The Glen Nant National Nature Reserve in Argyll is an enchanting woodland sanctuary that covers a remarkable 836 acres of ancient woodland and sun-kissed glades. This wildlife paradise is a testament to the region’s diverse flora and fauna and provides a home for an array of endangered species from delicate wildflowers to elusive red squirrels.
Packed with a mosaic of habitats, Glen Nant is renowned for its ancient oakwoods, some of which are centuries old and are home to over 250 different types of rare lichens and mosses.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the verdant paths of Glen Nant to unveil its unique ecology and the stunning views that make it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and tourists alike.
|Opening Hours:||Open 24/7, 365 days a year|
|Admission Price:||Free entry|
|Parking:||Free on-site car park|
Tel: 0300 067 6650
|Facilities:||Parking, picnic table.|
Glen Nant National Nature Reserve is one of those hidden gems that tend to get missed amongst all the other amazing sights that can be enjoyed in the southwest of Scotland, yet it’s one of the best forest walks near Oban, is completely free to enter, and offers visitors the chance to experience one of Scotland’s oldest woodlands – all rounded off with gobsmacking views of Ben Cruachan mountain.
To get there, simply follow the B845 from the junction of the A85 near Taynuilt. The junction is signposted ‘Kilchrenan’ but you’ll need to look for the Forestry & Land Scotland car park around 2.5 miles further down the road.
Once at the nature reserve you’ll find a small but fairly well-maintained car park (free to use), and two paths that offer slightly different experiences depending on how fit you’re feeling.
The lower path follows the River Nant for just a short distance, but it’s rather scenic and is ideal for very young children as well as disabled visitors who will no doubt appreciate the wide and firm gravel path that has been installed.
The majority of people, though, will want to veer up the hill to follow the Ant Trail which runs through most of the reserve and features a couple of stunning viewpoints.
At 2 miles it’s not exactly a foot-breaker but it’s quite rough and there are a few steep inclines along the way, as well as sets of rough steps that are horrendously slippery in winter (don’t ask me how I know that…).
The Ant Trail has been named after the colonies of wood ants that thrive in these ancient oak woods, but to be honest on the two times I’ve visited I wasn’t able to find any.
What I have seen, though, are lots of different birds including woodpeckers and buzzards, some truly beautiful butterflies and moths, and (my favourite Scottish animal) red squirrels.
Other than the wildlife, a walk around the Glen Nant reserve will take you back in time to experience what it would have been like to walk through Scotland’s ancient woodlands hundreds of years ago.
Sadly, Scotland has seen intense deforestation since the Victorian era which has only worsened with the arrival of wind turbines which have led to 14 million trees being cut down, making places like Glen Nant even more important to look after.
That being said, even Glen Nant has seen deforestation in the past as it was the main site for creating the charcoal that powered the nearby Bonawe Iron Furnace in the 1700s – one of the largest pig ironworks in the country at the time.
Forestry and Land Scotland have thoughtfully installed a number of information boards along the trails so you’ll know exactly what to look for, and if you have children with you I guarantee they’ll love zooming about to look for all manner of creepy crawlies in the undergrowth.
More-or-less halfway along the Ant Trail you’ll come across a picnic table which has a stunning panoramic view of Ben Cruachan, followed by a memorial wooden bench. This is the best spot to sit with a pair of binoculars to scan the sky for birds of prey which can usually be seen hovering over the windswept mountain slopes (click here to read my binocular reviews).
Following on from the viewpoint you’ll basically head back in a loop to the car park along a rough track which merges with a narrow (barely used) forestry road halfway around.
In all, it shouldn’t take more than 2 hours to explore the Glen Nant nature reserve so if you’d like somewhere else to visit afterwards I recommend taking a short drive to the Bonawe Iron Furnace to see where the charcoal was used back in the 18th century.
1: The views along this walk are stunning and you’ll get a great view of the Cruachan mountains once you get to the top of the hill.
2: Both wildlife watchers and children will love visiting this nature reserve. Keep your eyes open for countless woodland birds, butterflies, bees, and busy colonies of wood ants.
3: The Glen Nant forest was the main source of fuel for the nearby Bonawe Iron Furnace and you can still see the remnants of the places where charcoal was made in some of the forest clearings.
If a visit piques your interest and you’d like to know more, it’s just a 10-minute drive to Bonawe (postcode PA35 1JQ) where you’ll find lots of information boards that explain the historic ironwork’s association with this forest.
1: If you follow the Ant Trail you’ll find a picnic table at the far end which is a fantastic place to stop for a break to enjoy the view of Ben Cruachan. There’s also a bench seat a little further on which has another superb viewpoint looking east.
2: Be aware that during midge season (May to September) there’s a good chance you’ll get eaten alive, especially near the burn. Take my advice and buy some Smidge (Amazon link) before you visit.
3: If you’re looking for a nice walk – but one that’s not too strenuous – you won’t go far wrong with a wander around Glen Nant. The two paths in the reserve offer a slightly different experience but the lower 1/4-mile Riverbank Trail is much easier than the upper 2-mile Ant Trail.
There are a couple of points to note about visiting Glen Nant, the first being the fact that in summer there’s a very good chance you’ll have to deal with midges.
Mulchy forest floors and boggy ground near rivers are midge heaven, so I highly recommend taking a look at this article to purchase a repellent that actually works before heading out the door.
Second, due to the combination of hills, rivers, and wet stone steps, there’s a good chance of taking a tumble in the wetter months unless you’re wearing appropriate footwear.
Crocs and trainers are an absolute no-no for a visit to this nature reserve, so you might like to check out my reviews of my favourite walking boots in this article. I’ve worn them all at one time or another (I do a lot of walking) and can happily report that they all have big, ultra-grippy soles.
If you want to see exactly what the terrain is like take a look at the virtual tour listed in the information table at the top of this article.
Finally, if you’re travelling with a bike you might like to cycle along the National Cycle Route #78 which follows the quiet road that runs past Glen Nant.
If you continue down the B845 to Kilchrenan you’ll find a very good pub (the Kilchrenan Inn) and a mile or two further on you’ll end up at the Tachycreggan Hotel which has stupendous views overlooking Loch Awe.
Things to do
Interpretive Trail Hiking: The Glen Nant National Nature Reserve is a haven for hikers, with a 2-mile ‘Ant Trail’ that takes you through the heart of the forest. The trail is marked with information points so you can learn about the local flora and fauna as you go.
Wildlife Watching: The reserve is home to a variety of wildlife, including red squirrels, wood ants, moths and butterflies, and a diverse range of bird species. Bring your binoculars for birdwatching (link to binocular reviews) and you might spot warblers, woodpeckers, and even the occasional golden eagle.
Photography: The reserve’s stunning landscapes make it a great place for photography. Capture the picturesque woodland, the flowing river, moss-covered stones, and an array of wildlife in their natural habitat. Each season offers unique photographic opportunities.
Picnicking: There are several picnic spots scattered throughout the reserve where you can enjoy a bite to eat in the heart of nature. Pack a picnic basket and enjoy a leisurely lunch while soaking up the tranquil beauty of the surroundings.
Mindful Nature Experience: Lastly, Glen Nant is a perfect place for a mindful nature experience. You can engage in forest bathing, a Japanese practice known as Shinrin-yoku, where you immerse yourself in the forest atmosphere for relaxation and health benefits. Listen to the birdsong, watch the leaves rustling in the wind, and let your worries drift away.
Things to do nearby
Cruachan Dam Visitor Centre. Address: Dalmally, PA33 1AN. Distance: 7.9 miles.
The Cruachan Dam Visitor Centre offers an immersive learning experience about hydroelectric power.
The centre provides guided tours, interactive exhibitions, and a tour deep inside the ‘hollow mountain’ to view its impressive underground power station, making it a fascinating destination for both engineering enthusiasts and curious tourists alike.
Bonawe Iron Furnace. Address: Taynuilt, Argyll, PA35 1JQ. Distance: 3.6 miles.
The Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace is a preserved 18th-century ironworks which stands as a testament to the nation’s industrial heritage.
Located near Loch Etive, it showcases how pig iron was made using charcoal from the Glen Nant forest and offers an intriguing insight into the evolution of iron manufacturing in Scotland.
St. Conan’s Kirk. Address: Lochawe, Dalmally, PA33 1AQ. Distance: 10.7 miles.
St Conan’s Kirk is a beautiful 100-year-old church that boasts a unique blend of architectural styles.
The church overlooks the shore of Loch Awe and has previously been voted one of the top 10 buildings in Scotland due to its stunning stone edifice and intricately-carved woodwork.
Dalavich Oakwood Forest. Address: Dalavich, Taynuilt, PA35 1HN. Distance: 11.1 miles.
Dalavich Oakwood Forest is a serene natural haven which is home to an array of wildlife. The forest’s ancient oak trees create a lush, green canopy which invites visitors to explore its many walking trails and enjoy sights that include waterfalls, woodpeckers, deer, and the gentle waters of the River Avich.
Angus’s Garden. Address: Glen Lonan, Taynuilt, PA35 1HY. Distance: 5.6 miles.
Angus’s Garden in the Barguillean Estate is a tranquil wildlife haven near the pretty village of Taynuilt.
The garden features a stunning display of rhododendrons, azaleas, and magnolias, and offers breathtaking views of the mountains of Glen Etive, making it a perfect spot for nature lovers.
Ancient Woodland: Glen Nant Nature Reserve is home to one of the few remaining ancient oak woodlands in Scotland. The trees, some of which are centuries old, provide a unique habitat for a variety of species.
Rare and Protected Species: Glen Nant is a sanctuary for rare and protected wildlife. It’s a haven for red squirrels, pine martens, and a variety of bird species, including the lesser-spotted woodpecker and the redstart.
Remarkable Flora: The reserve is renowned for its diverse range of flora. You can find bluebells, wood sorrel, and beautiful wild orchids, including the rare lesser butterfly orchid.
Geological Significance: Glen Nant sits on Dalradian bedrock, which is over 500 million years old. The unique geology provides a rich source of nutrients, supporting the lush vegetation.
Historical Significance: The reserve has a rich history. It was once a hub for the charcoal industry, with coppiced oak trees providing the raw material. Remnants of old charcoal platforms can still be found within the reserve.
Conservation Efforts: Glen Nant Nature Reserve is managed by NatureScot, Scotland’s nature agency. Their ongoing conservation efforts aim to maintain the health of the woodland, protect the rare species that inhabit it, and ensure that this natural treasure can be enjoyed by future generations.
Frequently asked questions
Where is Glen Nant Nature Reserve?
Glen Nant National Nature Reserve is located in Argyll, Scotland. The address is Taynuilt, PA35 1JG.
It is situated just south of Taynuilt and to the west of Loch Awe and is accessed via the B845.
Is Glen Nant Nature Reserve free?
The Glen Nant nature reserve is free to visit. There are no car parking charges.
Is there parking at Glen Nant Nature Reserve?
There is a free car park for the Glen Nant nature reserve off the B845, 2.3 miles south of the A85.
Can you take dogs to Glen Nant Nature Reserve?
Dogs are allowed inside Glen Nant nature reserve.