Things To Do In Dunoon

Dunoon is a small town but there is plenty for tourists to enjoy.

Local Area  ♦  Heritage  ♦  Activities  ♦  Culture  ♦  Food 

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Looking toward West Bay and Castle House, with the hills of Strone in the distance.
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A view of Castle Gardens, Castle House and Queen's Hall from Castle Hill.
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Looking north up Loch Striven from near Inverchaolain

Dunoon originally became a thriving tourist town because of its temperate climate, natural beauty and easy access from Glasgow. Nowadays it has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. We have plenty to offer – even Mediterranean weather if you come at the right time of year – although it’s probably best to pack an umbrella just in case!

Tourists and locals alike enjoy recreational walks in timelessly beautiful spots like Bishop’s Glen or Puck’s Glen, and there are forestry trails and pilgrim routes further afield if you’re feeling adventurous – or have a particularly enthusiastic dog!

Nearby you can enjoy Kilmun Arboretum, Benmore Botanic Gardens (and their lovely cafe), scuba dive to explore ruined vessels with Wreckspeditions, join a quad-biking adventure with Quadmania, peruse the Art Gallery at Dunoon Burgh Hall, or enjoy live music in the Queen’s Hall.

Argyll Street (the main high street) and nearby Hillfoot street are full of independent shops where you can find everything from handmade candles to a new novel and plenty of Dunoon themed gifts.

If you would rather be sightseeing than shopping, then we recommend you head south for Toward Lighthouse, which has great views over the Firth of Clyde to Bute and Largs. Then push on to Inverchaolain, which has great views over Loch Striven, often visited by Navy warships. Alternatively, take a drive through Argyll’s Secret Coast over to Tighnabruaich.


Argyll & Bute: Rich In History

Cowal Peninsula and the surrounding area boasts historic significance and architectural heritage stretching back to Neolithic Times.

Local Area  ♦  Heritage  ♦  Activities  ♦  Culture  ♦  Food 

Dunoon and Cowal are rich in history, which of course is the very reason our museum exists! If you are a keen historian, or simply want to learn more about the area, then there is an abundance of options to tempt you after you leave Castle House Museum.

Historic Kilmun is only a short drive away, situated on the shore of Holy Loch. During open hours you can explore the Visitor Centre and the Campbell Mausoleum for a small fee, with the option of a free guided tour. Outwith those hours, you can wander around the ancient graveyards, admire the architecture and make use of the excellent interpretation boards.

Laird’s Grave is just north of Kilmun, in Ardentinny. There is a short walk along a forestry trail to this peaceful spot marking the remains of Archibald Douglas, who died in 1860.

Toward is a small hamlet on the south tip of the Cowal peninsula, just 15 mins drive away from us. It boasts two historic castles in its vicinity: Castle Toward and Toward Castle. The former is a 19th century stately home designed by David Hamilton, the same architect responsible for Castle House itself, so the Gothic crenulations will feel familiar (it’s been privately sold recently, so you may have to admire from a distance); and the latter is an atmospheric, ruined 15th century tower with a 16th century courtyard – the ancestral home of Clan Lamont.

All of the above can be visited using the 489 bus service, which departs from the ferry terminal opposite Castle House, so if you didn’t bring a car, don’t let that put you off.

Further afield, there’s Strachur Smiddy, Ardkinglas Estate, Old Castle Lachlan, Inveraray Jail and Auchindrain Township to name but a few.

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Kilmun Church, behind which lies the Campbell Mausoleum
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Daffodils blooming in springtime at Castle Toward
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Old Castle Lachlan and nearby Kilmorie Ruins are steeped in history


The Hills Are Alive

Whether it is walking, fell running, mountain biking or water-based; Dunoon and Cowal are full of opportunities for adventure.

Local Area  ♦  Heritage  ♦  Activities  ♦  Culture  ♦  Food 

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The west shore of Loch Eck offers some great trails for walking, running or cycling.
Dunoon Hill Runners
Dunoon Hill Runners are a friendly crowd
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Looking north-west toward Rashfield from Sandbank

If you’re looking to do something more active during your stay in Dunoon, then you are in luck as there are plenty of options.

There are many short local walks if you fancy a stroll, but for the more adventurous there’s also The Loch Lomond Cowal Way, a 57 mile route from the South West tip of Cowal travelling North East toward Loch Lomond. The route promises beautiful coastlines, dramatic scenery, engaging heritage and abundant wildlife; it is a truly authentic Scottish experience.

There are no Munros to appease the baggers among you, but Cowal does have some great hills to climb, the highest being Beinn Mhor. And if you’re staying a while in the region, then the Faith in Cowal pilgrim trails offer the best way to see Cowal on foot. With 200 miles of pilgrim routes criss-crossing the peninsula in a network that links 15 ancient sites, these tails will get you up into the hills and off the beaten path.

If you love the water, then there are two sailing clubs nearby. One is based at Holy Loch Marina and offers excellent facilities and superb views. The other is down at Toward Sailing Club and has great racing waters. Slightly further afield there is also Portavadie Marina; a hub for sailing enthusiasts, with a Five Gold Anchor Award facility. Or enjoy a private coastal tour on ‘The Morag‘ with DC Marine; boat trips offering close up opportunities to see seals, porpoises and sea birds.

Mountain biking is big in Dunoon and Cowal, there are sections of the Cowal Way that make for easy riding, as well as short trails dotted around the region some of which are much more demanding – and of course, there’s everything in between. To find out more, get in touch with Duncan MacLeod Cycling Services. There are even plans to improve upon facilities for mountain bikers by adding a cable car system and some new trails.

If hill running is more your thing, then we have hills aplenty for you to pit yourself against. Look no further than Dunoon Hill Runners for advice or running buddies.

For more detailed information on outdoor pursuits in Dunoon and Cowal, click through to the  Wild About Argyll website.


Dynamic Scottish Highland Culture

If our Museum left you with a desire to find out more about the culture and traditions of Cowal, then we have done our job properly.

Local Area  ♦  Heritage  ♦  Activities  ♦  Culture  ♦  Food 

If you are visiting Scotland with a view to experiencing some traditional Scottish culture, then you’d do well to align your visit with the Cowal Highland Gathering, which occurs at the end of August. The Gathering was first held in 1894 and is steeped in history. It showcases world-class pipers, dancers and athletes, and attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Dunoon, making it the largest, most spectacular Highland games in the world.

If you are looking for something more low-key, you will discover local folk musicians performing at many of the pubs in the area, as well as a regular, informal session, or ticketed concerts, held at Dunoon Burgh Hall or the Queen’s Hall.

Sports fans may be interested in attending a shinty match. Shinty is a fast-paced, full contact sport popular in the Highlands. Dunoon has a thriving women’s shinty team, as well as many youth shinty teams.

Highland dancers at the Cowal Gathering. Image by info@scottishviewpoint.com
Tug-o-War at the Highland Games. Image from visitscotland.com


Fabulous Independent Restaurants

There are eateries to suit every palate in and around Dunoon, from “munchie-box” to gourmet meals.

Local Area  ♦  Heritage  ♦  Activities  ♦  Culture  ♦  Food 

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Cowal may feel like a remote and undiscovered peninsula but there are options aplenty for the foodies in your party.

The Lorne, at the far end of Argyll Street offers a vibrant atmosphere, an extensive cocktail menu, and a mix of mouthwatering Scottish classics and beautifully presented modern dishes.

Dunoon boasts three Italian restaurants to suit all budgets: Livingstone’s offers a world class, diverse menu; La Cantina provides a cosy, taverna atmosphere and a range of Italian classics much loved by locals; and Rio is a contemporary pizzeria and Sicilian restaurant.

For a full list of eateries in the area, including a plethora of local cafe’s and takeaways, please click through to Dunoon Presents.

Further afield, but still accessible thanks to the 489 bus, are The Ardentinny, The Whistlefield, and The Osborne, all of which offer accommodation as well as excellent meals.

If you are able to explore the wider Cowal area, then there are treats in store! Inver Restaurant, near Strachur, serves up imaginative and bold dishes, reinventing Scottish gourmet. Booking is essential as it is very popular. Alternatively, head over to Botanica in Tighnabruaich, west Cowal, for an ever changing menu comprised of locally sourced, wild-foraged, seasonal produce. Again, it’s wise to book ahead.

There is a full list of eateries in the west of Cowal on the Argyll’s Secret Coast website. Or, for a more personal touch, click through to Eat Argyll, a food blog reviewing the best places to eat throughout Argyll and written by a local Dunoon resident.