Doors Open Days is a fabulous festival celebrating Scotland’s incredible buildings. Throughout September, people can gain free access to over a thousand venues across the country. This year in Argyll, Doors Open Days focuses on Dunoon and the surrounding area on the weekend of 22nd and 23rd September. From historically significant buildings to the last Victorian wooden pier in the UK, there’s a huge choice of buildings on offer. Doors Open Days also coincides with Cowal Open Studios, when the many professional artists who work on the Cowal Peninsula open their studio doors to visitors.
Discover the rich built heritage of Dunoon and discover some of these intriguing places throughout Doors Open Days in Argyll.
Dunoon Pier is one of the town’s most iconic buildings, with its striking red-tiled roofs and timber in chocolate, cream and yellow. This Victorian-era wooden pier was rebuilt in 1867 and this is how it broadly stands today. The pier served the fleets of paddle steamers bringing thousands of holidaymakers ‘Doon the Watter’ from Glasgow right up to the late 1960s. The pier has been undergoing a huge programme of structural repair and refurbishment by Argyll & Bute Council. The old waiting room has been completely renovated and is looking fabulous.
Castle House Museum, Dunoon
The Castle House Museum is set in in lovely gardens on top of a hillside opposite Dunoon Pier. The Museum tells the story of Dunoon through the ages from the Stone Age all the way through to the American Naval Base in the early 90s.
Dunoon Burgh Hall
Sitting at the heart of Dunoon, the impressive Victorian Dunoon Burgh Hall has been beautifully restored after decades of neglect. Following a £1.9million refurbishment, the Burgh Hall re-opened in June 2017 as a community arts hub with gallery spaces, a cafe extension, workshop spaces and main hall/theatre with original stage and balcony. Join a free heritage guided tour of the building.
Queen's Hall, Dunoon
The Queen's Hall was built in 1959. It has just undergone a huge refurbishment and has re-opened housing a library, a cafe, fitness studios, auditorium and new back of house facilities. As part of Doors Open Day, Live Argyll will provide tours of the building with a maximum of 8 people per tour. These need to be booked ahead online.
Live Argyll Archives, Lochgilphead
The Live Argyll archives are houses in a building that was once Lochgilphead’s primary school. The archives houses the records created by the people who have lived and worked in Argyll for the past 600 years. Paupers, schoolchildren, criminals and victims of crime; their stories are waiting for you to discover. During Doors Open Day you can discover Argyll’s hidden history. Tell the team what you want to do and they will suggest how the archives can help you achieve it.
Explore the visitor centre within St Munn’s church in Kilmun, the Argyll Mausoleum, the collegiate tower and surrounding ancient graveyard. Discover the earliest gravestone, dated at about 700 AD, beautiful stained glass and the grave of the first woman doctor in the UK! and her bible. Almost all of the Dukes of Argyll, are buried here. The entire site will be open across the weekend, apart from the church during service on Sunday morning.
Step inside Inveraray Church, which was designed and built by Robert Mylne between 1795 and 1802. It was built to house two congregations, the English, or Lowland Church, and the Gaelic, or Highland Church - a solid wall separated the two.
Kirn and Sandbank Church
This formidable church sits on the sea front. Designed by the renowned architect McGregor Chalmers, the stone was brought from a quarry at Corries on the island of Arran. The internal woodwork, including pews, is in light oak and the organ is a two-manual mechanical action wind-blown instrument with enhanced stops. The church will be open on Saturday between 10 to 12.30 when it will be hosting a coffee morning in aid of McMillan Cancer charity. On Sunday it will be open between 12 and 3.00.
The Argyll Papers
The Argyll Papers are the family and estate archive of the Campbell family, dukes of Argyll. One of the most important private archives in Britain, it is a rich resource for Scottish and British history from the 13th to the 21st centuries. The archive is housed in Cherry Park, an elegant 18th century Palladian style farm steading in the grounds of Inveraray Castle, designed for the 5th Duke of Argyll by John Adam and Robert Mylne. The building will be open from 1pm to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. You can drop in or book a special tour.
This former church in Helensburgh has been refurbished as the office of Organic Architects. This small stone fronted church building was designed in 1956 by Margaret Brodie and has been recently converted by Organic Architects. The building will be open to visitors with information on the history of the site and architects will be on hand to discuss current projects/
The Hill House on Upper Colquhoun Street, Helensburgh was designed by Scotland’s world famous architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh as a family home for Glasgow book publisher, Walter Blackie.. This domestic home is an arresting mix of Arts and Crafts, Scottish Baronial and Art Nouveau styles. As part of an innovative conservation project, the house will soon become enclosed in the ‘Box’, a steel and mesh structure designed by award winning architects Carmody Groake. Doors Open Day will be a final chance to see the exterior of the house before construction begins on the ‘Box’.
SEDA Peninsula Expedition Cycle Tour
Join Scottish Ecological Design for their annual Ecological Cycling and Walking Tour which this year has been set around Dunoon and the Cowal Peninsula. The cycle tour is on Saturday 22nd September from 10am to 6pm.
Doors Open Days is coordinated nationally by the Scottish Civic Trust and is part of European Heritage Days along side Scottish Archaeology Month, coordinated by Archaeology Scotland. Both are supported by Historic Environment Scotland.