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Sailing from Millport to Holy Loch Marina

After enjoying three free nights on a mooring buoy in Millport it was time to head further up the Clyde. Our destination for the next couple of nights would be Holy Loch Marina, close to Dunoon on the Cowal peninsula. With the forecast predicting some stronger westerly winds for the following few days we took the opportunity to run to the security of a marina to do some laundry, boat cleaning and shopping.

Our Passage Plan

We set our waypoints as follows:

WP1 – 55°44.420N 4°57.144W – South Cardinal
WP2 – 55°51.860N 4°56.069W – Off of Skelmorlie
WP3 – 55°56.634N 4°54.078W – Dunoon Bank East Cardinal
WP4 – 55°58.266N 4°54.349W – Hunters Quay
WP5 – 55°59.134N 4°56.901W – Holy Loch Marina

The forecast for the day was showing westerly winds of 12 – 18 knots, 16°C and a mixture of sunshine and clouds.

Our Actual Sail

We departed Millport at 11.20am and motored out to just past the south cardinal where we made our turn and started to pick up the wind. The wind was flukey, fluctuating between 7 and 15 knots. As we normally consider reefing at 12 knots we kept a reef in the main; as we were quickly starting to learn the wind around these parts can accelerate around headlands and over the hills and mountains and it can suddenly gust up. But with the head sail fully out, and despite being against the tide, we were sailing along just nicely.

Sailing up the Clyde

As we headed up the narrower part of the Clyde, passing the sister ships of Argyll and Bute that operate sailings between Wemyss Bay and Bute, the wind dropped off to just 5 knots and our boat speed down to a somewhat lousy 2.1 knots. But we were still sailing! So we preserved and just took in the calmness of the elements with the Scottish sun beating down on us (though it was still too cold to remove the sailing suits!).

‘Argyll’ and ‘Bute’ Caledonian MacBrayne Ships

By 3.00pm, as we were passing Kip Marina, we got to a point where the sails were flapping and we were going no where! The engine had to come on. We motored up towards Dunoon, passing HMS Tyne, a river-class offshore patrol vessel with a nice camo paint job!

HMS Tyne

As we passed Dunoon the wind suddenly blew up to 20 knots and although it decreased a little it fundamentally remained breezy right up until we got into the marina, coming alongside on the long visitors pontoon.

Holy Loch Marina is nestled within beautiful scenery and offers a number of services and facilities including lift out, fuel, gas laundry (£6 for a wash and a tumble dry) and good wifi. The site also has a number of boat related companies, engineers and a cafe. A 5 minute walk up the road will take you to a small local shop which sells basic essentials and a kebab/burger/chicken takeaway joint.

Holy Loch Marina

Interestingly there is a huge amount of forestry in the area and Holy Loch Marina has a commercial area to accommodate cargo ships to export this timber and logging cargo, which is piled up high on the pier at the end of the visitors pontoon!

Timber Logs being loaded at Holy Loch Marina


Approximately 3 miles back along the coast is the town of Dunoon. It is a pleasant walk along the waters edge or alternatively there is a bus service from the main road. Along the way you will see one of the painted rocks known as the ‘Puffin Rock’ These much loved local landmarks are doted around the shoreline of the Firth of Clyde. The rock was previously known as the ‘Jim Crow Stone’ and resembled a black crow. However it became the focus of controversy as Jim Crow is a pejorative term for an African American. As such a competition was run for local children to come up with a new design and in 2021 it was repainted as the colourful Puffin you see today.

Puffin Rock, Hunter’s Quay

The town has a number of well known shops including a Morrisons supermarket, a co-op supermarket and Boots, plus a handful of gift and speciality independent shops. Attractions include Castle House Museum, Dunoon Burgh Hall and Dunoon Pier. We were recommended Benmore Botanic Gardens with its avenue of giant redwoods and slopes of Rhododendrons but sadly the weather wasn’t really good enough for us to warrant paying a visit this time round. However we did visit the Rock Cafe and had a delicious home baked Victoria sponge… naughty but soooo good! You can also catch the ferry from here back across the water to Gourock.

Dunoon Castle House

Holy Loch Marina were running a promotion whereby you got the second consecutive night half price (June 2024) so we opted to book in for two nights and wait for the westerly blow to pass before proceeding up to Lochgoilhead.


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