Dunoon today still retains the flavour of a Victorian seaside resort, with a four mile promenade backed by graceful villas of the period, many now small hotels, such as the Bay House Hotel.
The traveller coming into Dunoon pier on the ferry from Gourock will pass a reef called the Gantocks rock, on which numerous ships have come to grief, most notably the Swedish ore carrier Akka, the wreck of which yielded the British record cod some years ago.
Argyll Street is Dunoon’s main shopping street, extensively redeveloped to provide a more pedestrian friendly environment.
The big event in the calendar for Dunoon and Cowal is the Cowal Highland Gathering in the last weekend of August, the largest of its kind anywhere in the world. The Gathering has now been going for over 100 years, is without question the most spectacular of its kind and is attended by tens of thousands of visitors.
Following the coastline of the Kyles of Bute south towards Portavadie and the ferry to Tarbert you pass the village of Tighnabruaich. The name originates from the gaelic term Tigh na bruaich, meaning “house on the slope”. In former times the settlement was a popular destination for the steamers from Glasgow, today the tourists mainly arrive by road. The village offers all the usual conveniences for the traveller including hotels, post office, shops, bars etc. The Royal an Lochan Hotel with its famous seafood restaurant is the right place if you are looking for a luxurious stay and fine dining in Tighnabruaich.
From the Gaelic meaning ‘cattle swim’, the Kyles of Bute narrow here to just 300m and the ferry crossing from the mainland to Bute is ageless. The village of Colintraive runs along the shore of the East Kyle and is mainly attractive Victorian houses. Most activity takes place near the centre of the village: the Community Garden, there is an all-weather bowling green (open to non-members) and the Colintraive Hotel offers food and service to match its spectacular location overlooking the water. Today Caledonian MacBrayne operates a modern ferry that regularly plies the five-minute crossing to Rhubodach, from where it’s just a 15 minute drive along the coast of Bute to Rothesay. Check the time of the last ferry home!
Leaving Dunoon and Sandbank following the A815 towards Glasgow you soon reach the popular Cothouse Petrol Station, with Cothouse Hotel, Restaurant, Pub and caravan park in close proximity. Shortly after, take a right turn towards Ardentinny and you soon reach the small settlement of Kilmun. Most of the village stretches along the shore road, which offers great views to Sandbank, Kirn and the Beinn Mhor Mountain Range. Places of interest in Kilmun include the village church with the graveyard and the Kilmun Aboretum, a great display of trees from all over the world. The newly refurbished Pier Hotel offers a calm and scenic place to enjoy some great local cooking and a refreshing drink.
The village of Strone connects seemlessly with Kilmun, just being divided by the village signs. It stretches further along the foot of Kilmun Hill, following the Holy Loch coast line before it takes a sudden turn to the north and Loch Long just after Strone Pier. The village is home to the local post office, a general store, the primary school and a hotel with pub and restaurant. The 9 hole golf course with great views over the Clyde Estuary is a popular destination for golfers of all levels.
Next in the row of settlements along the road to Ardentinny is Blairmore. This is a rather unremarkable village, but nonetheless worth a stop and a look around. Again the views over Loch Long towards the Helensburgh area are stunning, and the shore is a popular place to fish and used by locals and tourists alike.
Ardentinny is the last village on Loch Long before the road takes a turn to the west and leading back inland towards Sligrachan and Loch Eck. Ardentinny has something of a secret reputation as a holiday resort. A great sandy beach with picnic area, a caravan park and campsite close to the shore and a wonderful selection of walks on marked paths with many view points make this a popular destination for day excursions and holiday trips.