IN its tourism heyday, Dunoon was visited by countless thousands of people going “doon the watter” on paddle steamers and other ships from Glasgow and elsewhere on the Firth of Clyde. Now the town on the Cowal peninsula could soon be experiencing another boom thanks to an ambitious project to create a new “tourism destination” which would feature a cable car system from Dunoon to the hills above the town.

The Dunoon Project would create 200 jobs and would build on the area’s increasing success in attracting mountain bikers and other visitors who enjoy the hills and forests that overlook the town.

The brainchild of Brendon Wallace, the founder and managing partner of BC Technologies, the project – for which a budget of up to £50 million has been secured – would see gondola cable cars, world-class zip lines, alpine coasters, mountain bike trails, woodland walks with scenic view points and a visitor centre with cafe all built in and around the Corlarach Forest adjacent to Dunoon.

It is a community-based development that is rapidly gaining momentum after a well-attended public meeting in the Burgh Hall in Dunoon, but it also has hard-headed business people to the fore as they aim to deliver a world-class leisure and tourism facility.

The lead private investor, a large public-sector pension fund, has visited the site and examined the project, with support confirmed in the region of £40m to £50m. It has also committed to assisting the funding of a feasibility study alongside Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

A site meeting with the Forestry Commission has now taken place at which some of the steering group and Argyll and Bute Council – which has indicated strong support – presented the vision of the future and started to discuss what would need to be put in place to secure the crucial community buyout of the relevant area of the forest.

Wallace has lived locally for the last 15 years. As a keen mountain-biker, his hobby has taken him all over the UK and he has witnessed many exciting developments that have brought prosperity to rural areas.

He recognised that Dunoon and the surrounding area was perfectly placed and had many attributes to make it an ideal location for similar developments so he pulled together a team of people from business and the local community with the passion and skills to see how to make this happen.

Local MP Brendan O’ Hara has backed the plans and MSP Mike Russell is a strong supporter. He said: “Great efforts are being made on a number of fronts to reverse the economic decline of Argyll and I support all such work. However, while these are bearing fruit in some areas, Dunoon has still to see a major project come forward that would make a significant difference.

“Memories of the heyday of ‘doon the watter’ tourist trade and the economic boom caused by the influx of Americans to the Holy Loch linger but nothing stands still. The time is therefore right to push forward with something ambitious that can capture local, national and global attention not least because the Cowal peninsula has lots to offer and is very accessible.

“This project, which now has the promise of much needed major private funding, has the potential to transfer Dunoon and Cowal in just the way that is needed.

“The possibility of 200 or more new full and part-time jobs together and increased tourist footfall will transform the town’s fortunes. I also think it shows just the vision and ambition that Scotland needs. Consequently, the plans have my enthusiastic unreserved support.”