Puck's Glen: aptly named, as we were bewitched
Updated: Mar 16, 2020
I don't understand how I had never heard of Puck's Glen until last month. I've never read about it, never heard it mentioned by any of the hundreds of outdoor-loving folk I've encountered in Scotland....which is doubly weird when you consider we admin an outdoor community with 1700 members, and discussing awesome walks is kinda like the raison d'être of our Facebook group. Other places such as The Whangie or Conic Hill have been mentioned as kid-friendly walks 'hunners o' times', as they say round my way. And yet this - easily the most stunning forest walk I've ever seen in Scotland - has completely passed me by until now.
Walk Highlands awards it 4.5/5 stars and Visit Scotland describes it as "deservedly the most famous short walk on the Cowal Peninsula". The latter description seems slightly underwhelming? I find myself Googling the Cowal Peninsula (nope...me neither!) to find out whether it boasts a plethora of gorgeous short walks amongst which this one claiming its crown is a real achievement. Why doesn't someone just say it's one of the best forest walks in Scotland?? You see, I'm feeling a distinct sense of FOMO as I'm now wondering where all these other amazing forest walks that can top this are ;-) !
Located within the Argyll Forest Park, Puck's Glen is named for the mischievous sprite from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Aptly then, this enchanting forest is the playground of not just one but two faery-beings: the first, Poca Ban, the locals say, is a malevolent sprite who entertains himself by morphing into a ball of wool in order to trip up unsuspecting walkers. However, if you have sharp eyes, you may spot the friendlier Ghillie Dhu whose attire of leaves and moss makes for good camouflage.
The incredibly atmospheric trail passes through a steeply walled rocky gorge, interwoven with cascading waterfalls and rock pools, and spanned by arched wooden bridges. There are so many different shades of green, from the towering conifers, to the fronds of ferns and the moss and lichen blanketing the rocks, but I was surprised to discover that the forest is the work of human hands. The river-formed ravine was originally a bare hillside until 1870, when the Greenock sugar refiner and philanthropist James Duncan planted extensively including dozens of species of conifer, rhododendrons, and rare ferns. His working hand in hand with nature has resulted in a diverse and beautiful eco-system, which one observer fittingly calls "a Celtic rainforest".
As ever, the exceedingly useful Walk Highlands page gives all the travel and route details so check that over before your trip. The time given is for adult walkers, but our pre-schoolers managed it in around 3 hours. A huge shout out to the tiniest legs on the walk: 2-year-old Lillian who hiked the entire circuit on her own steam!
I can't recommend it highly enough :-) You have a treat ahead of you: enjoy!