SGE Esplanade. The ground floor rooms have been modernised, the upper floor is a work in progress.
  • 2 Park Hotel, 3 Glenmorag Ave, Dunoon PA23 7LG, +44 1369 702383. Pleasant small hotel in a quiet spot south edge of town. B&B double £100.

Further out

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  • Camping is available at some caravan parks. The closest to Dunoon is Cot House at the head of Holy Loch, junction of A815 & A880. The Invereck site nearby has closed.
  • 3 Whistlefield Inn, Loch Eck PA23 8SG (on main road 15 miles north of Dunoon), +44 1369 860484, . Traditional drovers' inn with rooms and restaurant, great reviews. B&B double £90.
  • 4 Creggans Inn, Strachur, Cairndow PA27 8BX, +44 1369 860279. Grand little inn on Loch Fyne, great food, dog-friendly. Open all year. B&B double £150.
  • Colintraive Hotel: see Isle of Bute. The hotel is on Cowal mainland by the ferry pier for Bute, which is the only reason you'd go that way.

Connect

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As of June 2023, Dunoon and its approach roads have a patchy 4G signal from all UK carriers. 5G has not reached this area.

Go next

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This city travel guide to Dunoon is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.