Episode 6 – Dunoon

In this episode we will be telling you all Dunoon, which is the main town on the Cowal peninsula in the south of Argyll and Bute. We’ll hear from Colin from Dunoon Presents and from Ciorsdan who both tell us what Dunoon has to offer visitors, as well as from Malcolm from Cowal Gathering who will tell us all about the Cowal Gathering which takes place in August every year, and in 2023 will take place from the 24th to the 26th of August.  

Scottish Digest Podcast is a production of cluarantonn.com

Hosted and written by Dawn Young

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Hosted by Dawn Young

Welcome to Episode 6 of Scottish Digest, where we will be telling you all about Dunoon.


In today’s episode we will hear from Ciorsdan, who lives and works in Dunoon, who will tell us a little bit about what visitors can expect, from Colin from Dunoon Presents who will tell us more about what you can do and see while visiting Dunoon, and also from Malcolm who will tell us all about the Cowal Gathering event that takes place every year in Dunoon, and in 2023 will be taking place from the 24th to the 26th of August. While I apparently visited Dunoon regularly when I was young, visiting family members and for days out when we lived in Lochgilphead and Oban, I don’t actually remember these visits, so I’ll be finding out about Dunoon along with you. First off where is Dunoon? Well, according to Wikipedia, Dunoon is the main town on the Cowal Peninsula in the south of Argyll and Bute, and is located on the western shore of the upper Firth of Clyde, to the south of the Holy Loch and to the north of Innellan, and is also the gateway to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. It is about an hour and 52 minute drive north west of Glasgow.  But, while lovely that drive is, as I’ve driven on that route to and from Glasgow many times, it’s not the most direct route. This would be via ferry, and you have a couple of choices. If you have a car you can travel by Western Ferries from McInroy’s Point in Gourock to Hunters Quay, which is located about a four minute drive from Dunoon centre, and ideal if you were planning on staying at the Hunters Quay Holiday Village, and this crossing takes 20 minutes.  Or there’s a passenger ferry ran by Caledonian MacBrayne which departs from Gourock Ferry Terminal, where you will also find Gourock train station, and lands at Dunoon Ferry Terminal located right at the heart of Dunoon. This crossing takes about 25 minutes. So a wee bit shorter than driving around the road to Dunoon, and you get to relax and enjoy the crossing. However, if you’re like me and enjoy driving and decide to take the road to Dunoon well, just before you reach Dunoon, about 13 minutes outside of it, you will come across Benmore Botanic Garden, which is home to a world famous collection of plants from regions ranging from the Himalayas, China and Japan, to North and South America, with over 300 species of rhododendrons, which sounds very much like something which my gran would enjoy visiting, and she told me that she did frequently when she visited Dunoon. But, I’ve said a few times now, I much prefer visiting castles, and the Castle House Museum is a mere six minute walk from the Dunoon Ferry Terminal. According to castlehousemuseum.org.uk,  Castle House is a beautiful building with its own rich history, such as the flag post marking the original site of a 13th century stone castle. Castle House later became Dunoon’s public library, but now hosts the museum, where you can discover the history of the Dunoon, such as Highland clan battles, wartime Cowal and the Clyde Steamers in their heyday. A short walk from Castle House you will find a statue of Mary Campbell, also known as Highland Mary, who had an affair with the famous poet, Robert Burns, located on Castle Hill overlooking the water and Dunoon Pier. Speaking of the pier, Dunoon Pier is a fabulous Victorian Pier, which, according to Visit Scotland, is one of the finest and rarest examples of a category A listed Victorian Pier, which was completed in 1898, although its earliest parts date to 1835. The areas surrounding Dunoon are, according to Wikipedia, fast becoming recognised as a destination for outdoor pursuits, so let’s hear more about this from Colin from Dunoon Presents.


Colin – Dunoon is a small town on the west coast of Scotland just across the water from Greenock, indeed just a 15-20 minute sailing by ferry. Dunoon in the last 30 years has somewhat fallen by the wayside due to changing consumer trends, but that’s all changing. Dunoon is a town

very much on the up, there’s a multi-million pound private sector investment going into the town now, which will make the town one of the foremost mountain biking locations, not only in Scotland but across the UK. That project is at an advanced stage. Our project, we are called Dunoon Presents and we have honed a series of high-end events over the last five to eight years bringing new visitors to the town. There’s regular events on in the town all through the year, from markets selling high-end food and non-food, outdoor markets. There are many sporting events, we run a 10K in August,  we run an ultra marathon in October, which is an off road race for a distance in excess of 26 miles, in this case 33 miles. We host a round of the Scottish rally championship, Dunoon is one of the rounds of seven on that. Indeed the town is on one night of that event turned into a, effectively, a Scalextric track, for one of a better term, and one of the rounds is raced round the streets of the town. It’s a fantastic spectacle. We have had, and will have back again, a round of UK powerboat championships, hopefully in 2024. The last one we did was 2022, which was highly successful. So, you can see that we’re using the natural resources of the town, which are the land and the sea, to bring new visitors to the town. And if you check us out either on Dunoon Presents Facebook page or our website, which has regular updates with event information, is www.dunoonpresents.co.uk. And if you’ve got any inquiries at all please email us on info@pa23.org.uk, that’s info@pa23.org.uk. We look forward to seeing you in Dunoon very soon.

Dawn – dunoonpresents.co.uk is full of information about Dunoon, including accommodation, places to eat, places to visit, and events that take place there throughout the year.


In my gran’s day when she would visit Dunoon, she told me that during the two-week Glasgow Fair holiday in July, where everything in Glasgow closed down, Dunoon, amongst other places on the west coast of Scotland, was inundated with visitors arriving by paddle steamer from Glasgow. So I hope the regeneration that Colin talks about will bring back the ‘Doon the Watter’ era, which refers to Glaswegians visiting the Clyde Coast en-mass for the holidays. Speaking about Dunoon being inundated with visitors, during the Cowal Gathering, around 23,000 people visit Dunoon each year to experience the festival of Scottish culture. Here’s Malcolm to tell you more.


Malcolm – Cowal Gathering has taken place at the end of August in Dunoon on the West Coast of Scotland since 1894. The event has grown since those early days to become a three-day extravaganza of traditional Scottish culture. We are delighted to host several of the most important Highland Dancing championships in the Highland Dancing calendar, including the World Highland Dancing championships, which brings Highland Dancers from across the world, including Canada, America, South Africa and New Zealand. Cowal Gathering also hosts the Cowal Pipe Band Championship, which is the oldest pipe band championship in the world, having first been held at Cowal in 1906. Unbelievably, the Argyll Shield is also the oldest Pipe Band trophy in the world, and was donated to the competition in 1906 by Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter. We also boast a juvenile solo piping competition. There is also international backhold wrestling with competitors from France and Germany and across the UK. And also an international heavy athletics championship, which this year will see teams from Austria and Germany and Scotland battle it out for the incredible Sutherland trophy. So the Cowal Gathering really is an excellent display of traditional Scottish culture, featuring some of the top competitors in all the fields from around the world. But it’s more than that. On the Saturday of the Cowal Gathering we also have a fantastic array of free family entertainment in what we call the top field area.   This includes the Cowal live music tent, which this year is headlined by Trail West, but also has fantastic bands like Torridon, Cala and Trávee playing. There’s also a live Ceilidh dancing tent, where you can take your partners and learn to do traditional Ceilidh dancing to the live band the Inverhooley Ceilidh Band. There’s also plenty for the kids to do though, with Artie’s Singing Kettle entertaining the very youngest kids, there’s a mountain bike track for the  middle-aged kids, there’s arts and crafts workshop for children. There is also, we are delighted this year to have The Clan, Scotland’s mountain bike stunt team are back, wowing everyone with their high jumps. There’s also Punch and Judy shows, clowns, balloon modelling, axe throwing. All kinds of amazing things for the family to do, that are all included in the actual admission ticket price. So, you can come to the Cowal Gathering and you can have a fantastic day out and it doesn’t need to break the bank, most of the entertainment that’s there is included in your actual admission ticket.

Dawn – If you’d like to find out more about the Cowal Gathering visit cowalgathering.com.


Finally, here’s a bit more information from Ciorsdan Faga, who lives in Dunoon and works as a product development agent for the Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative.


Ciorsdan – Dunoon is the main town on the Cowal Peninsula.  It’s situated on the Firth of the River Clyde and is only about 90 minutes away from Glasgow, but it’s a world of difference away from it. It’s the gateway to the Highlands and it has an island like feel but with the benefit of both road and ferry access. There’s a beautiful wide stretch of promenade along the east and west bays, where you can walk along the seafront enjoying the surrounding sea and mountain views, and many of the locals will greet you as you pass them on the prom. There’s lots of great things to see and do in Dunoon. Dunoon has one of Scotland’s few remaining Victorian Piers, it has the Castle House Museum, the Burgh Hall, there’s the Benmore Botanical Gardens that’s close by, which is home to a world famous collection of plants. Dunoon is also the marine gateway to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, and a section of the park is actually located just down the road. There’s a host of cycling, walking and running opportunities in the hills and forest tracks that surround Dunoon, and if you’re a keen mountain biker in particular you should look up the Dunoon Project who have focused on developing the mountain bike trails on the hills just behind Dunoon. Also there’s great amenities in the town, such as a local swimming pool, a cinema, two supermarkets and there are great shops. There’s a whole host of events held in the town all year round, from local markets, music events, running and cycling events, artist open studios, a walking festival, the Argyll Rally, and of course the Cowal Highland Gathering, which actually hosts the Highland Dancing World Championships every year. You can find out more information about the events on the Dunoon Presents website and What’s On Dunoon website. Wildlife is also a big feature here, if you’re a bird lover it’s a dream; with Eider ducks, Cormorants, a variety of Waders and Birds of Prey. You can also see Porpoise, Dolphins, Red Squirrels, Pine Martens, the list goes on. There’s plenty of choice for foodies in Dunoon too, with a host of cafes and restaurants, and self-cater holiday makers can get excellent locally sourced produce in the local butchers. You can find out more on the Wild About Argyll website under the Dunoon and Cowal Section, and you can also find local accommodation through this site.  Dunoonhas something for everyone; culture, the outdoors, wildlife, adventure, events, family activities and local products. What more could you ask for?

Dawn – All links mentioned in today’s episode you can find on our website cluarantonn.com/scottishdigest, that’s c-l-u-a-r-a-n-t-o-n-n.com/scottishdigest. So that’s the end of today’s episode. We hope you have enjoyed finding out more about Dunoon. Join us next time for another wee slice of Bonnie Scotland


Scottish Digest is a production of Cluarantonn.