Plans to revive Scottish seaside town with cable car and rollercoaster

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.

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Under new plans the town of Dunoon could get a cable car and an 'alpine coaster'. Pictures: Christine Matthews/Geograph, Pixabay, TVB Imst/Flickr

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.

Local businessman Brendon Wallace was inspired to start The Dunoon Project due to his interest in mountain biking, which took him across the UK where he saw other communities revitalised.

Mr Wallace said: “The idea came from having a young family and looking for adventures and days out - things that we could do.

“We were very impressed by Zip World in Wales, and I thought ‘why can’t we have something like that here?’. We have the location and the people and the enthusiasm, and it seemed like something we could put together.

“The idea is to bring more life back into Dunoon, and make people want to visit it like they used to back in the good old days.

“We want them to come over on the ferry and spend a few days in the town.

“One of the major attractions is that the site is within walking distance - it’s right on your doorstep.

“There’s no need to take a bus or a car anywhere, you can just ride the cable car to the top and it’s all going to be there.”

A feasibility study has found that only a small percentage of people who already travel through the town without stopping are needed to make the venture a success.

Keith Holdt,who prepared the feasibility study, added: “The beauty of Dunoon is that it’s right in the path of people coming over to Argyll and Bute.

“There’s lots and people coming through, but there’s currently no reason for them to hang around. But this gives them a reason to stay and spend money in the area.”

It is hoped The Dunoon Project would create jobs and bring investment to the area, with asset manager Gresham House expressing an interest.

Backers are now waiting in the wings, ready to invest the millions needed to make the project a reality.

Tony Dalwood, CEO of Gresham House said: “Dunoon is an exciting project.

“We have been working with other advisers, including funding an independent feasibility study, to help the community formulate a strategy that meets its social objectives and translates into a differentiated investment opportunity for the fund.

“We believe the development of essential local infrastructure will enable the community to deliver a regeneration project that supports local jobs and economic growth.”

Interest has been piqued in the community buyout through the National Forest Land Scheme, which allows groups to buy surplus land.

The team are now in the middle of preparing a Community Asset Transfer (Cat) to get the ball rolling.

Mr Wallace said: “What’s different about this community buyout is that we’ve kind of done it back to front.

“Other communities have concentrated first on what they want to buy, then gone looking for funding to work out what they intend to do.

“We’ve gone down the other route and have been seeking backers while doing the feasibility study.

“That’s now complete and it’s good - they have said that there’s a good chance for backers to see a good, long-term return on their investment.”

Iain Jurgensen, chairman of the Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative, said: “The Dunoon project is innovative and inspirational and will have the potential to be one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Scotland that will help bring huge footfall into Dunoon and the surrounding area.

“The fact this is a community project reflects the passion of the residents to encourage change by using the resources around them in a truly inspiring project.”

Mike Russell, MSP for the area, said: “Big ideas sometimes have difficulty getting accepted in Scotland but this is a big idea that has generated a lot of support in Dunoon.

“The most recent public meeting in the town about the project was enthusiastic and gave strong backing to the committed and imaginative team who are developing it.

“I think it can transform the town and the area and, having meet some of the potential backers, I am keen to do everything I can to help make it happen.

“Soon, I hope, the old boast about going ‘doon the watter’ will also mean going ‘doon the zip wire’ above one of the Clyde coast’s most iconic venues.”

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