This is a brilliant walk for toddlers and young children, it's about a mile in length on dirt track, gravel and duck boards. All terrain buggies cope well, I had a Nipper Out n' About which required no effort to push round. If it's raining, the gravel path and boardwalk are sheltered but the dirt track gets muddy.
I first discovered Peaton Hill Community Nature Reserve back in 2012 just after we'd moved up. J was away a lot and, with a fractious 4 month old, much time was spent driving around and pushing the buggy to try and get her to sleep. I'm not sure how the collobaration started but my understanding is that a group of friends, some of whom are ex MOD policemen, got together and decided to create something the community could enjoy from a patch of wilderness owned by the MOD. They have created a wildflife haven with gravel paths, ponds, small animal habitats, bird feeding stations, boardwalk over marsh, picnicing space with stunning views and tranquil areas where you can just sit, watch and listen to nature as it carries on around you.
The carpark is your starting point, there are two exits and for this walk you need to head for the wooden height restiction and in front you'll see a dirt track. This is a circular walk and about 25 meters along on the right you'll see two yellow arrows. You can turn right and do the walk that way (backwards! - long standing family argument about which is the correct way to go around. I maintain that since I discovered the walk first, my way is the correct way) or carry on. The road joining the Coulport Road and Peaton Road runs to your left. The track ends in a clearing with benches and poles with what I think are Scout related carvings at the top, on the right is a gravel path entering the woods. As you walk along the gravel path you pass numerous ponds and small animal habitats and come to an area with a bench opposite a bird feeding station.
From here the walk opens out from the woods to stunning views, along the path are picnic tables and it's a lovely place just to sit and think about nothing in particular.
At the end of the track is the start of the boardwalk which weaves its way through the woods past little ponds, in and out of the trees. As the boardwalk finishes is a bench opposite the largest pond, here you can sit and if lucky, you'll see a heron fishing amidst the bull rushes. Off the boardwalk and at the end of the path turn left back towards the carpark. In the car park is a hut which is open to the public, inside is a wealth of information about the animals you may have seen on your walk and where you can record what you observed.
This probably one of my favourite walks and one that I never get tired of. The work the group of friends have put in is amazing and they really have created something special. No matter the time of year, there's always something different to look at regardless of your age.
With so much on this weekend I had to resort to rock, paper, scissors with my daughter in order to make a decision about where to go to on Saturday. Having lost (she always starts with a rock and I never remember), we made our way to Ardkinglas Estate, via the vomit road that runs along the side of Loch Long. It's about 50 minutes' drive, probably less if your child isn't threatening to throw up if you drive faster than 30 mph......
The car park is perfectly formed but small and busy so I was glad to be directed to park on the side and, after pushing our donation into the cairn with twigs, we made our way up to the starting point via what E thought was the Gruffalo's cave and some very cool looking Skunk Cabbage plants
Stewart Ennis was our storyteller for the trail and my initial concerns about not appreciating the story told in Scots were totally unfounded. Stewart was brilliant and because the story is so well known, in Scots it takes on another dimension.
"But hooziss big bauchle wi the mingin claws,
An the bowfin big nashers in iz big jowly jaws?
Eez goat big bowly legs an pure hen toes,
An a durty big plook oan the end ae iz nose.
Eez goat huge orange peepers an iz tongue is aw black,
An erz giant purple jaggies aw owner iz back"
The Gruffalo trail is the perfect length for very young legs but you can carry on and explore the rest of the Woodland Walk which is clearly marked with arrows. I'm not going to wax lyrical about trees, I'm not an arborealist, but they've got some very tall ones, a very rare one and some very fat ones and they are interesting enough to get a 5 year to stop running away from you for 10 seconds
When we got back to the car park Alison Sykora had her pop up kitchen ready to go. A Swedish candle was the fire and popcorn maker. Alison was making the damper bread from scratch and griddling it. It smelt, looked and tasted delicious. The Loch Fyne mussels were sweet with the right amount of garlicky liquor and with the damper bread to soak it up, just perfect.
Ardkinglas Estate is a tranquil place, it's not commercial, it's not somewhere to go if you want to be surrounded by bright lights and noise. It is somewhere to go that's within an hour's drive of Helensburgh that's outdoors, peaceful, beautiful and you don't need hiking boots in order to enjoy it.