The school holidays are in full flow and many of us are taking advantage of the wonderful locations all around us by opting for a staycation.
Despite more of us holidaying at home, there are still some undiscovered gems to be found off the beaten track.
Forestry and Land Scotland (formerly The Forestry Commission) has picked out the best hidden gems that are well worth visiting with the family this summer.
1. Ardentinny, Cowal Peninsula
Part of the Argyll Forest Park, Ardentinny is home to Cowal’s longest sandy beach and offers a varied range of woodland trails to explore.
The beach is washed by the waters of Loch Long, familiar to Viking fleets and Gaelic raiders. During the Second World War, Royal Navy beach commandos trained for the Normandy landings here. Probably one of the best picnic spots on the Cowal peninsula.
Don’t miss: Enjoy a gentle stroll along Glenfinart Burn to the Arched Bridge beneath exotic monkey puzzles, cypresses and firs. The Riverside Trail is an easy, fairly level route by the water. Or you could try walking or cycling all the way to Carrick Castle on Loch Goil.
Look out for: If you’re lucky, you might spot otters playing near the shoreline or golden eagles soaring overhead.
Getting there: Head north from Ardentinny village. The car park is on the right after a mile, just beyond the entrance to Glenfinart Caravan Park. PA23 8TS is the nearest postcode.
2. Cuningar Loop, near Rutherglen
A Commonwealth Wood project, as part of the legacy of the 2014 Glasgow Games, Cuningar Loop is an exciting woodland park on the banks of the River Clyde featuring more than four miles of mixed surface walks and public art installations.
Cuningar Loop plays a key role in Glasgow’s history. Between 1810 and 1860 reservoirs here provided water to the entire city. Over 15 hectares of unused derelict land was transformed into a stunning park and community greenspace, with thousands of trees planted and the creation of a wild flower meadow.
Don’t miss: The Cuningar bouldering park. Scotland’s first outdoor bouldering park, the area is designed to introduce new climbers to the sport while providing facilities for the more experienced climber. A couple of boulders also have features to allow for para-climbing.
Don’t miss: The Evolve Sculpture by Glasgow-born artist Rob Mulholland sits close to Cuningar Loop’s south entrance. The six-metre high steel sculpture represents the transformation of Cuningar Loop from derelict land into vibrant community woodland.
Look out for: Bats, butterflies, bees and bullfinches all thriving here. There are wildflower areas and a pond for froggy friends.
Getting there: There is a small car park just off Downiebrae Road at the public entrance to Cuningar Loop, as well as plenty of on-street parking on Downiebrae Road itself or around the Cuningar Footbridge near the south of the Emirates Arena.
Regular bus services run between Glasgow and Rutherglen stopping along Dalmarnock Road, with regular train services stopping at Dalmarnock and Rutherglen stations. Cuningar Loop is a 10-minute walk from both stations.
3. Devilla, Kincardine
Situated on the north side of the Firth of Forth, Devilla lies a short 2.5 mile drive from Kincardine and less than an hour from Edinburgh. Covering 700 hectares of forest, Devilla covers an historic landscape of farm and moorland whose place names are rooted in the Gaelic language and culture. Walk among majestic Scots pines and explore one of the largest pine forests in the Scottish lowlands.
Don’t miss: Red Squirrel Trail (1.5 miles, allow an hour). Watch for squirrels scurrying through the lodgepole pine on this short route round Bordie Loch and past the legendary Standard Stone.
Look out for: Red squirrels, otters and dragonflies.
Getting there: Devilla is on the north side of the A985, 2.5 miles east of Kincardine. FK10 4AS is the nearest postcode.
4. The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, Aberfoyle
Known as the gateway to Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, and the beginning of the Highlands, The Lodge is a great place to start exploring. Enjoy panoramic views and scenic trails and see firsthand how the scenery dramatically changes between lowland and highland.
The Forest Park encompasses some of Scotland’s best-loved locations, from magnificent Ben Lomond and the rolling Trossachs hills to sparkling Loch Katrine and the craggy tops of Strathyre.
Don’t miss: A pleasant stroll through the trees to a dramatic waterfall that appears as if by magic, with plenty of places to sit or play along the way. Look out for reflective artworks and feel the breeze beside the tumbling waterfall. Wind back up to The Lodge from here or continue through towering Norway spruce and over an arched wooden bridge to reach the Red Squirrel Hide.
Look out for: The Lodge is a great place for wildlife with an easy-to-reach Red Squirrel Hide and live wildlife cameras at the visitor centre where you can also view ospreys.
Upcoming Events: Family Summer Nature Club – Mini beast hunt. Join Forestry and Land Scotland and the RSPB for a fun-filled morning with a mini-beast hunt. Come and see the crawly beasties that live in the undergrowth. August 2- 3, 10.30am – 12.30pm. Email email@example.com
Getting there: The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre is a mile north of Aberfoyle on the A821. Follow signs for Forest Park Visitor Centre. FK8 3SX is nearest postcode.