The best places to visit in Scotland (read the Highlands & Islands) are pretty far from Edinburgh & Glasgow so there’s very little time left for relaxation and a touch of sightseeing if you bravely attempt to touch Skye and return in one weekend. Dunoon in the region of Argyll (within the Cowal peninsula) is actually one of those perfect places that afford great views for relaxation and enough nature & sightseeing (home to the best walk & best garden in the country in our opinion) to fill out a day on the weekend. Best of all, it is only 1.5 hours away from Glasgow by public transport!!
Note: The easy access is the reason Dunoon was chosen as the spot to end Dalek’s camping trip. The two of us were reunited after a month apart and the weather was pretty nice making it a memorable weekend.
1. Puck’s Glen, Argyll Forest Park (TripAdvisor)
One of the most stunning walks in Scotland, period (Walkhighlands). Just visiting this walk is reason enough to come to Dunoon. It is a surreal & magical looking valley that has a trail running through it. The walk is short but so beautiful that we spent a couple of leisurely hours walking through it. Do not miss the many small waterfalls across the path. If the sunlight is just right (like it was during our visit), the pools turn golden. Words fail to describe this walk so here’s pictures.
2. Benmore Botanic Gardens (TripAdvisor)
At one end of Puck’s Glen just across the road is the entrance to one of Scotland’s best gardens – the Benmore Botanical Garden. It is massive at 120 acres, you can spend the whole day in the gardens and still not see all of it (we couldn’t in an afternoon). It’s signature is “Redwood Avenue” a path lined with 48 “young” California Redwood trees, each around 150 years old and really, really tall. We never went to Sequoia national park in California when we lived in the US so we were pleasantly surprised to see so many Redwoods 5000 miles away.
Outside of Redwood Avenue, there are so many trees & flowers to look at separated by type. Do not miss going to the upper areas of the park to get some good views of the area. If you love nature, you will love Benmore Gardens.
Tip: The cafe & store stocks Isle of Arran icecream, one of the best in Scotland. 🙂
3. Relax & enjoy the local harbour views
The best part of our Dunoon trip was enjoying the beautiful bay views from our excellent AirBnb flat (get £25 off your 1st booking, this post explains why we haven’t used a hotel in years). The town is a charming little place to walk around in as well with a fair number of restaurants & pubs. There is a Castle House Museum just off the pier which we didn’t get time to visit. Additionally, buses run to the town of Inveraray from Dunoon (not on Sundays). The town is a wonderful town to visit with a famous castle among other things.
Food & Drink
As we both love food and Dalek was camping across Scotland for a month, he was collecting special food items from all across Scotland to enjoy with Yoda. The one thing we bought in the area to cook at home were mussels from Argyll Smokery which we used in a Paella. Here are a couple of pictures of what we made (we’ll write a post on the special food items available across Scotland).
Getting in & around
Getting to Dunoon: From Glasgow Central, catch the ScotRail train to Gourock that leaves every 30 minutes. The trains connect to the Gourock – Dunoon ferry. The whole journey takes 1.5 hours and ScotRail sells Rail & Sail tickets costing £20 anytime return.
Getting to Benmore from Dunoon: West Coast motors run buses (484, 486, 489) that go to the entrance to Puck’s Glen / Benmore Gardens. Out of these, buses 484 & 486 continues to Inveraray. Full timetables.
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