Forests and Woodlands of Argyll
Forests and woodland cover nearly a third of Argyll, and are often combined with craggy shorelines and coast. They’re wonderful places to explore, with forest trails leading to thundering waterfalls, glorious viewpoints and archaeological features. Wildlife abounds, with red squirrels, sea eagles, beavers, otters and red deer all making their homes here. Argyll has some of Europe’s most significant ancient oakwoods. These ‘temperate rainforests’ drip with mosses and lichens. Follow this journey to discover some of Argyll’s finest forests and extraordinary ‘heritage trees’, including the tallest tree in the UK.
Start your journey at Benmore Botanic Garden near Dunoon on the Cowal peninsula. It boasts a world-famous collection of flowering trees and shrubs including over 300 species of rhododendron and over one third of the world’s hardy conifer species. The impressive avenue of Giant Redwoods, is one of the highlights. Established in 1863, these majestic giants now stand over 50 metres high. Seven miles of trails lead to beautiful spots such as the dramatic viewpoint at 450 feet (140m) overlooking the surrounding mountains and Holy Loch.
Neighbouring Puck’s Glen is also well worth a visit. It’s just across the road from Benmore. With moist shady undergrowth and enchanting gorge, this is a magical woodland world. There are two trails here: one winds through the gorge; the other takes a longer route to great viewpoints.
Kilmun Arboretum is a short drive from Benmore towards Ardentinny. It’s home to more than 150 tree species from around the world, all of which have been planted in separate grove. So instead of one monkey-puzzle tree, you'll see a small forest of monkey-puzzles! A choice of four short walks helps you explore this fascinating collection of trees.
From Benmore, follow the A815 along the banks of Loch Eck (the ‘mirror loch’) towards Strachur. You’ll pass Glenbranter Forest. The first trees of what was to become the Argyll Forest Park were planted here in the 1920s, after entertainer Harry Lauder leased the ground to the Forestry Commission. Later, Glenbranter village was built for forest workers who came here to work the forests of Cowal. At Strachur, head along the east bank of Loch Fyne until you reach the A83, where you turn left towards Cairndow. Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens is on your left before you reach the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar at the head of the loch. This fabulous woodland garden with a wonderful mountain setting is a lovely place to walk and explore. You’ll find historic rhododendrons, Patagonian Cypress from the Conifer Conservation programme and the “mightiest conifer in Europe”, a magnificent Silver Fir (Abies alba). Don't miss the unique scriptorium with its quotes from Spike Milligan to Voltaire. Ardkinglas Woodland Garden is also home to The Gruffalo Trail, which follows a short route through the woodland.
Now follow the A83 along the west bank of Loch Fyne past Inveraray to Lochgilphead. From Lochgilphead, follow the road to Oban (A816) for two miles. Take the left fork, through Cairnbaan and continue on this road for three miles, until you see the left turn for Tayvallich. About a mile along this road you’ll come to Barnluasgan car park in Knapdale Forest, home to the Knapdale beavers. These busy water-born foresters tend to be very shy but the best time to see them is dawn or dusk. If you would like to find out more about the beavers and their activities why not join the Heart Of Argyll Wildlife Organisation on one of its guided walks?
Taynish National Nature Reserve is just south of Tayviallach. It’s one of the largest remaining oak forests in Britain. The woodland, grassland, heath, saltmarsh and shoreline are home to an amazing variety of wildlife. 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. The Coastal Trails take you down to the southern shore on what are, for the most part, level and well-surfaced paths.
Nearby Crinan Wood is another ancient woodland in mid Argyll. Trees are mainly oak and silver birch, and there's also a great variety of ferns and lichens. Look out for the spectacular views of Jura to the west and Mull to the north.
Now retrace your steps and pick up the A816 north to Oban. Sutherland’s Grove on the banks of Loch Creran north of Oban offers a range of woodland walks and cycle routes through a diverse landscape of gigantic fir trees, crashing waterfalls and ancient oakwoods. The cycle routes venture deeper into the forest and reward the cyclist with peace and quiet - and fantastic views of the Firth of Lorn and the Isle of Mull. Nearby Glasdrum Wood near Creagan Bridge is one of Scotland's National Nature Reserves. Ash and oak dominate the woodland at Glasdrum. Follow the woodland trail circuit of 1km, which is well surfaced. There are four oak benches along the way to stop and enjoy the views of Loch Creran and the munros beyond. Glen Nant, one of Scotland's National Nature Reserves, is anotherfine example of Atlantic oakwood and a lovely place for a walk at anytime of the year. This rich woodland of native trees blankets the slopes of Glen Nant near Taynuilt. These woodlands have a fascinating history and played a key role in the development of charcoal-fulled iron making.
Catch a ferry from Oban to Mull to experience some more wonderful woodlands.