This magnificent stretch of rugged hill country was established in 1935, as the first forest park for public use in Britain. Many visitors who have come to know the Argyll Forest Park, its mountains, glens, lochs and woodlands, claim that it is the ‘finest of them all’.
Spanning a vast area of approximately 55,000 acres, Argyll Forest Park stretches from the West side of Loch Lomond, all the way across Loch Long and Loch Goil to cover half of the Cowal Peninsula right down to the far western corner of the Park at Kilmun Arboretum. The initial reason for the establishment of the park in 1935 was to ensure timber sustainability after the First World War, reflected at Kilmun Arboretum, which was set up as a testing ground for new species of tree to see how they would cope with our environment.
Set along the eastern shore of the head of Loch Long, where glaciers cut a great gap through the hills from Loch Lomond is Arrochar, historically the heart of the country of the Clan Macfarlane. Arrochar offers some of the finest features in the Argyll Forest Park. Surging from sea level to high rocky crests are the Brack, the triple ‘fanged’ Cobbler, (Ben Arthur) Beinn Narnain, and A’Chrois.
Tarbet is Arrochar’s twin settlement on Loch Lomond. With its highest point only 40m (130ft) above sea level, Tarbet provides a perfect low gap for landing parties, something that was not lost on the Vikings who sent a raiding party detached from the forces of Haakon of Norway in 1263. They took their longships overland to Loch Lomond but later came to grief on the stormy shore at Largs.
On the Western side of the park is Loch Long which military enthusiasts will find particularly interesting. Loch Long was home to Royal Navy Torpedo Range (RNTR) Arrochar, which was officially opened in 1912. The facility played an important role in testing torpedoes manufactured in the UK, especially during the Second World War. In 1944, for example, around 12,565 torpedoes were fired down Loch Long which, due to its long, narrow shape and relatively secluded location, was ideal for this type of testing. The last torpedo to be ranged from RNTR Arrochar was fired in March 1986. The facility is now partly demolished and its function was replaced by nearby RNAD Coulport.