7 walks to discover in Argyll forests this winter

The woodlands of Argyll & the Isles are fabulous places to explore, with forest trails leading to thundering waterfalls, glorious viewpoints and archaeological features. As the temperature dips, these forests are transformed into winter wonderlands, with autumnal hues making way for stunning frosty landscapes that sparkle in the clear winter light.

Discover Argyll's Forests & Woodlands

Is the cabin fever slowly setting in? Grab your boots, wrap up warm and take a stroll in one of these wonderful Argyll woodlands. There’s plenty of wildlife to spot in the woods too, from red squirrels to soaring eagles. Look out for animal tracks in the snow (or mud!). 

1. Puck’s Glen

You’ll find Puck’s Glen just outside Dunoon on the Cowal peninsula. It’s a magical woodland world, with towering Douglas firs and tumbling waterfalls, which look particularly dramatic at this time of year. There are two trails: one winds through a rocky gorge; the other takes a longer route to great viewpoints over the winter landscape. A forest road also connects with Kilmun Arboretum in the south and Loch Eck in the north (these routes are not waymarked and you will need an OS map to follow them). All these places are part of the Argyll Forest Park, which has eight more fabulous forests to discover this winter! After your walk in Puck’s Glen, head to Blairmore Café to warm up with some hot chocolate.

Puck's Glen in Cowal is a fantastic walk to discover this winter. Image credit: Forestry and Land Scotland.
Puck's Glen in Cowal is a fantastic walk to discover this winter. Image credit: Forestry and Land Scotland.

2. Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens

Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens sits at the head of Loch Fyne in Cairndow surrounded by hills. This fabulous woodland garden with its glorious mountainside setting is a great place to walk and explore in winter. It’s open all year round, with a huge collection of trees and shrubs including the “mightiest conifer in Europe”, a magnificent Silver Fir. Admission is by donation and dogs on leads are welcome. The woodland gardens are also home to The Gruffalo Trail. There are plenty of options by car for post-walk refreshments, including Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Fyne Ales, and the Cairndow Inn.

The historic woodlands of Ardkinglas Estate are truly special.
The historic woodlands of Ardkinglas Estate are truly special.

3. Bute Community Forest

Located on the north end of Bute, near the Colintraive-Rhubodach ferry terminal, Bute Community Forest is a great destination for a day trip from Glasgow. If nature is your thing then you can see a whole variety of plants, animals, insects, fungi and protected bird species or if you're more into your history you can visit archaeological sites or the WWII decoy village bunker. You can wander anywhere in the forest and make your discoveries or follow the waymarked paths to see some of our favourite spots.

Want to truly get away from it all? Spend a night in their off-the-grid huts to immerse yourself in the forest sounds at night.

Spend a weekend at the Charcoal Huts in Bute Forest to unwind.
Spend a weekend at the Charcoal Huts in Bute Forest to unwind.

4. Knapdale

Barnluasgan in Knapdale Forest is a lovely spot, offering a mix of easy walking trails, a cycling trail, peaceful lochs and wonderful wildlife. The highlight has to be the resident beavers. As the evenings and nights get colder and the days shorter, there are minimal chances of seeing the beavers out and about, but there are still plenty of feeding signs around the loch edges to be seen. You may be lucky enough to spot the beavers building up food caches of branches which they store underwater in winter. The Beaver Detective Trail, a two-hour (three-mile) circular walk follows the natural terrain around the Dubh Loch and Loch Collie Bharr.

Enjoy a stunning sunset walk in Knapdale.
Enjoy a stunning sunset walk in Knapdale. Image: Heathery Heights

5. Taynish National Nature Reserve

Taynish National Nature Reserve is just south of Tayviallach. It’s one of the largest remaining oak forests in Britain. The woodland, grassland, heath, salt marsh and shoreline are home to an incredible variety of wildlife – look out for whooper swans and great northern divers during the winter months. Right now the wood can almost look ‘frosted’ with the pale grey-green of the old man's beard lichen and is dotted with bright red holly berries. Explore the woodlands on the Woodland Trail, a mostly level and well-surfaced route. If you are feeling more energetic, the Barr Mor Trail is strenuous with some steep climbs, but it gives you a great view from the top.

6. Glenan Wood in Cowal

Glenan Wood is a beautiful oak woodland just next to the CalMac ferry terminal at Portavadie on the Cowal Peninsula. The unique habitat is rich in flora and fauna, and rare lichens, moss, ferns and wildflowers thrive among the gnarled broadleaf trees, rocky outcrops and coastline. The woodland has a rich heritage too. Glenan Village is a deserted settlement deep in the woods with eight to nine ruined houses made of local stone. Winter is the best time of year to visit the settlement, as the bracken is down and the buildings can be clearly seen. Portavadie is the perfect place for post-walk drinks and lunch – muddy boots are welcome.

Glenan Woods are a great destination to discover this winter.
Glenan Woods is a great destination to discover this winter.

7. Duchess Wood

Set within the greenbelt of Helensburgh, Duchess Wood is a rich and diverse woodland with a variety of different plant and animal species. With a network of paths and bridges, this is a lovely place to visit and enjoy a winter woodland stroll. Helensburgh is a fabulous town to explore. Don’t miss Hill House, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s finest domestic creation.

Why not try foraging in Argyll?

Take a mindful wander through the countryside and meet the plants that nourished and sustained our ancestors. Join Vicky from the Little Foragers Kitchen on one of her foraging walks to learn more about the nature surrounding you.

Find out more about nature & wildlife in Argyll & The Isles.