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Everything you need to know about the Ardkinglas Gruffalo trail!

Everything you need to know about the Ardkinglas Gruffalo trail!
It’s one of the biggest phenomena in the world of children’s literature. The Gruffalo series of books has sold around 20 million copies. The original Gruffalo book alone has sold over 14 million copies and been translated into over 50 languages including Scots and Gaelic. And it’s not just through language that the Gruffalo has a strong Scottish connection. While the author Julia Donaldson spends part of her time in Edinburgh, there’s a permanent Gruffalo presence right here in Argyll with the official Gruffalo Trail set in the magnificent Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens at the head of Loch Fyne.

With Christmas on the horizon, if you’re planning to give a Gruffalo gift to the young ones in your life, why not bring the book to life with a visit to the Gruffalo Trail? You never know who you might meet in the deep, dark wood…

The Gruffalo Trail is only 400 metres long, making it very toddler friendly. After a five-minute walk from the car park, a metalwork sculpture of Mouse greets visitors at the start of the trail, where you can pick up a map. The trail follows a short route through an atmospheric area of the woods where you can see Tod’s den, Hoolet’s home and Snake’s logpile house. Selected pages from the Scots version of the famous book are displayed at intervals along the way. At the end of the path, near the lochan where water lilies flower in the summer, the Gruffalo sculpture is hidden, waiting to surprise exploring children.

The Mouse and Gruffalo figures seen on the Gruffalo Trail were made by craftsmen at Rathos Byres Forge in Edinburgh using galvanized steel. These exceptional examples of contemporary blacksmith's art complement the metalwork gates and benches that the same craftsmen had previously designed for Ardkinglas. The lattice structure of the sculptures links in with the intertwining branches of the surrounding trees and magically captures the book's principal characters while allowing the children's imagination to bring them to life.

The Gruffalo Trail is only one of the attractions at Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens. Open all year round, it has has an outstanding collection of plants and trees including 'the mightiest conifer in Europe' - a remarkable European Silver Fir (Abies alba) with a girth of nearly ten metres. Look out for a range of native birds and animals as you explore. There’s a thriving community of red squirrels. Ardkinglas House is not generally open to the public, but you can book a private tour. Public tours, for which booking is essential, are available in the summer.

Don’t miss the opportunity to discover the wider Cairndow area. The scenery is stunning and there are some fabulous attractions nearby. Old Castle Lachlan is well worth a visit. Work up an appetite with a walk to the castle before dining at the award-winning Inver restaurant. Fyne Ales Brewery is within a few miles of Ardkinglas. Take a tour, grab a bite to eat and stock up on Fyne Ales’ bottled beer and mini casks. You can also buy beef from the Highland cattle that graze on the hills behind the brewery. They eat the spent grain from the brewery!

The Loch Fyne Oyster Bar sits at the head of Loch Fyne and is little more than a stone’s throw from the Fyne Ales Brewery. Salmon, shellfish and oysters are at the heart of the operations here. The restaurant and oyster bar offer a menu with clean, unfussy textures and flavours, allowing the quality and freshness of the seafood to do the talking. The seafood platter is unbeatable! If you love gardening, then pop next door to The Tree Shop where you’ll find a great selection of plants for sale.

So after the kids have enjoyed the Gruffalo Trail, grown ups can make a fun-packed foodie trail of their own in the area. Admission to Ardkinglas Woodland Garden including the Gruffalo Trail is £5 per person or £15 per family. Entrance is from the village of Cairndow just off the A83 at the head of Loch Fyne.
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