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Dunoon and Cowal: why itís a woodland wonderland and more!

Dunoon and Cowal: why itís a woodland wonderland and more!
The Cowal Peninsula is a rich landscape of contrasts. Flanked by Loch Long and Loch Fyne, it’s packed with natural wonders. This really is a woodland wonderland, with the Argyll Forest Park stretching across much of Cowal, pockets of ancient Atlantic oakwoods hugging the coast and treasures such as the giant redwoods at Benmore. But it’s not all trees. Breath-taking beaches, awe-inspiring wildlife and glorious gardens all await you. Here are the five nature experiences in Dunoon and Cowal that you can’t afford to miss!

1. Wonderful woodlands. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to woodlands in Cowal. Argyll Forest Park stretches from the Holy Loch at Dunoon to the jagged peaks of the Arrochar Alps. This magnificent stretch of rugged hill country is Britain’s oldest Forest Park. It has so much to offer, from walking routes to cycling trails. Head to Ardgarten for short strolls through woodland along by the Croe Water and to Glenbranter for some awesome mountain bike trails. Cormonachan, a community-managed woodland on the shores of Loch Goil, is well worth a visit. You’ll find Atlantic oak woods with areas of old coppiced hazel. Over on Loch Fyne, Ardkinglas Woodland Garden is a great place to explore. The background of mountain and forest is spectacular and there’s a Gruffalo Trail for youngsters. Also on Loch Fyne, Glenan near Portavadie is a lovely Atlantic oakwood with a way-marked loop.

2. The magical world of Puck’s Glen. This other-worldly woodland and gorge area near Dunoon surprises and delights in equal measure. Named after the character in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, there’s a certain dreamlike quality to this glen. There are two lovely, if strenuous, walks you can enjoy here. The Puck’s Glen Gorge Trail is a glorious route while the Eckford House Trail climbs through colourful rhododendrons before offering up great views across Strath Eachaig to the mountains beyond.

3. Benmore’s bountiful botanic garden. Benmore Botanic Garden is just a stone’s throw from Puck’s Glen. Set in a magnificent mountainside location, its 120 acres is packed with fascinating flora. The world-famous collection of flowering trees and shrubs includes over 300 species of rhododendron and over one third of the world’s hardy conifer species. Visitors are greeted by a towering avenue of Giant Redwoods, which must be one of the grandest entrances to a botanic garden anywhere in the world. Established over 150 years ago, these giants of the tree world are now over 50 metres high! Head up to the viewpoint for a dramatic vista of the surrounding mountains and Holy Loch.

4. The brilliant beaches of Ardentinny and Ostel Bay. Ostel Bay is a wide sandy beach on Argyll’s Secret Coast. It’s been a favourite with locals for generations. When the tide is out a vast area of sand is exposed making it a fantastic place for kids to run off their energy. On hot summer’s days, as the tide comes in the sea is warmed by the sand and is perfect for a paddle. At other times of the year you may find you have this entire beach to yourself, allowing you to drink in the views over to Arran in perfect, contemplative solitude! Another sandy delight is Ardentinny Beach. Enjoy a picnic, search for shells and spot wildlife. There’s also a network of interesting trails, including one suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.

5. Go wild on Loch Goil. Loch Goil is a rich habitat for wildlife, with ducks, gannets, cormorants, oystercatchers, herons and porpoises all making regular appearances. You may also spot seals in the loch and there’s a good chance you’ll see deer in the area. The walk to Carrick Castle is a great way to explore the area (although the Glen Donich Trail is closed until June of this year while work is undertaken on the local hydro-electric scheme). But even with this trail closed visitors can still get up onto the mountains surrounding Loch Goil to enjoy stunning views of the loch.

One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of Cowal is to walk the Cowal Way. Newly upgraded, this epic route takes you through a spectacular array of landscapes starting at Portavadie on the western side of Cowal and ending at Inveruglas on Loch Lomond. You’ll get up close and personal with the area’s woodlands and take in views of shorelines, forests, hills and lochs. Look out for red squirrels along the way!

Find out more about things to do and see in Dunoon & Cowal.
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Tree at Ardkinglas Woodland GardensPond at Benmore GardensOstel Bay
Giant redwoods at Benmore GardenGlen Donich Trail, LochgoilheadCycling on Argyll's Secret Coast
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