Get off the beaten track for a day and discover the beautiful Cowal Peninsula. Benmore Botanic Garden makes a fantastic start to the day and will set the scene for what’s in store for you. In the heart of the Argyll Forest Park you can enjoy lovely woodland walks and find out about the local culture and history.
Cowal is ‘Comhghall’ (cow-ul) in Gaelic, meaning ‘the land of Comgall’, a leader of one of the four chief tribes of the ancient Gaelic territory of Dàl Riata.
At Benmore Botanic Garden, you’ll be enchanted by a garden steeped in history and surrounded by dramatic scenery.
If you are coming from Glasgow, take the ferry from Gourock to Dunoon. When leaving Dunoon ferry terminal turn right following the A815 Sandbank/Strachur road sign. After 2 miles/3.2km, at the T-Junction, turn right onto the A815 in the Glasgow direction. Stay on the A815 for 4 miles/6.5km and you reach Benmore Botanic Garden on your left.
From Tarbet (Loch Lomond) turn onto the A83 (signposted Campbeltown). After 12.5 miles/20km turn left onto the A815, signposted Dunoon. Stay on the A815 for 21 miles/34km and you reach Benmore Botanic Garden on your right.
Explore the magically dark atmosphere of Puck’s Glen, a fairy glen named after Puck from a Midsummer’s Night Dream.
You can also leave your car at Benmore Botanic Garden and walk to Puck’s Glen following the ‘Black Gates Trail’ (3.75 miles/5km, allow 2hrs); a pleasant circular walk with great views. Please note that if you decide to take this walk you may not be able to squeeze in all of the remaining itinerary.
Explore Puck’s Glen with Google Street View
Located on the shores of the Holy Loch, step back in history with a visit to Historic Kilmun. The history of Scotland has been associated with this area for thousands of years, with the earliest known peoples settling here around 3500 BC.
Turn left when leaving Puck’s Glen car park and follow the A815 for 0.7 miles/1.1km. Turn left onto the A880 signposted Kilmun. Kilmun Church & Argyll Mausoleum are on your left after 1.1 miles/1.7km. There is a layby-style car park. Click here for a suggested walk to discover the heritage of the area.
Continue on the A880 through Kilmun Village. With the coast on our right continue along the A880 from Kilmun to Ardentinny (6 miles/9.5km). Look out for porpoises, seals or sea birds like guillemots and gannets, or go rock pooling to look for crabs and sea anemones.
To head back to Glasgow, from Ardentinny retrace your route back through Kilmun and then left onto the A815 to Dunoon for the ferry to Gourock or follow the signpost for Glasgow if you are heading back to Tarbet (Loch Lomond).
Combined ‘Rail & Sail’ tickets take you from Glasgow to Cowal for a day out. With a combined ticket, you can travel from Glasgow Central train station to Gourock station, where you can take the ferry over to Dunoon.
From Dunoon, the West Coast Motors bus service takes you to Benmore Botanic Garden (all inclusive ticket available). For the active, Glasgow to Benmore Botanic Garden also makes a great day out on the bike! You can take National Cycle Route 75 from Glasgow close to Benmore Botanic Garden (41 miles/66km). Or if you don’t fancy cycling all the way, take your bike on the train from Glasgow-Dunoon, one way or both.
Argyll & Isles Tourism Co-operative have created a two-sided PDF document designed to be downloaded or printed. It contains basic information and maps for Benmore Botanic Gardens, Puck’s Glen and Kilmun. You can download it here.