Breadalbanes Mountains IPA
Location: 6 miles north-east of Killin, north of Loch Tay. There is a car park, 2 miles up the hill road, off A827.
Grid Reference: NN 485 448
The word Breadalbane comes from Gaelic, ‘Bràghaid Albainn’, meaning ‘the High Country of Scotland’ and these dramatic mountains bear this out.
The alpine calcareous grasslands, treeline woods and rocky slopes support a diverse range of flowering plants, lichens and bryophytes, Ben Lawers, one of the Breadalbane mountains, being particularly renowned due to the abundance of rare alpine plants.
Designated as a National Nature Reserve, Ben Lawers is regarded by botanists as one of the richest areas for alpine fauna in the UK, due to the schist rocks of the mountain which are situated at the correct altitude for such plants. These rocks supply an adequate amount of calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and iron to the plants and breaks down to a clayish soil which retains moisture.
Few places in Britain can rival the unique range of arctic-alpine plants found here. The summit is blasted by chill winds and snow covers the ground in winter, but the higher parts of Ben Lawers are home to such rarities as the vivid alpine forget-me-not (recorded only from these cliffs and the hills of Upper Teesdale in northern England), the exquisite alpine gentian (only found here and on one glen in Angus), cyphel, sibbaldia, mountain pansy, alpine fleabane, mountain sandwort, rock speedwell, blue moor-grass, alpine meadow-grass, alpine pearlwort, alpine saxifrage and the delicate drooping saxifrage.
Spring is heralded by the striking purple saxifrage and later, pink cushions of moss campion brighten the slopes, mingling with the yellow of globeflower, roseroot and yellow saxifrage. The palmate leaves of alpine lady's-mantle sprawl, sometimes amongst shrubby mountain willows. Of these a variety may be found, including mountain willow (the largest known population in the UK), downy willow, dark-leaved willow and net-leaved willow, together with scattered plants of woolly willow.
Other species are of more specialist interest: delicate sedges in the mires, and an extraordinary richness of mountain mosses and liverworts, especially beside springs and runnels, or late snow patches.
Image: ©Laurie Campbell