Showing posts from 2017

Colzium Estate

The Colzium Estate is an area of sunny parkland on the southern flanks of the Kilsyth Hills, within easy reach of Glasgow. Once owned by the Edmonstone family, the park is now maintained by the council as a popular escape for locals. The best part is a very smart and colourful walled garden, plus a brand new café / visitor centre with information boards detailing the estate's history. For something slightly more energetic, go for a gander up the forested glen from the other side of the main drive. Kids should love the adventure playground (also new) and miniature railway just down the hill.

Name: Colzium Estate★★★☆☆
Location: Off A803 just east of Kilsyth, G.R.: NS 729787 / emptied gazes sleepy
Open (2017): Daily
Cost: Free

Walk: Benmore's Big Tree Trail

This short, steep walk opposite Benmore Botanic Garden is named by the Forestry Commission as the "Big Tree Trail". That mightn't sound particularly special given that almost all of Cowal's other popular walks are also in forest - but this energetic circuit turns out to have bundles of character. One quirky highlight is a ladder staircase to hurdle a recently fallen giant (apparently containing enough wood to build 60 garden sheds); there are also some decent views over Strath Eachaig from the higher parts.

Name: Walk: Benmore's Big Tree Trail ★★★☆☆
Length: 2 km / 1 mile
Ascent: 120 metres
Points of interest: Cowal forest... and big trees!
Start / finish: Car park at Benmore Botanic Garden, A815 4 miles north of Sandbank, G.R.: NS 143855 / minerals users rainfall

Route: Car park - cross A815 - track junction at G.R.: NS 146855 - track junction at G.R.: NS 148851 - start. Route marked in blue on map here (no. 6).
Terrain: Clear paths and tracks, often steep.
Wildlife tod…

Kilmodan Stones

The Kilmodan Stones are found inside the churchyard of St Modan's Church in Clachan of Glendaruel, a remote valley settlement miles from anywhere of significant size and reached by a choice of wide, sweeping and scenic roads. Ten carved grave slabs are on display, incorporating intricate lacing, human figures, deer and even a couple of unicorns. All but one of the stones date from late-medieval times, with the other one commemorating a 17th century minister of the church. St Modan's is itself worth looking inside - probably always open to passers-by.

Name: Kilmodan Sculptured Stones★★☆☆☆
Location: By St Modan's Church, Clachan of Glendaruel, G.R.: NR 995841 / punchy softly digested
Open: Always
Cost: Free

Strachur Smiddy

We came across this 18th century blacksmiths after spotting a sign on the main road that bypasses the village of Strachur. The business only closed in the 1950's but reopened as a smoky, authentic tourist attraction in 1997; apparently not much restoration was needed to bring the unassuming building back to its former state. A video gives a good introduction, while if you're lucky you'll be able to pump the bellows to blast air into the roaring fire in the hearth.

Name: Strachur Smiddy★★☆☆☆
Location: Strachur village centre, G.R.: NN 097014 / finer visual person
Open (2017): Every afternoon, Easter to September
Cost (2017): £2 (adults), £1 (children)

Walk: Glen Branter gets good... eventually

High on the steep sides of Glen Branter, occasional glimpses through gaps between trees are just enough to let you know that there's an impressive gorge somewhere down there. Otherwise the thick vegetation keeps vantage points to a minimum, especially in high summer; by the time you reach the head of the valley you might be feeling a little underwhelmed. But be patient: happily the route eventually descends to reach the banks of the Allt Robuic, with an impressive set of waterfalls as the climax.

Name: Walk: Glen Branter gets good... eventually ★★★☆☆
Length: 4 km / 2 miles
Ascent: 130 metres
Points of interest: Allt Robuic gorge & waterfalls
Start / finish: "Main" Glenbranter car park, off A815 at Glenbranter, G.R.: NS 112976 / alike riverbed across

Route: Car park - Allt Robuic gorge by upper path & red squirrel hide - Glenbranter cottages - start. Route mostly waymarked in yellow, and on map here (no. 4).
Terrain: Clear paths and forest tracks, quite hilly at times a…

Loch Eck

Poor Loch Eck. If it was somewhere more accessible it might be as celebrated as some of its similar sized cousins such as Loch Katrine or Loch Earn. Instead, this seven mile-long body of water is hidden away in a narrow cleft in deepest Cowal, surrounded by a maze of sea lochs and rugged, seldom climbed hills. Once you've safely arrived in the region, access from the roadside is actually fairly easy thanks to a string of laybys with informal paths leading down to the water's edge, some disappointingly litter-stewn. Apparently Loch Eck is the only place in the UK where arctic charr, salmon and sea trout can all be found together (though we can think of a couple of restaurants...).

Name: Loch Eck★★☆☆☆
Location: G.R.: NS 139925 / hobby whirlpool relations
Anything else? Access (mostly by rough paths) from various laybys on the A815, which loosely follows the east bank.

Benmore Botanic Garden

Benmore Botanic Garden is the mountain outpost of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, set on sloping ground above the River Eachaig in Argyll. Though a little rough around the edges, this is a fascinating place and a huge one - fortunately a map is provided. The garden specialises in trees and rhododendrons, extending 120 acres across the strath and up the south facing slopes of A' Chruach. The hilly, north-west half of the garden is creatively laid out into several areas each representing a different part of the world - Japanese Valley, Tasmanian Ridge, Bhutanese Glade and Chilean Rainforest Glade to name a few - each incorporating native flora and architecturally striking shelters. Zones are mostly laid out in vertical strips; this allows great views but means a lot of ascent and descent is required to explore each one. Formal gardens, ponds, aboretums and a red squirrel hide cover most of the flatter part, while rhododendrons are all over: visit in May or June to catch these a…

Walk: Puck's Glen - midsummer light's dream

Magic oozes from every twist and turn of Puck's Glen, an enchanting gorge deep in the forests of Cowal a few miles north of Dunoon. Named after the mischievous sprite in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, you might see him in the balls of sunlight which occasionally burst through to the base of the glen. Every corner seems to reveals a new surprise, with waterfalls and bridges clinging to the valley sides which must number in the dozens. Photos can't capture the scent of fresh pine, the noisy cascades or the dampness of the air, all of which combine to create an overwhelmingly atmospheric route - one of Scotland's very best short walks. Catch it early or late in the day and it feels like you're the first person ever to set foot here.

Name: Walk: Puck's Glen - midsummer light's dream ★★★★★
Length: 3 km / 2 miles
Ascent: 130 metres
Points of interest: Puck's Glen
Start / finish: Car park on A815 3 miles north of Sandbank, G.R.: NS 147839 / pits snow…