A chance discovery
A big Friday blow out resulted the discovery of the Gourock to Hunter’s Quay Ferry and the stunning Puck’s Glen in the Argyll Forest.
I had big plans for the weekend. However this also coincided with a night out with work colleagues and many false promises that I should go home for an early start on Saturday. I was in no state come Saturday. The day came and went and I felt guilt that I was going to have another unproductive weekend. It seemed like an age since I’d been out exploring and taking photos.
I spent the latter half of Saturday lying on my sofa, trying to make plans for Sunday. “How can I save this weekend?”. Reaching for my recent acquisition, Wild Guide Scotland I settled on an area I was aware of but hadn’t visited since I was a kid. The Cowal Peninsula and Puck’s Glen looked like as good a spot as any. The wall through a forest would be less dependent on the weather which was looking gloomy and just about dry.
I would usually approach this area from the north, having driven up Loch Lomond. But I knew there was a ferry service from Gourock, less than an hour from Glasgow. I’d give this a try.
The Ferry to Hunter’s Quay
I was rested and made an early start on Sunday morning. Gourock was about 40 minutes drive and I was at the Western Ferries terminal in time for the 10:00am Hunter’s Quay (Dunoon) ferry. Having grown up on the banks of the Clyde it is always fascinating taking in the views from the opposite side of the river. I took the opportunity to gaze across the water while waiting on the ferry. It was a grey day with some rain, but nothing too heavy and the waters looked calm enough. Just glassy wavelets shaping the surface.
Boarding the ferry was a quick operation and as soon as I’d paid for my ticket I was out of the car again and hanging over the side of the ferry in fascination. It wasn’t long before I noticed some shapes moving through the waters and as we drew closer it I saw the little fin of a harbour porpoise break the surface. I may have imagined it, but I was sure that a small calf was accompanying it as it arched through the steely grey waves. This encounter alone made the trip worthwhile and I was just an hour away from home.
The hike through Puck’s Glen
I was so enthralled to make this discovery of a remote location, so close to home, that the short 10 minute drive to Puck’s Glen was interrupted every few hundred meters when I had to get out and take photos. Particularly across the Holy Loch and back up the Clyde past Cardross and Dumbarton with a hazy Erskine Bridge in the far distance indicating the proximity of Glasgow as the crow flies.
Eventually I made the short drive to the carpark at the start of the forest trails that make up Puck’s Glen. I started at the information boards and read about the history of Puck’s Glen. Curated in 1870s by the then Laird of Benmore, James Duncan, he wanted to evoke a “wild and mystical realm” to charm his visitors.
Now part of the Forestry Commission’s estate it still feels pretty wild and with plenty of native oak around it makes up part of the Celtic Rainforest that stretches up the west coast. There are many trails, and I didn’t have a plan, but it gains height and soon there was an option to explore an upper loop of marked walkways. I decided to leave them for another day and followed the river back downhill.
I had passed a few rhododendron bushes which tend to provoke ire in these locations. A pest of a plant that always reminds you that man’s hand has been at work despite it seeming wild. Wildlife was notable by its absence too. Whether this was down to several dog walkers or the monoculture that some forests seem to promote, I’m not sure. There were the small birds, robin, wren and coal tits but nothing more. The trees and ferns themselves though were beautiful. A slight drizzle above the trees never seemed to make it all the way to the forest floor, but trickled through the glistening vegetation on its way to the river below. I didn’t need my jacket as I made my way down the humid gorge.
Potential for more discovery
After the a few hours of trekking the trail and trying to make some decent photos, I emerged out of the forest and into the light, returning to the car. It was around 2:30 and I eat a sandwich while offloading photos to my laptop. I decided to make the short trip north to Benmore Botanical Garden, however since it was getting late I didn’t feel it was worth entering. Better to leave it for another day. I hear there are more great hikes around the gardens, including some giant redwoods.
I spotted further north and stopped by the banks of Loch Eck to photograph some mist covered mountain that flanked the sides of of this inland, freshwater Loch.
It was time to head back for the ferry, despite it running well into the evening. I wanted to get back for dinner. This was easily achieved having crossed the Firth of Clyde again it was an easy jaunt back to Glasgow. I did make a short stop at the Greenock Esplanade to take a closer look across the water to my childhood village.
there are two ferry links to the Cowal Peninsula. I used Western Ferries from McInroy’s Point, Gourock to Hunter’s Quay, Dunoon. It cost me £32.60 return as I purchased my ticket on the ferry. However if you pre-book it only costs £18 return. They sail every 20 minutes so there isn’t long to wait.
You can of course take the scenic route through the Loch Lomond National park which is an experience in itself. But you can’t argue with the convenience this ferry gives you getting out of the city so quickly. I can’t believe I’ve never used it before.
Puck’s Glen Video
Here’s a little video piece I put together of my walk. Shot on my EOS 6D with no IS and only 720p. At least I remembered to film 50fps for slight slo-mo. Enjoy the walk.