Local Area Overview

Cowal Kirk is situated on the beautiful Cowal peninsula on the vibrant Firth of Clyde.

Below we share an overview of the local area and its many amenities.

Local Area

Dunoon is situated on the beautiful Cowal peninsula on the vibrant Firth of Clyde. Although in a rural setting the town is only 90 minutes from the city of Glasgow via ferry to Gourock or by road over the stunning Rest and Be Thankful, with picturesque views of Loch Eck, Loch Fyne and the famous Loch Lomond en route.

Dunoon is the main town but the smaller areas of Sandbank, Hunters Quay, Kirn, Innellan and Toward all merge to form a population of around 12,000 people. Residents range from young families through to those who have retired and it is a popular area for second homes for both holiday or rental accommodation.

Dunoon prides itself as being the “Gateway to the Western Highlands” and is also recognised as the “Marine Gateway” to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Its proximity to both the central belt and the west coast of Scotland means that is ideal for both day trips and extended stays.

Transport Links

Dunoon’s setting on an Argyll peninsula gives it an “island feel” but it still offers excellent transport links to both the central belt and the highlands and islands. The quickest route to Glasgow and the central belt would be via a 20 minute ferry crossing.

Western Ferries offer a 20 minute service (15 minutes at peak times) seven days a week up until midnight on the weekends and Caledonian MacBrayne offer a passenger only service into the town centre twice an hour with late night sailings at the weekend.

For those visiting by sailing or motor boat there are marina facilities in Sandbank (4 miles from the town centre). There are local shops, bars, and coffee shops in the vicinity.

The Local Economy

Cowal is a rural economy with forestry/land management and Local Government services (Education, Social Work, Roads etc) being major employers but with several residential homes for the elderly, the tourism industry and a busy call centre there is a diverse range of employment available. However, recent years has seen Dunoon becoming popular as a commuter town for Inverclyde, Renfrewshire and the city of Glasgow.

Local Shops & Amenities

Dunoon’s main street – Argyll Street and nearby Hillfoot Street – is well served by individually owned shops with only two or three national chains present. The shops include fresh produce, clothing, electrical goods, books, gifts, wine & spirits, outdoor gear together with an excellent range of chemists, hairdressers and nail bars and two launderettes with dry cleaning facilities. Charity shops include local causes including the Cowal Hospice and the Cowal Kirk has its own charity shop which is a popular addition to the main street.

There is a good range of bars, restaurant and ‘take away’ establishments together with coffee shops for both sit in and carry out service.

Activities and Entertainment

Due to its natural beauty with the water and the hills, Dunoon is a popular destination for sailing, fishing, golfing mountain biking and hillwalking. A lot of effort has gone into mountain bike trails in recent years and it is now a mountain bike “destination”.

On the outskirts of the town is the world famous Younger Botanic Garden which offers easy walks, outstanding azaleas and other botanical plants from around the world as well as cafe facilities. This is a popular destination with cruise passengers visiting the busy Greenock Cruise Terminal.

Dunoon has a variety of other indoor and outdoor activities include three local golf courses, bowling clubs (including an indoor club), Tennis Courts, Crazy Golf, Putting, Children’s Play park, and Cinema.

The Queen’s Hall has recently undergone a major refurbishment programme and is the main venue for entertainment such as shows, exhibitions etc and also hosts a gym, fitness classes, library and soft play area. The Riverside swimming pool and sports complex as a 25 metre pool, a children’s pool, gym and health suite offering a modern swimming programme for all ages.

The Burgh Hall has also been fully refurbished as an arts venue offering entertainment, high quality exhibitions and a cafeteria with gift shop.

The local Castle House Museum is popular with locals and visitors alike and has an excellent array of exhibits dating back to Dunoon in its heyday as a popular “Doon the Water” resort.

As with many small towns Dunoon has a full range of ‘things to do’. There is a Camera Club, Speakers Club, Bridge Society, Men’s Shed, Senior Citizens Club, together with the Church Guild, Rotary, Inner Wheel amongst others.

Dunoon is well known for being a formal US Navy base up until 1991 and there is still a lot of memorabilia and pilgrimages back for former Navy personnel. It is also home to the Cowal Highland Gathering which has a world famous reputation and host to the World Highland Dancing Championships. This is a 3 day festival on the last Thursday, Friday and Saturday of August each year and attracts visitors from all over the world and is an annual reunion for many families.


Dunoon Grammar School is a modern secondary school which is well equipped offering state of the art facilities. It serves the secondary needs of the entire Cowal Peninsula and has a roll of about 1000 pupils. Those unable to travel daily are accommodated in the local school hostel. The academic record of the school is very good, with award winning departments e.g. Business & Technology and the Head Master is well known for ensuring the school engages regularly with the local community

Within the parish of the Cowal Kirk there are 5 local non-denominational primary schools some of which have undergone major refurbishment in recent years. They are Sandbank Primary (which includes a Gaelic medium unit), Kirn Primary, Dunoon Primary, Innellan Primary and Toward Primary and these are augmented by a Roman Catholic Primary school (St. Mun’s). Several of the schools have a pre-5 school provision and Clyde Cottage Nursery also offers a private nursery section.

Health Care

The town has a Community Hospital under the control of NHS Highland. It provides a casualty unit, out of ours service, maternity beds and a range of Consultants visit on a regular basis. Serious cases are transported to Greenock or Glasgow by ambulance (emergency ferry callouts are provided overnight) or by helicopter. There are 3 GP surgeries and two dental practices in the town.

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