Ben Wyvis IPA

Location: Highlands of Scotland, 25 km north-west of Inverness.

Grid Reference: NH 465 685


Ben Wyvis IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • One of the best UK examples of threatened habitats of:
    Heaths with alpine and boreal vegetation;
    Blanket bogs (extensive areas of peatland);
    Acidic alpine grassland
  • Ben Wyvis is a series of summits, and its ridge, covered in a carpet of moss, forms one of the highest mountains in Easter Ross.

    Lying between the high altitude areas of the Grampian Mountains and the northern peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland, Ben Wyvis is an 11,000 year old Ice Age landscape. As the ground constantly froze and thawed, the mountain’s surface layers expanded and slipped downhill forming the present patterns of low hummocks and ridges. Ben Wyvis supports a diverse mosaic of upland habitats from summit heath, lochs, high level springs and flushes and bryophyte-rich snowbeds to dwarf-shrub heath and blanket bog.

    Plants you could see

    With over 170 species Ben Wyvis is rich in plant life. Dwarf birch, alpine bearberry and mountain crowberry grow in the lichen-speckled blanket bog of the lower slopes. There is a diverse upland plant assemblage with approximately 50 nationally scarce species including flowering plants, lichens and mosses.

    The high coires support Arctic-alpine flowers, like moss campion, trailing azalea, mountain pansy and purple saxifrage. Nationally rare plants present include alpine foxtail, chestnut rush and the nationally scarce alpine saxifrage. Acid-loving plants like parsley fern, alpine lady-fern and least willow grow among the rocks. Walking the summit ridge is like stepping on a deep-pile carpet. Stretching for almost a mile, this carpet is the UK’s largest area of woolly hair-moss.

    Springtime: early purple orchid, purple saxifrage, creeping willow, marsh violet

    Summer: mountain pansy, alpine lady’s mantle, bog asphodel, moss campion

    Autumn and winter: ivy, gorse, a variety of mosses, lichens and fungi including cep., chanterelle, fly agaric and shaggy inkcap.

    Image: Ben Wyvis © Paul Oldham under CC BY-NC 2.0