Wullie Davidson’s Bus Pass Ramblings: Inverary to Dunoon
Benmore Gardens and Puck’s Glen
Today’s outing, 26 July 2023, would take me down the length of the Cowal peninsula, from Inveraray to Dunoon, taking in Benmore Botanic Gardens and Puck’s Glen. The trip could be done either from Dunoon in the south, or from Inveraray in the north, but I decided on the Inveraray route. My main interests were the trip through the Cowal peninsula from the north, which I hadn’t done before, and Puck’s Glen. Although I like botanic gardens, I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to visit one, but as Benmore Gardens was on the route, I decided to pay it a visit.
The 0830 bus from Glasgow to Oban arrived in Inveraray at 1023, but the bus from Inveraray to Dunoon left at 1011, so I couldn’t actually get it from Inveraray. Instead, I could catch it by getting off at Cairndow war memorial at 1006. I’d have 23 minutes to wait for the bus arriving.
Benmore Botanic Gardens
The Dunoon bus arrived at Benmore at 1107. Benmore Botanic Gardens has had a succession of owners since it was established in 1820, and was taken over by the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh in 1929, as its first outstation. It’s set in 120 acres, about a mile north of Puck’s Glen, and admission is £8. Visitors expecting a floral display might be disappointed, although the world leading collection of 300 species of 3,000 rhododendrons flower spectacularly in April and May.
Features include the Bhutanese Glade, Chilean Rainforest, Tasmanian Ridge, Japanese Valley, Native Woodland Area, Benmore Fernery, and the Redwood Avenue of Giant Sequoias. There are spectacular views over the Holy Loch from its highest point, but, as it was a 40 minute hike, I decided against doing it.
I gave the gardens two hours and maybe covered about a third of it, as I wanted to save some energy for Puck’s Glen. There’s a forestry road behind the bus shelter at Benmore, which you can follow to reach Puck’s Glen, a mile to the south, and about six miles north of Dunoon. I’d never actually heard of this place until doing some Internet browsing for places to visit last year. Frankly, it’s sensational – the best place I’ve seen in five years of traveling around Scotland. I was going to call it a ‘hidden gem’, but judging from the number of people on the trail, it’s not that well hidden. Puck is a fairy in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and you do feel as if you’ve been transported to an other worldly fairy glen, like Lothlorien, the elvish realm in Lord of the Rings.
Some parts of it are a little bit ‘dodgy’, but there are metal hand rails bolted into the rock face to hang on to at the more awkward bits. Lots of wooden bridges, and hundreds of stone steps, and it’s obvious that a lot of work has gone into making it accessible and safe for visitors. But, I could imagine that there have been a few accidents over the years. I took lots of photos, but was disappointed with the results. The camera simply can’t capture the magic of the place.
After reaching the top of the glen, I continued on following the waymarkers, wooden posts with a red strip, to get back to the road. This was a mistake, and if doing it again, I’d just turn around and go back through the glen again to arrive back at my starting point. The forestry track back seemed even longer than the glen, and was very rough in places. I eventually arrived at a car park, about a quarter mile south of where I started. There isn’t a bus stop, and I asked the driver of the bus to Benmore if the bus would stop to pick up passengers signaling. He said some might, but it depended on the driver and the traffic conditions, so to be sure of getting the bus, I walked south to the filling station (‘Kilmun turn’ on the timetables), where I had a 20 minute wait for the Dunoon bus arriving at 1510.
The ferry to Gourock took 25 minutes, and the train from the adjacent railway station took 52 minutes to arrive at Glasgow Central.
Wullie Davidson, July, 2023
- Black Pudding Day
- The Nancy Smillie Shop – Glasgow West End
- Arthur’s Christmas Tale in aid of Shelter Scotland
- Glasgow Film Festival – Year of Celebration
- Winter at Secession Bar, Websters
- Mother India – Glasgow
- Christmas Concert, Child Bereavement, Cottiers
- Artists’ Christmas Fayre
- Global Climate Change in September and October 2023
- Without Verona Walls at Websters
- Stage and Screen Exhibition at The Hunterian
- Scottish Women’s Convention – STEMinism
- Reclaim the River, Poetry and Music
- Voicebeat 21st Anniversary Concert
- Spooky Walk at Glasgow Green
- Panopticon Halloween Market
- Clann An Drumma, St Andrews Night, Cottiers
- Diana Devlin at Avant Garde
- Take 2: Puffin Rock and the New Friends
- Glasgow Film Festival – a year of celebration