Scotland’s Tree Trail – Ardkinglas

ardkinglas woodlandWe’ve had some lovely days this summer – perfect for taking in the glorious Scottish scenery.  In just an hour or so you can leave Glasgow behind and drive  to the coast, up into The Trossachs or down towards Loch Lomond.

We’re very inclined to turn right off Great Western Road at Anniesland Cross and head up through Strathblane to Callander or Aberfoyle, have a stroll and a coffee and maybe a wee wander on the banks of the Lake of Monteith. However, last week we did something new and took a run out to Loch Lomond, up past Arrochar to Loch Foyle, where fortified by a tasty lunch at Loch Fyne Oyster Bar and Restaurant, we set out to investigate  Ardkinglas Woodland Garden, one of Scotland’s Tree Trails.

In particular, we were keen to check out Britain’s tallest tree – Abies Grandis, The Grand Fir, was planted in 1875 and peaked at a height of 210 ft 11 inch, 63.4m.  For the last ten years it has been recorded as the tallest tree in Britain and is i’ts certainly very impressive, not just for its loftiness but for its substantial girth. It is huge and has a circumference of 17 ft.

jim treesNo doubt the giant tree is the highlight of the trail but its not all Ardinglas has to offer. Apart from all the azalea bushes and the many frondy white hydrangeas, there are beautiful beech, oak and ash trees, bamboo and quite a few ‘champions’.  Champion trees are deemed to be the tallest and broadest trees in the British Isles as recognised by the Tree Register of the British Isles (TROB).  We certainly spotted some beauties and spent a lot of our time gazing up at the lofty branches of European Firs, Patagonian Cypress and the Golden Plumed Sawara Cyprus.

On the trek around Ardinglas there are parts where you also have to keep your eyes firmly on the ground and it can be very tricky at some points, with narrow paths and steep, awkward steps.  It’s hilly and a fairly demanding walk but there are lots of benches and places to stop off and catch your breath.   

We spend a long time in the quaint wooden gazebo, reading the many poems, proverbs and ditties about trees, which decorate the walls. They range from the work of Rabbie Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson to Spike Milligan and Voltaire.

My favourites from the scriptorium were:


Even winter bleak has charms to me
When winds rave through the naked tree.

Robert Burns, (1759 – 1796)

‘There’s a Nong Nang Ning
When the Trees Go Ping’

Spike Milligan

tallest treeWe also stopped to admire the lochan, with its pink and white lilies, before heading towards the bridge over the weir to the old mill. Apparently there are red squirrels in this area but we weren’t lucky enough to any. We turned back to continue our walk towards the tallest tree, taking the path high above the water, known as the Window Walk. Here you need to take extra care as the path is very uneven with huge tree roots jutting through the ground.  but you’re only a few minutes away from the Grand Fir – and it really is impressive.

We’ll definitely go back to Ardkinglas, it must be beautiful in the Autumn and in early Summer, when the rhodedendrons are in blossom.


I’m also making plans to check out the fabulous woodlands at Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute and the collection of some of ‘the world’s finest conifers’ at Dunkeld.  In the meantime, much nearer home, I’ll be checking out how the Tree Hub Project  is progressing at Glasgow Botanic Gardens.

Tree Hub and Scotland’s Trees (PDF)

Open all year in daylight hours

Ardkinglas Estate, The Estate Office, Cairndow, Argyll and Bute PA26 8BG

Pat Byrne, August, 2014.

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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