Blarbuie Woodland, Argyll & Bute Hospital

Argyll and Bute Hospital is a hospital providing acute admissions and various mental health and psychotherapy services. The hospital joined the NHS Forest project in 2010 following the creation of their Blarbuie project.

The story so far - creation of a community Woodland Enterprise

Argyll & Bute Hospital was opened in the Victorian era. At the time of the creation of such health care provision – usually in rural environments – the name ‘asylum’ was commonly used, literally meaning refuge or place of safety and tranquillity. The woods around the hospital were created with this in mind, and along with farm and gardens were part of the outdoor resource for work and recreation. Much of this resource was lost, the hospital changed, and the woods became inaccessible and dangerous. But they still contained trees from all over the world, as well as native trees such as ash and Scots pine. There was ground cover of heather and wild flowers and there were red squirrels, bats and birds, and views over loch, sea, hills and islands.

Photo - enjoying Blarbuie

 In 2002 a number of people came up with ideas to restore and enhance the woods, for environmental, community and health benefits. A partnership was formed between Reforesting Scotland, Argyll Green Woodworkers Association, NHS, Scottish Association for Mental Health, and Lochgilphead Community Council. Extensive research, consultation, and appraisal was carried out, followed by detailed planning and fundraising.

The vision was that Blarbuie Woodland would be for the benefit of people who use health and social services in Mid Argyll and beyond, plus all people, young and old, living in or visiting the area. Community participation was recognised as the key to protecting the woods, making them accessible to everyone and creating opportunities for people to learn about plants and wildlife, and local history. Right from the beginning there was a lot of work to be done, restoring and enhancing the two main strips of woodland - the Low Wood and the High Wood. Groups worked on paths, on woodland management, on timber construction, on signage and on environmental education. As part of this work, the project offered supervised training and voluntary opportunities. Right from the start, the project helped people to gain in health and happiness, knowledge and skills.

The reports below chart the development of this ambitious project.

Blarbuie Project Leaflet (PDF file 276KB) - includes an early description of the project

Creating Pathways report (PDF file 347KB) - March 2004 - the initial project vision, and the consultation between partners

First Progress Report, October 2005 (PDF file 389KB) - first 2 months of full project implementation, including meetings, workdays, clearing and path creation, and the Public Launch of the project

Second Progress Report, April 2006 (PDF file 713KB) - 'Milling, Hedging and Dancing'

Third Progress Report, November 2006 (PDF file 676KB) - 'Trunks, Seeds and Tracks'

Health research report - The Impact of Working and Walking in Blarbuie Woodland at Argyll and Bute Hospital on Mental Health and Wellbeing - Analysis of Health Research Interviews in 2008 (PDF file 6.3MB) This milestone report provides clear evidence of the benefits of the pioneering work of the Blarbuie Woodland project

Walking and Managing Blarbuie Woodland, Autumn 2009 (PDF file 3.2MB)

Blarbuie Walks Launch Poster, October 2009 (PDF file 183KB)

Blarbuie Woodland Enterprise Report 2009/10 (PDF file 5.5MB)

Blarbuie Open Days poster 21-22 May 2010 (PDF file 580KB)

Access and inclusion consultancy

Blarbuie Woodland is able to provide expertise on a consultancy basis, drawing on years of experience of woodland-based access and inclusion, and practical woodland management.

For more information about this or anything else to do with Blarbuie Woodland, contact Hugh Fife (

To find out more, visit the Blarbuie Woodland website: