Dunoon Pier, Dunoon

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Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved. © Copyright and database right 2024.

General Details and Location

Name of Building
Dunoon Pier
Other Name(s)
Planning Authority
Divisional Area
Reference No
Listing Category
OS Grid Ref
NS 17656 76480
Location Type
HS Reference No


Clarke and Bell with Sir William Copland in collaboration with R A Brydon and C J M Mackintosh, 1896-98; incorporating earlier pier to N by Campbell Douglas, 1867-68; later 20th century alterations (see Notes). Rare and exceptional 19th century timber-pile ferry/steamer pier. Large, T-plan pedestrian pier adjoining earlier pier to N (currently used for vehicles - 2011). To pier-head: ornamental Victorian waiting room and pier master's office to centre; rare signal tower incorporating later tearoom to S arm of pier-head. Entrance ticket lodge located at slightly wider foot of pedestrian section.

WAITING ROOMS AND PIER MASTER'S OFFICE: single-storey, rectangular-plan, gable-ended, timber pavilion waiting-rooms including harbour master´s office. Round-arched windows to ground floor. S Elevation: 2-storey octagonal tower to centre with crowning, ogee-roofed clock cupola and weather vane; flat-roofed verandas flanking with elaborate timber doorpieces to waiting rooms. N Elevation: 3 half-timbered gables with canted window bays and timber details including timber shingles to exterior walls. Red pantiled roofs with cupola ventilators.

SIGNAL TOWER AND ADJOINING TEAROOM: ornate 4-stage, square-plan, timber signal tower (circa 1896-8); pantiled skirt and ogee-roof to 3rd stage; pierced, ogee-roofed cupola and ornamental cast-iron weathervane finial.
Tower adjoins SE corner of single-storey, flat-roofed former waiting room and tearoom building (built 1937).

TICKET LODGE: Single-storey, cruciform-plan ticket lodge (circa 1896-8 with late 20th century alterations - see Notes) at foot of pier. Bowed to E and W elevations with conical, pantiled roof.

PIER AND RAILINGS: greenheart timber piles braced in pairs and further cross-braced by diagonal timbers. Outward facing piers are battered. Rod-iron connections with external bolts. Timber decking, rails and balustrade.

Dunoon Pier is the best surviving example of a timber ferry/steamer pier in Scotland. Now extremely rare, these piers played a key role in the economic and social development of coastal and island communities in the west of Scotland in the 19th and 20th centuries. Substantially retaining its character following its late 19th century programme of enlargement, the pier and its key buildings contribute significantly to the architectural and historic interest of Dunoon and to the wider maritime heritage of the West Coast.

The timber waiting room and pier master's office, located at the centre of the pierhead, is of key significance to the character of the pier and an iconic building on the Firth of Clyde coast line. Largely retaining its original form and distinctive detailing, it is the finest Victorian pier building of its type in the country. At the height of its popularity, access to the pier to non-passengers became ticketed which reflects its concurrent function as a 'pleasure pier' more commonly associated with resort towns in England. In 1937 a 220 ft long, timber and steel viewing gallery platform was built to connect the buildings on the pierhead assembly area. This structure was removed in the 1980s.

The pioneering signalling system was first installed at the pier in 1888. The tower was an early and forward thinking safety mechanism using a system of coloured discs to avoid collision of approaching steamers and to guide the operators to their designated berthing positions on each side of the pier. The signal tower was re-configured in a more decorative form as part of the 1896 rebuilding programme. It became electronically operated in later years and now, no longer in use, forms part of the 1937 tearoom addition to the S arm of the pierhead. Elements of the earlier signalling system mechanism survive inside the tower, adding significantly to the architectural and historic interest.

The 1890s entrance ticket lodge was originally an open turnstile building with covered, timber detailed walkways to either side. The building was reworked in the 1980s using a mix of traditional and non-traditional materials and broadly retaining its original cruciform plan and massing.

Dunoon was first established in the middle of the eighteenth century, with the earliest stone jetty built around 1767. The first timber pier was constructed by a joint stock company in 1835. The rail link from Glasgow to Gourock opened in 1841 leading to population swell and increasing tourism in and around the Clyde Estuary. A more substantial pier was built at Dunoon in 1845 although this was destroyed by a storm in 1848, rebuilt the following year and extended in 1867 by Douglas Campbell. In 1896, the pier was significantly enlarged to its present, inverted F-plan form.

The use of timber piling to form marine structures has a long and significant history in Scotland and on the west coast in particular. Once commonplace, they are now a rare building type. The timber piles of Dunoon Pier are braced in pairs and further braced by diagonal timbers with the outer piers battered to resist the forces of berthing ships. Structually, the pier was purposefully 'over-engineered' to account for the severity of the storms along this particular stretch of coast and the large amount of steamers and other vessels it served.

Change of category from B to A and list description revised, 2011. (Historic Scotland)
Building Dates
1835; Rebuilt 1896; 20th century additions
Clarke and Bell with Sir William Copland in collaboration with R A Brydon and C J M Mackintosh, earlier pier by Campbell Douglas.

Category of Risk and Development History

Category of Risk
Exemptions to State of Risk
Field Visits
Development History
6 August 1999: The Herald reports that the pier is approaching a state of collapse and is to close to traffic later this year for inspection. Several of the supporting piles have been considerably eroded from their original thickness. Replacing or repairing the pier is estimated at £6.5 million and Argyll and Bute Council is calling for Scottish Executive help. £100,000 is spent ever winter repainting the pier, but this has failing to stop its deterioration. A decision on its future had been delayed pending a Government report on Clyde ferry services, though a draft report has suggested re-routing ferries to the pier at Hunter's Quay instead.
October 2008: External inspection finds the building in use as a waiting room and harbourmaster‘s office. Appears to be in good condition. Set to NOT FOR REGISTER.
17 June 2010: A member of the public nominates the building for the Register advises there is a proposal to demolish. Moved back to For Investigation.
August 2011: The Pier is understood to have become redudant as of 30 June 2011 when services relocated to an adjacent pier.
31 August 2012: External inspection finds the pier appears to be in a generally sound condition but appears disused with locked access gate. Some security fencing is in place on the berthing side of the pier.
15 January 2013: Regeneration of the Dunoon waterfront was considered by Argyll and Bute Council in 2006 with an option (4B) proposed. The option noted three principal projects; demolition of the pier for replaced by a 40-berth marina, land reclamation to enable the construction of a new hotel with conference facilities and a replacement of the Queen's Hall. Further testing of the preferred option is documented within the Dunoon Waterfront Implementation Plan , Mar 2010. The report notes Historic Scotland would expect the Council to have fully tested the viability of retention of the listed pier before submitting a demolition application for consideration. It also outlines estimated demolition costs of the existing structure as being around £400-500, 000 and an associated cost of the construction of a new marina (without pontoons and access) at £7-7.5 million. A draft Pier Structure was submitted to Argyll and Bute Council in Nov 2011 notes condition surveys of the pier have been obtained but further investigation is required on the condition of each of the components that make up the structure. Various uses of the pier are noted to have been explored but are intended for futher analysis. In the interim period a short-term maintenance plan was suggested for the pier in consultation with Historic Scotland.
21 May 2015: A member of the public advises Argyll and Bute Council is to initiate repairs to the pier. The Council issued a news item, 2 Feb 2015, noting that contracts had been issued for two stages of repairs. The first contract is for the repair of the walkway, pier head and decking. The second phase is for work to the waiting room and harbour masters office. The article goes on to note the Council is seeking further funding to bring the pier and related buildings back into full use.
11 June 2015: Listed Building Consent for refurbishment works to Dunoon Pier timber supports is being sought ref: 15/01360/LIB.
7 March 2016: Argyll and Bute Council advise extensive repair work has been carried out on the pier structure focusing on the pedestrian access to the pier head and the area beneath the waiting room and signal tower. Further works have extensively repaired and refurbished the waiting room and harbourmasters building. The works carried out to date are the initial phase of the Council's aspiration to see the entire pier and associated buildings brought back in full use. Condition moved to Good and Risk level to Low.
7 December 2018: Argyll & Bute Council Estates Department is advertising the former waiting room, which has been internally refurbished, for lease as Class 1 (Shops) and Class 3 (Food & Drink) space, contact 01436 658957 or Estates@argyll-bute.gov.uk for more information. Link to the marketing particulars in "Additional Contacts" (below) on Argyll & Bute Council's website.

Guides to Development

Conservation Area
Planning Authority Contact
PAC Telephone Number


Current Availability
Not Available
Appointed Agents
Occupancy Type
Present/Former Uses
Name of Owners
Argyll and Bute Council
Type of Ownership
Local Authority

Information Services

Additional Contacts/Information Source
Class 1 (Shops) and Class 3 (Food & Drink)
Online Resources
Original Entry Date
Date of Last Edit