Location: Near Lybster, Caithness.
Grid Reference: ND 211 450
Munsary Peatlands is Plantlife’s largest nature reserve, extending over 3,058 acres.
The reserve is of international importance for its blanket bog habitat, and has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Protection Area and a candidate Special Area of Conservation. It is also part of a proposed World Heritage Site.
The cool, wet climate of the area has led to the accumulation of peat through growth and impeded decay of sphagnum mosses. It is thought to be up to 6 metres thick in some places.
Management of the reserve is overseen by a committee, chaired by Plantlife International and including representatives from Scottish Natural Heritage, the RSPB and the local community.
Wild flowers at the reserve
What to see and when
June: Bogbean, common butterwort, marsh violet
July: Marsh lousewort, marsh cinquefoil
August: Bog asphodel, heather, marsh willowherb
The peat soil supports blanket bog vegetation dominated by carpets of sphagnum mosses, cotton-grasses and heather.
Also present are bog asphodel, deer grass and sedges such as slender sedge and bog sedge.
Other wildlife to be seen at the reserve includes a number of notable bird species such as golden plover, curlew and greenshank.
Following the A9 heading north towards Thurso and Scrabster, pass through Latheron and after approximately 6 miles you reach Achavanich where you should turn right onto a minor road towards Lybster. Approximately 600m along this road turn left onto a track alongside Loch Stemster, where there is a car park.
A walking trail with information posts follows the three-mile track from the car park by Loch Stemster to the reserve itself. Vehicular access along this track to the reserve entrance is permitted for disabled visitors, but by prior arrangement only for all other visitors. Please note that the track leading from Loch Stemster to the Munsary reserve is extremely rough and only suitable for robust four-wheel drive vehicles.
Munsary is open to visitors at any time. However, you should be aware that the terrain is rough and potentially dangerous. There is a high risk of sinking in soft areas of bog and a danger of being caught out by rapidly changing weather. For these reasons, you should let someone know where you are going and when you are likely to be back.