Visiting Dunoon? 5 reasons to visit Colintraive

Dunoon is a fantastic place to visit, with a bustling town centre, rich history and vibrant cultural scene. Known as the ‘Gateway to the Highlands’, it’s a brilliant base for outdoor adventures. Plus, getting to Dunoon is easier than you might think. It’s a mere 20-minute ferry ride with Western Ferries from Gourock across the Firth of Clyde. And if you’ve made it to Dunoon, why not explore more of the surrounding area? This lesser-known part of Argyll has so much to offer.

Discover Colintraive

Colintraive on Argyll’s Secret Coast should be top of your list. This picturesque village, just a 30-minute drive from Dunoon, sits at the narrowest point along the shores of the beautiful Kyles of Bute.

Colintraive Hotel

The Colintraive Hotel is an award-winning establishment with magnificent views over the Kyles of Bute. Open open 6 days a week (closed on Mondays), it’s a fabulous spot for a drink and excellent home cooking. It was Inn Of The Year 2010 and won a gold medal for local food. As well as four lovely letting rooms, there’s also a friendly gastro pub and restaurant where you can feast on local produce, expertly prepared. Local seafood features on the menu, including fresh langoustines caught in the sea in front of the hotel and hand-dived scallops, as well as beef and lamb from Bute and venison stalked by Winston Churchill. Try the famous seafood linguine. The village post office and grocery store is just next door.

Community Garden

The Colintraive Community Garden sits behind the village hall, which is a short walk along the road from the Colintraive Hotel. It’s a wonderful place to spend an hour or two, with paths, colourful flowerbeds, a viewing platform over the Milton Burn, a pond and a picnic area. Young kids will love the playhouse and sandpit. The garden was created by the community for the BBC’s Beechgrove Garden television programme in 2003 and has been maintained by local people ever since. If you fancy getting stuck in, work parties are held throughout the year. See the Colintraive Village Hall Facebook page for more information. The garden is open all year round.

Heritage Centre

Step back in time and discover the story of Colintraive and the surrounding area at the Colintraive Heritage Centre. You’ll find it on the opposite side of road to the village hall. A fascinating exhibition, full of letters, maps, photographs and drawings, illustrates a way of life typical of the west coast of Scotland. Find out more about crofting and farming, forestry and fishing and the passenger steamers and smoke-belching puffers that served Colintraive and other local communities. The heritage centre is open from May until the end of September.

Outdoor activities

Colintraive is an excellent base for sailing and kayaking, with islands, anchorages and beaches to explore. Paddle through the narrows and around the islands of the Kyles of Butes to visit the seal colony. The six-mile cycle route east along the quiet coastal road is another great way to enjoy the scenery, or walk up the hill behind the Colintraive Hotel for stunning views of Bute, Arran, Kintyre and the Ayrshire coast. 

Ferry to Bute

From Colintraive it’s only a few minutes by CalMac ferry across the water to Rhubodach on the north-east coast of the Island of Bute. In the past, it was here that cattle were swum over from Bute to Colintraive on their way to market. Indeed, the name Colintraive derives from Gaelic and means "swimming strait" or "swimming narrows". Bute is a gem of an island and home to fabulous Victorian architecture, glorious gardens and the magnificent Mount Stuart. It’s also a great place to cycle, and bikes go free on the ferry. The ferry journey may be short, but it’s well worth getting out of the car to enjoy the views. Look out for the Burnt Islands to the north of the ferry route.

What's next? Stop by Glendaruel

Before heading back to Dunoon it’s worth making a short detour to neighbouring Glendaruel to see the Kilmodan Stones. This group of fascinating historic west Highland carved grave slabs is exhibited in a burial aisle within Kilmodan churchyard. You could also head deeper into Argyll’s Secret Coast. One of the highlights of travelling the beautiful road to Tighnabruaich is stopping off at the Kyles of Bute Viewpoint.

Find out more about things to see and do in Dunoon & Cowal and on Bute.