A guide to Scotland's Forest Parks
Forest Parks are the jewel in the crown of Scotland's forests. Lush, verdant woodlands containing stunning areas of natural beauty rich in wildlife and plant species, our six Forest Parks play a vital role in the nation's economy, attracting visitors from all over the world. They are also at the heart of our communities, offering space for natural play, exercise, or leisure pursuits, from daily dog walks to daring downhill mountain bike trails.
You can explore dozens of sites of particular historic and cultural significance, with well-equipped Visitor Centres on hand to provide resources like maps, bike hire, and top-notch food and drinks. With events, education and play opportunities for children, our staff will always provide a warm, friendly welcome. Here's a quick guide to our six forest parks, with a few choice highlights picked out.
Queen Elizabeth Forest Park
The war memorial at Rowardennan, by sculptor Doug Cocker
With some of Scotland's most iconic locations within it, Queen Elizabeth Forest Park is home to Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine, both areas of outstanding natural beauty. It's a popular destination, with a well-developed network of restaurants and cafés, accommodation of all kinds, and activities galore. The world-renowned "bonnie banks of Loch Lomond" are as popular with locals as they are with tourists - the well-equipped Sallochy campsite offers al fresco accommodation between March and October. Whether you're looking for beautiful scenery to stroll through, or a fun-packed day of watersports action, Queen Elizabeth Forest Park has it all.
Many visitors start their journey at The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, near Aberfoyle. The well-appointed visitor centre is staffed by friendly and enthusiastic staff with an in-depth knowledge of the local area's history and ecology. The Wildlife Hide at The Lodge is a great place to spot wildlife like the endangered red squirrel, and we have a number of stunning walking trails at The Lodge including our accessible Waterfall Trail. Aberfoyle also plays host to the UK's number 1 treetop adventure Go Ape, featuring Europe's longest zipline.
At Loch Katrine, the shimmering heart of the Trossachs, the Sir Walter Scott steamship still cuts through the sparkling waters. The incredibly popular Three Lochs Forest Drive takes you through the green heart of the forest, while further into the park, Rowardennan provides a gateway to the majestic Ben Lomond, and some commanding views over the water, framed by a very special statue commemorating Scottish soldiers who gave their lives in combat in the two world wars. Connecting the central belt to the Scottish Highlands, this forest park will leave you breathless with its sheer beauty.
Argyll Forest Park
Scotland's first forest park was Argyll Forest Park, established in 1935. Of all the forest park destinations, Argyll is perhaps the wildest, with steep slopes and deep glens formed due to the park's presence on the Highland Boundary Fault Line. This makes for some dramatic scenery, and the park is a great destination for photographers and dedicated hill walkers alike. It also contains some of Scotland's oldest ancient woodlands, with oaks and other trees hundreds of years old at spots like Glenbranter (also a popular spot for cross-country cycling).
The towering trees of Benmore, home to a fascinating Botanic Garden, are a good place to start your adventure, in the shadow of the the rugged, beautiful Arrochar Alps. Argyll Forest and the Cowal peninsula are full of hidden gems, like the dramatic, glacier-carved ravine at Puck's Glen. A steep climb past dozens of whispering waterfalls, it really is a magical place, offering spectacular views at the trail's end. The peaceful beach at Ardentinny is great for a picnic or a short stroll, and if you have an interest in the planting and forestry side of what we do, a visit to the tree nursery at Kilmun Arboretum is a must.
Galloway Forest Park
The largest of the forest parks in Scotland, Galloway Forest Park is served by not one but three visitor centres, with the biggest at Kirroughtree, and slightly smaller but just as welcoming centres at Glentrool and Clatteringshaws, both of which have cosy cafes where you can relax with a latte. These are also some of the most popular destinations on our world-renowned 7stanes mountain bike trail network, with incredible views, and walking trails for those less inclined towards breakneck adventures on the downhill trails. Bike enthusiasts will find plenty to keep them busy, with a dedicated Skills Area at Kirroughtree, and trails which range from beginner-level to full-on, strenuous challenges.
Another big attraction in Galloway is the Dark Sky Park. At the heart of Galloway Forest, ever-present light pollution from nearby towns and cities is at its weakest, which makes it the perfect place for stargazing. The great, broad curve of the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye on a clear night, a breathtaking sight that any city-dweller will find captivating. At the right time of year, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, or even see a meteor shower. Head to our blog to read more about the Dark Sky Park, which was Scotland's first of its kind.
Kirroughtree also offers an opportunity to get up close and personal with red squirrels in the Nature Hide, and Britain's largest land mammal, the majestic red deer at the Red Deer Range. To sample some of the park's highlights, follow the Raiders Road Forest Drive between April and October, taking you past the tranquil Otter's Pool and Loch Ken, following the winding path of the River Dee.
Tay Forest Park
Comprised of a patchwork of forests and woodlands, spread out across some of the most iconic scenery in Highland Perthshire, Tay Forest Park is perhaps the most varied of the six parks in Scotland in terms of its terrain. Visitors tend to start their journey from the Queens View Forest Visitor Centre, which looks out over Loch Tummel and features a well-appointed café. The woods at Faskally are tranquil and serene - designed by the owners of Faskally House in the 19th century, they also play host to the popular Enchanted Forest attraction between October and November.
The trails at Drummond Hill will provide you with some of the most impressive views in the country, looking out over the River Tay and the Tay Valley. The trees here are some of the tallest in the UK, and these ancient woodlands are full of sites of historical interest, like the hillfort at the summit of Drummond Hill, or the 16th century Castle Menzies at Weem.
All three of the region's biggest lochs - Loch Rannoch, Loch Tummel and Loch Tay - are surrounded by historical sites dating back as far as the Iron Age, from traditional hillforts and ringforts, to smaller structures like duns and crannogs. It's an area rich with history, and a brilliant destination for anyone wanting to explore Scotland's ancient past. Our Explore The Iron Age leaflet can provide you with more suggestions for daytrips and longer visits.
Tweed Valley Forest Park
A perennial favourite for mountain bikers, walkers and horse riders, the Tweed Valley Forest Park is the most accessible one for those in Scotland's Central Belt regions, or visitors starting their travels in Edinburgh, which is just over an hour away. With seven forests making up the park, there really is something for everyone in the Tweed Valley, from some of the busiest and most popular 7stanes mountain biking destinations, to quiet forests and even more Iron Age hillforts, historic sites, and legends from the deep past.
The café and visitor centre at Glentress provides a great starting point from which to explore, and is also the hub of the 7stanes network, with some truly pulse-pounding downhill trails, as well as another spectacular Go Ape! treetop adventure course. The centre is also home to the Tweed Valley Osprey Project, a conservation scheme that has produced not one but two of the rare birds this year from the single active nest at the location. Take a look at the happy family on our live feed, or visit in person!
Mountain bikers will want to head straight from Glentress to Innerleithen, another adrenaline sports destination with some steep downhill runs and unique obstacles. There are a selection of walking paths too. Alternatively, you could head further afield for some peace and quiet at Yair, with its impressive views and renowned trio of cairns known as the Three Brethren, or Thornielee, home to beautiful butterflies and a diverse breadth of plant species.
Cardrona is also a beautiful spot for quiet, winding walks through the forest, and is very popular with horse riders. Cardrona Tower plays host to a colony of bats, and you can visit the remains of Castle Knowe, another Iron Age fort, with foundations stretching back as far as 2,000 years into Scotland's remote past. Finally, the Biodiversity Trail at Glenkinnon is a great destination for families during the summer holidays, starting at the foot of the awe-inspiring, 500 year-old Glenkinnon Oak.
Glenmore Forest Park
The beach at Loch Morlich - perfect for swimming, for picnics, and for watersports
Last but most certainly not least is Glenmore Forest Park, nestled in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. Much of the forest park and its destinations are within easy reach of the Glenmore Visitor Centre, which also serves as a hub for hikers and climbers. Central to our trail offer in the Scottish Highlands is the walk to the visually stunning An Lochan Uaine (The Green Lochan), watched over by An Sidhean (The Fairies' Hill), with their Gaelic place names recalling the history and heritage of the region. Watersports are a popular pursuit at Loch Morlich and Loch Morlich beach, Scotland's favourite inland beach and a busy destination during summer months.
Nearby Glenmore campsite is the place to stay if you're planning a longer visit, and there is plenty to explore in the winter sports destination town of nearby Aviemore, from cafes and restaurants to sports equipment shops catering to all your needs, whether you're planning on hiking, skiing or just photographing the stunning Cairngorm mountain range.