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Into the woods

Into the woods
Michaela Hunter lives with her partner in Dunbeag, a woodland croft set in 30 acres of ancient mid-Atlantic oak woodland in Tighnabruaich. Here, she shares some of her favourite oak-wood walks in the area and tells us what wildlife we might see.

Argyll’s Secret Coast has some fine mid-Atlantic oak woods. These atmospheric places support a vast range of insects and woodland birds, and now is the best time to get out and explore them. At this time of year the oaks are just about to open their leaves, set flowers and release their pollen. The woods are alive with birdsong, and wild hyacinths, primroses and ramsons fill the air with pungent scents. Look out for orange-tip butterflies, which love to visit the flowers and bask in the much-needed sunlight before the canopy closes and the bracken subdue the forest flora.

Glenan Wood
Glenan Wood is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission. Located next to Portavadie Marina, it’s easily accessible and has a range of walks, from easy coastal rambles to slightly more strenuous hilly ones. There are easy-to-climb trees, raised beach caves to explore and look out for the seals bobbing in the bay. Parking is available and stout footwear advisable.

Glenan Wood has a rare population of night jars. See if you can hear their distinctive call in the twilight (or gloaming as we call it here). Cuckoos call in the morning, announcing their presence before laying a sneaky egg in an unsuspecting bird’s nest. Summer visitors, such as woodwarblers, have returned looking for partners to nest with. They have a very unique call, and are easily noticed once you know what to listen for.

A panel close to the parking area shows the paths leading up to the Lost Village. This Highland Clearance settlement was abandoned more than 200 years ago. It’s a magical place to visit with eight to nine tumbling houses made of local stone. It gives a great insight into how the community lived and is a good place to stop for a picnic as well. After a stomp around the wood, the marina is a welcoming place for a bite to eat and a refreshment or two. Hungry and muddy children are well catered for in The Lodge!

Caladh Estate Woodlands
Caladh Estate is another great place to explore, with easy coastal walking or more strenuous exploration up in the oak woodland. The Estate is privately owned, but public access is actively encouraged with interpretation panels and signposted walks.

The lily pond is well worth finding as resident dragonflies love to police the watercourses around it. Wood ants swarm over their nests on warm days at the side of the paths, clearing up the forest of anything rotten or edible in their path! Take your binoculars or try to identify the calls of woodwarblers, pied flycatchers, cuckoos and other woodland birds which are abundant here. There’s the added bonus of a heronry out on one of the islands – the birds sound just like pterodactyls from the Jurassic. For more intrepid exploring, follow the signs for the Cowal Way which leads walkers on to Ormisary and beyond.

Argyll’s Secret Coast has lots to offer walkers and provides outdoor entertainment for all ages. All you need to do is get out there and discover it!
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