The Oak Path offers a scenic, accessible walk through woodland that is home to some of Scotland's much loved mammal species, including badgers, pine martins and red squirrels.
In the spring you will find a gorgeous carpet of bluebells, wood sorrel and stitchwort beneath the trees. Slightly longer than the green and blue walks, but not as challenging as the red and black paths, the Oak Path covers 1.7km and takes around 45 minutes. Although the main woodland is dominated by oak – birch, alder, rowan, holly, ash and hazel can also be found within this area. The younger plantings on the edge of the wood are dominated by birch with the other species scattered throughout. Look out for the juniper bushes.
The Oak Path passes through the Ardyle Wood, an ancient Oakwood which appears on the oldest maps we have of the area. The main woodland is dominated by oak but birch, alder, rowan, holly, ash and hazel can also be found. The Ardyle oakwood appears on the 1860 Ordnance Survey map and is similar in extent to what is here now.
Oakwoods have been managed in the Loch Lomond area since at least the 17th Century, usually on a coppice system, being cut every 24 years or so. After several rotations, the woods were often replanted, sometimes using acorns from continental Europe. The timber was usually used to produce charcoal for the local iron smelting industry, while the bark could be use for tanning leather. A latter use for the wood was in the pyroligneous acids works in Balmaha, which produced acid to be used as a fixer in fabric dying.
An interesting feature at the top of the wood is the substantial dyke that would have helped protect the young plantation from the sheep and deer grazing the surrounding area.
Keep an eye out for signs of the resident badgers - small, round 'snuffle-holes' in the forest floor and scratch marks on the fallen trees show where they have been foraging. This path is more accessible than many routes in the Loch Lomond area. There is however a 10m section with an incline of about 11%, which manual wheelchair users may wish assistance with.