Families often stay at Ruskin Lodges. Both lodges are well set up for infants and children of all ages with things like a travel cot and high chair for the wee ones and that all-important fast WiFi for the teenagers! But what about getting out and about? Here are some ideas for family fun in the area.
Beasties of all shapes and sizes can be found throughout the area so if your kids like wildlife, they'll be in for a treat. You'll be able to spot rare red squirrels, deer and many types of birds around the lodge; seals, otters, porpoises and dolphins along the shore (we've even seen Orca whales!); and butterflies, moths, dragonfly and beetles along the tracks and in the woods. There is a bird hide at Sandbank, just a few minutes' drive from the lodges, where you can see out over the mudflats and grassland at the top of the Holy Loch. And, of course, the wonderful Benmore Gardens is just a 20 minute walk away.
There are many different lengths and grades of walk around Ruskin Lodges. If you have a buggy with you, there is a flat, well-surfaced track from behind the lodges all the way to Benmore Gardens, where you can enjoy a snack and refreshments (there are also loos!). You'll pass Puck's Glen, several fields which often have sheep in them, and views of the surrounding forests.
Puck's Glen is great for older children (it has some steep drops and steps) because there is something new to see around every corner. Pools, waterfalls, bridges and gullies covered in mosses, lichen, and ferns, make the gorge feel like something out of Jurassic Park. You'll never hear "I'm bored" on this walk! For other ideas, Forestry Land Scotland and Walk Highlands have some great options.
Ardkinglas Woodland Garden, near Cairndow, has a Gruffalo Trail with sculptures and extracts from the famous book hidden throughout the woodland.
Ardeninny beach is the largest in the area with views of Loch Long and the Rosneath Peninsula. There is a shallow sandy beach and a little stream at the far end which is great for playing in. As well as the birdlife, you may spot submarines, tug boats and military vessels as there is a navy base nearby. Bring a pair of binoculars if you want a close look! A 'pro' tip: know your tide times. The beach is much bigger at low tide and you'll be able to explore the spits of land that get exposed. If you're lucky, the Glenfinart Community Walled Garden will be open - it has play areas for children and they often sell plants and produce (so remember to bring some cash). Ardentinny has toilets, picnic benches and bins, but keep in mind it can be busy during summer holidays so you may want to pick a quieter spot!
There are other beaches in the area including: Strone (a little beach with a pier opposite the Strone Inn), Dunoon's West Bay (it is has a traditional 'promenade'), and Loch Eck has several fresh-water sandy spots perfect for picnics.
And if you're happy to drive a little further, Ostel Bay is a must-see (but remember to check those tide times!), and make sure you know where you are going as there is a walk involved to get to the beach.
Quadmania has quad bikes, clay shooting and archery with discounts for family groups, Wreckspeditions run scuba diving charters and powerboat tours (a great way to explore the area), and there is a vast network of mountain bike trails behind Dunoon and on surrounding hills. Haven't brought your bikes? No problem, Startlinemtb hires out bikes suitable for all ages.
Cowal is well-known for its diverse creative community. Families can take part in a variety of creative activities organised at Dunoon Burgh Hall, and Sea Drift Pottery Studio offer pottery sessions for small groups including families.
Discovering local history
Castle House Museum gives visitors an insight into the area's rich history, from Dunoon's ancient origins through to the present day. It is stuffed full of objects, models, memorabilia and artifacts, and is run by a team of friendly volunteers.
Dunoon Forward is an 'on-the-move heritage guide' to the Dunoon area. It features over 50 locations, five trails and a host of family-friendly activities. The app is free to download and you're sure to discover more of Cowal with it at your fingertips.
Wet weather options
You have probably heard that it rains in Argyll...? Thankfully, there are lots of options if you want to stay dry!
Dunoon has a cinema which shows a mixture of blockbuster, classic and independent films. The Studio Cinema has two screens (if you want a big screen, check the film is being shown on Cinema 1) and has lots of 2 for 1 offers (eg Young Scot, Meerkat Movies, CEA Cardholder scheme etc.). They have a regular film festival and also run parent and baby screenings.
If you want an indoor splash about, Riverside Leisure Centre has a six lane swimming pool and a teaching pool which is ideal for children and families. They also run a range of classes and activities throughout the year.
The newly refurbished Queen's Hall is an events space, cafe, sports centre and library. There is softplay and the library runs regular Bookbug Sessions and events like 'Harry Potter Night'. Check Argyll Libraries' Facebook page for the latest news.
And, of course, just relaxing with your family at the lodges with a board game, a film on, or a storytelling session is also an option. After all, you are on holiday!