Argyll Forest, Cowal Peninsula
A place as good as Argyll Forest is deserves a grand entrance, this region of the National Park has two. Choose to arrive by the steep and spectacular Rest & Be Thankful road, or by ferry from Gourock to Dunoon. Argyll Forest, established in 1935 is Britain's first forest park and stretches from the Arrochar Alps to Holy Loch.
Watch the video (below the map) for a short introduction to the highlights of Argyll Forest.
VIDEO - Explore Argyll Forest
Video - Park People STEVE GILLON
The village of Arrochar is at the northern end of Loch Long, one of the sea lochs in the National Park.
The Arrochar Alps is a group of mountains which covers a large area and is popular with climbers. The Rest and Be Thankful is a spectacular stretch of the A83. There is a car park at the end of the roads climb where you can safely enjoy the stunning vistas.
The small village at the head of Loch Goil can be reached by a single track road which leads from a turning off of the Rest and Be Thankful. There is a large holiday village nearby which is owned by Argyll Holidays.
A walk around nearby Cormonachan Woodlands provides excellent views of Loch Goil and the opportunity to see red squirrels from hides. The Lodge on Loch Goil and its spectacular tree house that has featured in Visit Scotland's global marketing campaigns.
Travel south along the banks of Loch Goil to Carrick Castle. This fifteen century tower house, now in private ownership gives its name to the small village there.
At Glenbranter you can take a forest walk, amongst waterfalls which leads to a good view of nearby Loch Eck. The Forestry Commission purchased the site from local resident Sir Harry Lauder and there is now there is a walk that is named after him. See another of the Celebrating Park People videos on this page for the story of Steve Gillon, one of the forestry rangers based in this area.
Sir Harry Lauder
Harry Lauder was born in 1870 and by 1911 was the highest paid performer in the world, the first British artist to sell a million records. Sir Winston Churchill described Lauder as Scotland’s greatest ambassador. A number of events have been held in recent years to celebrate Cowal’s most famous resident, who died in 1950.
Currently there is a programme underway by the Friends of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs to upgrade the parking area and pathways to the Lauder Memorial. The memorial was created by Harry Lauder to commemorate his son John, who was killed whilst in active service during the First World War.
Ardentinny & Blairmore
Ardentinny and Blairmore are on the banks of Loch Long and linked by the narrow Shore Road. The Glenfinart Walled Garden was bought by the Ardentinny Community Trust in 2012. In the Victorian walled garden there is a children’s garden, orchard and sensory garden. This is well worth a visit, see the link below to read our guide to the garden.
At Blairmore the Waverely Paddle Steamer visits in summer months and berths at the restored Old Pier. There is an excellent garden opposite the pier, with many features that will interest children and a picnic areas. There is also a good gallery/cafe combining good food and the chance to see and buy local art.
Kilmun, is on the banks of Holy Loch, overlooking Dunoon and home to a large Arboretum. At Kilmun Arboretum choose from three trails to see eucalyptus trees, redwoods from California, monkey puzzles from South America or ornamental maples.
On the Cowal Peninsula there are many talented artists and craft producers, in September they take part in an 'open studios' week. Another annual event on the peninsula is Cowalfest, held each autumn. Cowalfest is a walking and outdoor festival with a series of events, talks and activities.
Benmore Botanical Gardens
Benmore Botanical Gardens can be found just inside Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, around 7 miles from Dunoon. There are many different gardens featuring plants and flowers from all over the world. Highlights include an impressive redwood avenue of giant sequoias that were planted in 1863. At the highest points of the gardens there are good views towards Holy Loch.
Close to Benmore is Puck’s Glen, in fact they are linked by a trail. Puck's Glen is one of the National Park's treasures, a series of gorges and waterfalls, especially worth a visit in autumn. Explore on a 90 minute walk, or via a longer 22 mile loop that also includes Loch Eck.
Dunoon is just outside of the National Park, but thanks to Calmac's Gourock to Dunoon ferry a perfect gateway to the Cowal Peninsula to explore Argyll Forest and beyond. If you do want to combine a trip to Argyll Forest with some of the other highlights of Argyll see our guide. Click the link below to read about the islands and peninsulas, including Tarbert, Gigha, Staffa, Iona and the Clyde Sea Lochs.