Ardkinglas Woodland Garden: Where a Gruffalo roams and mighty pines soar

Ardkinglas Gardens
Ardkinglas Gardens

Ardkinglas Woodland Garden


Argyll PA26 8BH

Why We Should Visit

The Christmas trees that sit in the corner of every living, draped in tinsel and baubles, are the domesticated version of real forest giants. Left to grow, these saplings would soar to impossible heights and at Ardkinglas Woodland Garden that’s exactly what has happened.

The damp, mild climate of Argyll has provided the ideal conditions for some of the world’s mightiest trees to flourish and in winter, when the woodland’s deciduous trees have dropped their leaves, these mighty firs can be seen at their best, dominating the landscape at the eastern end of Loch Fyne.

Story of the Garden

Before the influx of exotic conifers, Scots pine, yew and holly were this country’s only evergreens. Planting of trees from both North and South America, as well as from Asia, began at Ardkinglas during the 19th century and these grew quickly. In the early 20th century hundreds of rhododendrons were planted amongst them and Ardkinglas became renowned for its dense woodland and open spaces from where the trees could be admired.


Ardkinglas is home to what has been described as ‘the mightiest conifer in Europe.’ The Abies alba has a girth of 10 metres. Many of Britain’s most immense trees grow here, including an Abies grandis, which so far has reached more than 64m, and a Patagonian cypress, still just a baby at 150 years old and 20m in height, which could live for more than 500 years, eventually reaching 70m.

Don’t Miss

From views down Loch Fyne, to red squirrels in the branches, Ardkinglas is a place to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. The handsome house, designed by Robert Lorimer, is not open during the winter, but it makes a fine feature against the wooded slopes of Argyll.

Anything Else to Look Out For

With a Poetry Gazebo, walks through the woods and a Gruffalo Trail for children, Ardkinglas has all the ingredients for a great family day out. The garden is full of both unusual and native species, many of which only flourish because of the protected microclimate.

Best Time to Visit

Winter is the best time to appreciate the beauty of the estate’s conifers. In May, azaleas and rhododendrons dominate the scene and in late summer hydrangeas and a huge collection of sorbus take over.

Any Recommendations in the Area

Inverary, which can be seen from Ardkinglas, is one of Scotland’s most picturesque towns. Built in the 18thC by the Duke of Argyll, its whitewashed buildings hark back to the Jacobite era, when this part of the Highlands was at odds with the Crown.


The entrance to Ardkinglas is in the village of Cairndow, just off the A83 Loch Lomond to Inverary Road.


£5/£2.50 (4-16)/ free (3 and under)

The woodland garden is open daily, dawn to dusk.

Soft petals and bright flowers are just a memory as winter gets underway, but the woodland surrounding some of Scotland’s best gardens offers a chance to get outdoors throughout the coldest months of the year.

At Greenbank Garden, near Clarkston on the southern edge of Glasgow, trails beneath the trees provide a sense of being in the middle of the countryside, while at Dumfries House in East Ayrshire, strolls along the Lugar Water have been enhanced by work going on to extend planting in the Arboretum, with more shrubs and camassias to give a vivid spring display.

The parkland around the dramatic ruins of Armadale Castle on Skye, left, are home to trees that have survived for more than a century and plantings of new conifers are being undertaken to help ensure the future of some of the world’s threatened species.

This designed landscape on Skye’s Sleat Peninsula is an atmospheric place to explore, especially during the winter months.

And so too is Scone Palace near Perth, below, which was the birthplace of plant hunter David Douglas, who introduced the Douglas Fir to Europe, the tree that would transform and the forestry industry.

The first Douglas Fir, grown from seed sent back by David Douglas himself, still grows at Scone today.

In association with Discover Scottish Gardens.