If you fancy being a rainforest explorer, Scotland can be a great place to start. Lush oakwoods that thrive near the western rim of the Scottish mainland can hold as many kinds of mosses and other primitive plants as some areas of steamy jungle. See a hundred shades of green in the moisture-loving vegetation and listen in summer for typical oakwood birds such as wood warbler, redstart and buzzard.
Where to go
There are excellent western oakwoods in many places, from near the Solway in the south to Lochaber in the north. Here are some accessible highlights, south to north:
Wood of Cree near Newton Stewart. Good for bluebells. Boardwalk, paths with wheelchair access.
Taynish beside Loch Sween at Tayvallich. Rich in butterflies. Waymarked trails.
Crinan Wood beside the hamlet and canal of the same name. Characterful trees, shaped by wind. Some sculptures beside central path.
Inversnaid away from the sea coast, on the east shore of Loch Lomond, but with great range of oakwood birds and flowers. Rough track through wood.
Ariundle near Strontian. Part of the oakwood hotspot around Loch Sunart. Good for spring flowers, mosses, liverworts and lichens. Trails.
In the West Highlands during the 18th & 19th centuries the oakwoods were carefully managed for charcoal production, the charcoal being used to smelt iron in furnaces at Bonawe, near Oban and Furnace, near Inveraray. Oak bark was also used. It was peeled off, dried, and exported south for use in the tanning of leather. Many of the trees in western oakwoods are ‘sessile’ oaks, with unstalked acorns, unlike acorns from common or ‘English’ oaks, which are stalked.