The National Park is, rightly, a popular destination for day trips but some locations are more visited than others. Places like Luss and Balmaha on Loch Lomond or Ben A’an in the Trossachs are more well-known, but how well do you know the Cowal or Breadalbane areas?
There are lots of pockets to explore offering historical places of interest, forests and loch shore views away from some of the more popular areas. We’ve put together a recommendation of four spots off the beaten track to help beat the crowds on your next day out.
Benmore’s thriving botanic garden contains many species of plants, trees and flowers from all over the world set amongst the beautiful scenery at the foot of Beinn Mhor and Lock Eck. You can see giant redwoods stretching up to the sky, over 300 species of rhododendrons as well a spectacular viewpoint to view the surrounding area.
Accessed easily by the A815 you can park at Benmore Gardens, where you will also find a café and toilets. Be sure to check the Benmore Botanic Garden website for opening hours.
An alternative scenic route is available if you take the short ferry ride from Gourock to Dunoon bringing your over the Firth of Clyde.
On Loch Goil is the beautiful Cormonachan Community Woodland, home to ancient Atlantic oaks some of which are over 300 years old as well as hazel trees from around 100 years ago. A number of trails allow you to explore this peaceful corner of the National Park with a viewpoint and contemplation shelter, waterfalls and old village waiting to be discovered.
Continuing south of the woodlands to the end of the road will take you to the 14th century Carrick Castle sitting on the shoreline of Loch Goil with fantastic panoramic views of the surrounding hillsides, while for the more adventurous there are operators offering outdoor and water-based activities in Lochgoilhead.
Parking for the woodlands can be found 3.5 miles south of the village of Lochgoilhead but please be careful when driving on this single-track road and remember not to park in any passing places or obstruct access to homes and farmland. Carrick Castle is a further two miles beyond the woodland.
People have been coming to this part of Scotland for many years, centuries even – the earliest known settlers here began staying around 3500 BC! There is a rich cultural heritage waiting for you in the village of Kilmun.
The Argyll Mausoleum adjacent to Kilmun Church was built in 1790 to accommodate the Dukes and Earls of Argyll and Clan Campbell chiefs, but the site has been used for burials since the 15th century. There are also several short walks to explore in the area such as Strone Hill and Kilmun Arboretum, and plenty of places for a picnic by Holy Loch.
It’s easy to reach Kilmum via the quick Gourock to Dunoon ferry, approximately 28 miles (45 minutes) by car from Glasgow, or via the A815 trunk road.
St Fillans sits in the north-eastern corner of the National Park with great views and historic landmarks to be found. If you’re looking for a morning adventure, a waymarked trail will take you up the hill sides behind the village for views westwards across Loch Earn. You can also visit the site of an old pictish fort, to the south of the village. Adventurous visitors might want to combine both routes for a longer day out!
St Fillans sits at the eastern end of Loch Earn easily accessed via the A85 road. From Glasgow it’s 55 miles (just over an hour) and from Edinburgh it is approximately 66 miles (1.5 to 2hrs). There is a small parking area in the village and at the layby opposite the Four Seasons Hotel where there are public toilets close by.
Aberfoyle is a gateway for many visiting the Trossachs area but the village itself has a rich history of its own with many myths, secrets and stories waiting to be revealed to visitors.
Close to the main car park and adjacent to the NCN7 cycle path, the Rabbit Hill Nature Trail will take you around the meadows adjacent to the River Forth. There is an abundance of wildlife to keep an eye out for such as otters, water voles and kingfishers as well as a rich plant life populated with wild-flowers and butterflies.
Another short walk out from the centre of the village takes you to the supposed entrance to an underground Fairy Queen’s palace on Doon Hill, look out for an ancient pine in the middle of a clearing!
Aberfoyle is less than an hour from Glasgow and around 1.5 hours from Edinburgh. There is a large car park, visitor centre and public toilets in the centre of the village as well numerous places to get a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.