Whilst visiting Loch Lomond recently we went home via Inverary, but of course we wanted to stop somewhere to let the boys run of some steam before the car journey back. After considering Inverary itself with the castle and jail to visit we eventually decided to stop at Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens. Of course, Ardkinglas is the home of a Gruffalo trail, Scotland, one of only a handful in this country!
Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens
The Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens are situated off the A83 on the shores of Loch Fyne. The woodland walk is fairly short and easy for small legs, although you can continue on into the forest of Arkinglas estate beside the woodland for a longer walk. It is £5 per person on £15 for a family to enter the gardens and estate walks (as of 2016).
The gardens have a lot of history, first references of the planting date back to the 14th century, but the majority of the woodland management was begun in the 18th century. The garden matured and collections of tree and plant species were added to the woodland garden in the 19th and early 20th century. There are now some impressive sized trees in the garden including this huge European Silver Fir below.
We wandered along from the car park with maps of the woodland trails, one each for the boys who were determined to follow along the numbers on the path themselves.
There are several non-tree elements to discover in the garden, including sculptures such as the dancers below. The kids enjoyed finding the different sculptures. However there was a particular sculpture trail they were really looking for. The Gruffalo trail, Scotland!
And a little summerhouse with poetry written all around the inside of the house. The boys of course loved entering the summerhouse and although they can’t read yet. However, they did recognise one particular excerpt from one of their favourite poems, The Ning Nang Nong by Spike Milligan. It was also a favourite of mine as a child!
From this section of path you get an amazing view across the tree tops all the way to Loch Fyne. I can just imagine how stunning it would look on a frosty day with beautiful blue skies.
The Gruffalo Trail, Scotland
At the beginning of the Gruffalo trail is a metal sculpture of the mouse. Pointing in the direction that the children should walk, the mouse offered Gruffalo trail maps below it’s feet.
The boys used the maps to follow the path along to the other characters of the book. However, instead of the standard Gruffalo text, this trail is based on the version translated into Scots. So the mouse is now a moose, the fox a tod, the owl a hoolet and the deep dark wood is the deep mirk widd.
First stop was the tod’s undergroond hoose!
Next along the trail the boys found the hoolets tree-tap hoose. At each stop there was an open book printed onto the display with the Scots text. The boys didn’t seem to mind that it was in Scots. Although I don’t know how much they understood as we don’t tend to speak much Scots at home.
I have to say that I love reading the Scots Gruffalo version as it has a lot more emotion in the words than the English version. However that may be because you’re almost forced to use different voices when you read it properly!
Then of course we turned a corner and found the GRUFFALO!
Daddy was told off by littlest for touching the Gruffalo. I think he was a little unsure of whether it was going to come to life or not! After the Gruffalo trail we went for a walk through the woods and discovered lots more interesting plants and huge trees. We didn’t go past the old mill though. As part of the path was closed for maintenance, but I remember visiting it previously and it’s a nice part of the gardens.
There’s also a good chance you could see a red squirrel. We were lucky to see two very dark red squirrels that were almost black on our way back to the car. I had heard of black red squirrels, but this was the first time I had actually seen one!
If you go to Ardkinglas then I also recommend a stop at the Tree Shop across the loch. There are lots of gorgeous gifts and the little cafe has AMAZING cake (no pictures, I ate it too quickly…). If you’re a sea food fan then pop next door to Loch Fyne Oysters for a meal, my idea of heaven. Unfortunately for me it’s my husbands idea of hell. Maybe another time!
Have you been to a Gruffalo trail, Scotland? Let me know of any others you find!