Went on a £9.50 Sun Holiday to Hunters Quay Holiday Village in August. It is a great base for exploring Scotland’s beauty so wanted to tell you about our trip to Puck’s Glen – which is less than 5 miles away from the campsite.
We headed to Argyll Forest Park, a beautiful tree-cloaked corner of Scotland, which was opened up to visitors as Britain’s first forest park in 1935. Cowal’s most inspiring woodland which can be explored on a network of well-managed trails.
Why Visit Puck’s Glen
Puck’s Glen is described as a magical place. It is all over my FYP on TikTok saying it is a must-visit place for wild swimmers! With it being less than 5 miles from Hunters Quay it made perfect sense to visit.
But when we reached the car park for Puck’s Glen it was not only full but people trying to turn around, waiting for spaces and we just stood no chance. Remember that this was at a low-season time of year for Scotland too (end of August).
What we did was carry on driving to Benmore Botanic Garden and followed the Black Gates trail across the road from there. Parking here is also free.
The Benmore estate was given to the Forestry Commission in 1929 by the last laird, Harry George Younger. He had initially paid £110,237 for it was thought sporting reasons. It was a rich man’s playground hunting deer in the oak forest. A succession of business men, made wealthy by tobacco, sugar and beer, planted millions of conifers to shelter game birds – and to sell for timber.
Benmore’s boasts mighty conifers which include Californian redwood and Douglas fir. There are then two trials to choose from, both of which are described as strenuous.
The Big Tree Trail
First there is the Big Tree Trail. Described as walking over and under Douglas firs, cypresses and silver firs, planted in the nineteenth century. With great views from the top. The Big Tree Trail is 1 ¼ miles long (or 1.9km) and says to allow an hour to complete.
There are uneven gravel and earth paths with exposed tree roots and muddy sections. With some long steep slopes and low trees to duck under.
The Black Gates Trail – including Puck’s Glen
For a full tour of Benmore Forest you will want the Black Gates Trail. This combines the giant conifers of Benmore with the spectacular gorge of Puck’s Glen. It also provides great views across the valley.
This trail is 3 miles (or 4.8km) long as suggests allowing 2 hours. It is described as having narrow and rocky sections in Puck’s Glen that may be wet. There are several steep slopes with long flights of uneven steps. It also includes a number of bridges.
Our Experience of the Black Gates Trail – Including Puck’s Glen
Honestly I am so glad we did the Black Gates Trail because it was stunning. The first part of our trail was nice and quiet too – we saw one other family. Once we actually got to Puck’s Glen it was, of course, beautiful but also felt very touristy with lots of people all trying to take their photographs and videos.
This was a fantastic few hours for us. Our main problem being the older of our two teens didn’t want to stick to set the trail as it was just so enticing he wanted to just go off and explore! Honestly the imagery does not do it justice!
Practical things to Consider
Luckily most of us were wearing walking boots because straight away it was rather steep. However, one of our sons was in just normal trainers and was okay. If the weather had been different I couldn’t guarantee that this would have still been the case.
Note that fairly early on in the trail there was a table and benches for us to sit down and eat our lunch. Also next to some wild blackberries.
Wild Swimming at Puck’s Glen
As a wild swimmer I did take my kit in a back pack. However, I didn’t end up using it as I didn’t really feel there was places to swim, just wild dip. We had already been wild swimming that day so it felt a lot of effort to change. There were no other people in the water at all. Needing to feel the beautiful coldness of the water I did take my shoes off and go in up to my knees.
Final thoughts on the Black Gates Trail and Puck’s Glen
If you love nature’s beauty then I would definitely recommend a visit. We had a back with waters and lunch in and it was a nice day. It may not be suitable for small children or people who don’t really like walking. Personally I wouldn’t say the trail was particularly strenuous as such, you don’t need walking poles, but some level of fitness would make it easier.