Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Impressive proposals for Dunoon revival

I have to give a mention to some plans being proposed to revive the fortunes of Dunoon.

A famed seaside town could be revived with cable car to take tourists up a hill, and rollercoaster to take them down, if ambitious plans for a community buyout go ahead.

The town of Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll and Bute, was once a popular spot for Glaswegians to go ‘doon the Watter’, but its fortunes diminished with the rise of package holidays abroad.

The resort, on the banks of the Firth of Clyde, has fallen off the tourist map but hopes are high it could once again become one of the biggest attractions in Scotland.

An ambitious plan, The Dunoon Project, based on a community buyout of the Corlarach forest above the town, could see it become a centre for outdoor activities.

A cable car would be installed to take passengers up the Kilbride Hill which rises above Dunoon to a cafe and observation spot at the top, according to the proposals.

Going down the hill to a base station, there would be the option of a zip-slide ride down the hill over a distance of four kilometres or a trip in an “alpine coaster” – a type of rollercoaster which follows the contours of the land.

Those of a less stalwart disposition could still take the cable car, or ride down on a mountain bike.

Plans to revive Scottish seaside town with cable car and rollercoaster

It’s an interesting plan, and certainly ticks the box for innovation and ‘Thinking outside the box’, but I fear it has missed one  or two small points.

Dunoon’s success in the days of ‘Doon the watter’ came to an end years ago, along with all the other Clyde coast resorts.

Most of those others have seen a revival in recent years, but I’d say they were luckier than Dunoon in that they are nearer, and don’t need such a long ferry trip, or drive.

I suspect that today, people seek more instant gratification, and the 2 hours or so it takes to get to Dunoon before having any fun is a potential barrier to success.

Unlike the others, Dunoon benefited immensely from the 31-year presence of a US submarine refit facility in the Holy Loch from 1961 to 1992.

That’s not coming back any time soon.

Other outdoor facilities, once popular in the area, have also failed to maintain the popularity they once enjoyed.

Castle Toward was once a popular residential outdoor centre, but once it ran into difficulties, all attempts to save it failed, and it fell of the radar.

Last heard of in 2018, it was still closed, but the grounds were open to public access.

If somewhere with an established record for activities couldn’t maintain its position (regardless of whatever politics or intrigue were, or may have been, going on in the background), that’s another reason I have my doubts about a new venture.

Sadly, I have to say I took a very quick trip to Ayr today, and looking at this sad shadow (so many empty shops, and nearly all the new/recent shopping arcades are almost empty too, with hardly any units occupied, and many of those only open for a few days, or with ‘Closing’ signs in the windows) of its former appearance, also suggests trying to revive somewhere as  far away as Dunoon is maybe a great idea, but with little chance.

I got this poster from a now defunct Dunoon web site some years ago, and have had to expand it as the image they had was very small.

This is dated 1943.

Dunoom Lido Poster 1943

Dunoon Lido Poster 1943



25/04/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Lost, military, Naval, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Demolition imminent for McColl’s Hotel in Dunoon

The issue of a warrant for the demolition of Dunoon’s McColl Hotel would seem to signal the end of a landmark.

While I wasn’t likely to stay there, the large white hotel building (visible on the left in the pic below) was something of a regular and welcome feature on a drive along the road past Dunoon, as it loomed ahead as you drove around Castle Hill, and below Highland Mary.

It’s nothing special, just one of those things that sticks in my mind.

There appear to be no current plans in place to replace the building:

The demolition of the hotel was described as ‘imminent’ in a response to a query by Cllr Mike Breslin to Brian Close, Planning Officer with the council for Bute and Cowal. The application does not include the Rosegarth Hotel site, adjacent.

Mr Close also told Cllr Breslin: “This will be closely monitored by Planning, Public Protection and SEPA in terms of waste material and burning on site.”

Mr Close continued in his response to Mike Breslin: “It is unfortunate that the applicants do not currently have a scheme on the table to develop both the McColl’s site and Rosegarth site.

“We have urged them to enter into pre-application enquiry discussions regarding suitable redevelopment of this very prominent and sensitive site.

“We would probably expect at this stage, blocks of high quality residential flats rather thann replacement hotel buildings, but future development options lie with the owners.”


24/08/2015 Posted by | Civilian, council, Lost | , , | Leave a comment

Cockleshell Heroes display at Castle House Museum Dunoon from August 2012

Castle House

Castle House Museum, Dunoon

Saturday, August 4, 2012, marks the opening of a display in Castle House Museum, Dunoon, to mark the 70th anniversary of Operation Frankton, probably better known by the name of the Cockleshell Heroes.

The display is scheduled to remain on show until October 2012.

This raid involved the submarine HMS Tuna and 10 men from the Royal Marines and 5 canoes (Cockles). The targets were merchant ships lying in Bordeaux harbour – ships that were successfully breaking the Allied blockade particularly between Japan and Germany. Conventional methods such as bombing had been discounted. Operation Frankton was an unorthodox, imaginative and daring solution. At the end of the first night only 2 canoes and 4 men were still operational. Four nights later they inflicted damage to 5 ships lying in the harbour. Only two men survived and returned to the UK.

More details can be found here: Operation Frankton on the Combined Operation web site

Background to the display

It was only a couple of months’ ago that it came to our attention that this year marks the 70th Anniversary of the above raid. What was not known by us was the fact that the contingent of Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment made their final training and preparation round about the Holy Loch and left from there on board HM Submarine Tuna on 30th November, 1942. This fact was made known to us by Adrian Hunt and David Neill of World War 2 Presentations who requested that a display of the original model canoe, together with a replica of one of the canoes and related memorabilia be staged within Castle House Museum, Dunoon until October, 2012.

We will be holding an Official Opening on Saturday, 4th August, 2012 from 10.30 a.m. until 2p.m. when the young local Fiddle Group and some of the Dunoon Grammar School Pipe Band will entertain. There will be short speeches from Adrian and David as well as the local Councillors etc. Teas, Coffee and Home Baking will be available in the nearby High Kirk. A few of the descendants have expressed a wish to attend. Also, I have asked the local RBLS to come along. In addition, the local Cinema will be screening the film ‘Cockleshell Heroes’.

It appears that there is no commemoration of this raid within Scotland and Adrian & David’s aim is to get permission (presently being sought) to place a wooden seat with commemorative plaque near to the present War Memorial at Lazaretto Point overlooking the Holy Loch. It is hoped this would be dedicated during the usual Service at the War Memorial on Armistice Sunday.

Information provided courtesy of Margaret McVicar of the Dunoon & Cowal Heritage Trust.

Castle House Museum Dunoon

Cockleshell Heroes at Castle House

Cockleshell Heroes at Castle House

27/07/2012 Posted by | military, World War II | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dunoon museum seeks Italians

Castle HouseA recent article in the Dunoon Observer reported that Dunoon’s Castle House Museum was eager to hear from local families of Italian descent.

The museum plans to hold an exhibition regarding the influence of these families, as they have had an influence in the area, and although they were not confined to such activities, much of the population became involved in the catering industry, as visitors to the coast over the years will have visited their chip shops, ice-cream parlours, and restaurants.

A Spokesperson for the museum said:

We are aware of the major contribution made by them in businesses, etc. The museum would like to properly record these contributions with a display of photographs and/or other memorabilia. The names of the families of which we are aware include Antonelli, Botteon, Capocci, Catignani, Drovandi, Francesco; Giarchi, Minghella, Moroni; Moscardinni, Pellicci; Porchetta, Thomas/Tomaso, Venterotti and Zambonini.

The article notes that an estimated 100,000 people in Scotland are of Italian descent or are Italian nationals, and that represents 1.9 per cent of the Scottish population.

The departure of these families is said to date back to 1890, when drought, famine, and poverty in Italy drove them to seek better prospects elsewhere.

The events of World War I saw the Scots-Italian population increase to some 4,000, and Glasgow is said to have had the third largest Italian community in the UK.

World War II saw a darker period descend on the Italian immigrant community, as Italy’s fascist tendencies resulted  in many families being split up as adult males were interred, and the remaining  family members were left to cope with mistrust, discrimination, and even violence from their former friends. Their businesses were attacked, and shop windows smashed, and it was not uncommon for the Italian owners to place pictures and details of the male members of their families in the window, showing that they were actually members of the British Army, and risking their lives fighting overseas.

The museum is open from 10.30am to 4.30pm (Sunday 2pm – 4.30pm) until October 28.

During the winter months it will be open each Wednesday morning for work to be carried out and any items can be handed in then.

Please contact John (01369) 701422 or e-mail

Castle House Museum Dunoon


02/10/2011 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, World War I, World War II | , , , , | 2 Comments

Dunoon – Gourock car ferry service ends in June 2011

car ferry red xAfter years of wrangling, argument, claim, counter-claim, and accusations best not repeated, confirmation of the cessation of the car ferry service connection Dunoon and Gourock was announced today.

The service has been operated by CalMac for years, and the State-owned company has been forced to operate a strangled service with limited numbers of sailing, in order to avoid direct competition with the nearby Western Ferries service, which operated without restriction between Hunter’s Quay (near Dunoon) and McInroy’s Point (near Gourock).

The CalMac service was limited to one sailing per hour, while Western sails up to four time per hour at peak periods. (I hope my recollection of reading the rules a few years ago is correct – I’m sure some reader will let me know if I am mistaken).

The CalMac car ferry will now be replaced by a passenger only service operated by Argyll Ferries, part of the Caledonian MacBrayne group David MacBrayne Ltd.

Two passenger ferries will be available to the new passenger only service, a larger vessel with a capacity for 244 passengers, and smaller alternate. The new service will operate a half-hourly service.

EU rules only allow a subsidy to be applied to passenger services on this route, and the State owned carrier is obliged to operate within EU rules.

Despite claims to the contrary – Ferry subsides ruled fair by EC – with private individuals claiming the EU requirements were being wrongly interpreted, and community support for the car ferry to be retained, it seems that the claims did not carry any weight, and in reality, it was not possible to maintain a subsidised operation on the car ferry.

It will be interesting to see if the battle of who was right or wrong, or who was lying, continues now that the final ruling has been made and the tender awarded. I suspect the appearance of recriminations and claims of ‘foul’ are yet to come, and there may still be considerable reading to come in the wake of this change.

The car ferry service between Gourock and Dunoon town centres is to come to an end.

CalMac currently operates a car ferry crossing on the route in competition with private company Western Ferries.

The new tender, for a passenger only service, has been awarded to CalMac’s Argyll Ferries and starts on June 30, 2011 .

Both Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde councils had hoped it would be possible to find another way of keeping a car service going.

BBC News – Gourock-Dunoon ferry route to be passenger only

Dunoon ferry memories

Although the CalMac car ferry was one I often sat and watched from both sides of the Firth of Clyde, it was not one I ever had any need to sail on. Although I’ve made more journeys between Glasgow and Dunoon that I’d like to admit (and with the price of fuel, might not make again), it was always at holiday time, so part of the day was the drive, which is a great way to spend a couple of hours, and there is so much gorgeous scenery to take in along the way.

Been on Western Ferries though – and had no idea if I was coming or going after a while.

Not as a passenger though, but repairing the battery system. Locked below decks, in the dark, and having to work on the system while the ferry sailed all day (they could not afford to take it out of service as long it could be made to sail), after an hour or two you lose count of the sailing, and have no idea whether you are coming or going, or at Hunter’s Point or McInroy’s Point. At least they always remembered to moor at the mainland end… where y car was lying.

25/05/2011 Posted by | Civilian, council, Maritime, Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Business as usual at Glen Kin Centre

It’s not all bad news this week, and as we noted the closure of the Clydebuilt Museum at Braehead yesterday, we received a comment correcting and updating an earlier post we made regarding the projected closure of the Glen Kin Centre at Sandbank by Dunoon.

The Glen Kin Centre is operated by a charitable trust set up in the 1970s with the aim: “To provide for young people a centre for outdoor recreation, occupation or other leisure activities where they may apply their practical skills and find comradeship and joy, all to the improvement of their conditions of life.”

It seems the centre was indeed looking at closure a while back, but is now up and running as normal and taking bookings from interested parties.

It has just launched a new website at: where details of the location, facilities, costs, and advice for those interested may be found.

Our thanks for the updated information.

17/10/2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard online web site

Dunoon Observer Christmas

New site banner

The Christmas theme on the title (shown to the right) was a bit of a surprise when my fingers slipped and I made a typo when I went to read the Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard online last week, and I accidentally discovered their new web site and presentation.

There must be many people familiar with the existing web site which the paper operates online at but I hadn’t noticed any warnings or mentions for the new and improved online site for the paper at

A small difference in address, but I have to say I heartily enjoyed seeing the new site, which has more facilities – which will take a little time to get going, but should make it better – and more importantly, gets rid of the old “evil frames” version of the online edition. I won’t go into details, but just punch “evil frames” into your favourite search engine, and you should get an idea of why I (for one at least) am pleased to see these relegated to history.

Pay them a visit, and maybe look in on their new forum too, where the current content is a plea for some input!

18/12/2009 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Clyde coastal resort windfall

Possibly sending one or two readers to check the date and be sure it wasn’t April 1, news that five towns on the west coast of Scotland which had been fighting for shares in a £10 million regeneration found that they had not only secured their shares, but that the fund had actually grown to £19.5 million with the addition of a further £9.5 million.

Originally, Independent consultants were reported to have recommended that the original £10 million be split to give Rothesay £2.4 million and Campbeltown £6.5m, leaving the other contenders, Helensburgh , Dunoon, and Oban with nothing (no, the numbers don’t add up for me either, but I can only quote what was reported).

The additional funding comes in the form of an additional £2.5 million being added to the programme, while the council’s budget for loans charges will be increased over the next five years to allow another £7 million to go into the overall fund.

Councillors unanimously agreed to divide the £19.5 million fund as follows:

  • Rothesay, £2.4 million as per the original recommendation
  • Campbeltown, £6.5 million as per the original recommendation
  • Helensburgh, £6.6m towards redevelopment
  • Dunoon, £3.5 million to be added to £5.3 million already committed to the redevelopment of the town’s Victorian pier
  • Oban Bay, £900,000 for a marina, increased to £6.9 million by an additional £6 million from the council in unallocated roads money from 2012 onwards

The process now requires the council’s executive committee to wait for a report setting out the full business cases for the approved projects.

Read more of the details, with a particular perspective on the restoration of Rothesay’s historic Art Deco pavilion.

27/11/2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Glen Kin Centre to close… ummm – Not!

Please Note: This post dates from 2008. The centre ‘s own web site was later updated with the following statement:

Our Future: After a period of uncertainty over  the future direction of the Centre and the Trust, we are glad to be able to look positively towards a much brighter future with bookings up and interest growing from both established and new clients.  We can confirm that the centre is no longer being offered for sale and we are fully committed to its future development.

See also our 2010 update: Business as usual at Glen Kin Centre

It seems the subject of closure of facilities is making more appearances than one might like, and this week saw the announcement for sale of the Glen Kin Outdoor Centre near Dunoon.

The centre dates back to 1978, when Glen Kin Farm was acquired by the Glen Kin Trust, and had the stated aim to “provide for young people a centre for outdoor recreation, occupation or other leisure activities where they may apply their practical skills and find comradeship and joy, all to the improvement of their conditions of life.” Since then, it has become a popular destination for school trips, and venue for Guide and Scout activities.

Able to sleep 24, with additional facilities for catering etc, the centre has seen a fall in numbers, with only three bookings recorded for this year. Increasing operational costs, combined with the seemingly endless onslaught of increasing Health & Safety demands, have led to reviews, and the final decision to sell.

Although the decision is sad, and has attracted negative criticism of the centre’s management – with regard to promotion, publicity and facilities – it seems that there is a general pattern developing, and those that are charged with managing such facilities are growing increasingly worried about litigation and claims made by those who attend them, with the upsurge in ambulance chasing organisations with finds to pursue them on behalf of clients, and act on a “No Win, No Fee” basis, meaning there is no reason not to raise an action, no matter how frivolous, as the only party that will suffer is the defender.

Like many such centres, it seems that Glen Kin was dependent on the goodwill of volunteers to maintain its operation, and that while improving the facilities and services offered might be covered by one-time grants, the ultimate result would be increased costs, which could prove to be unsustainable without additional resources or subsidies being available.

The trust’s chairman, Scott Bryson, said  “The aim is to sell the premises, continue the trust and set up a foundation through investment of the assets in a trust fund. The interest could provide support for travel, scholarships, courses, training, equipment and other facilities – this would enable groups and individuals to develop a wider range of skills and experience on a continuing basis.

21/03/2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

On chainsaws and sculpture

You never quite know what you will find hidden away in Scotland, and I’ve been watching the fortunes of one venture, as the owner has been having some hassles with the local authorities while trying to expand and maintain the viability of the business he has succeeded in in setting up in what some would describe as ‘The Middle of Nowhere”. But, that’s another story, hopefully with a happy outcome.

Andy MacLachlan of Chainsaw Craft has shot a video or three at his premises at his premises at Rashfield, by Dunoon. These have found their way on to YouTube, and have managed to make the top of the pile. His owl video has attracted close on 360,000 views as I write, over 1,200 comments, and 40,000 views in one day.

You can see more vids on his own site listed above, or on his YouTube site.

18/12/2006 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | 1 Comment


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