Colonsay IPA

Location: In the Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, 15 miles to the south of Mull.

Grid Reference: NR 383 955


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

The key features of this IPA are:

  • One of the UK’s most important populations of Slender Naiad
  • Colonsay is an island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides, about 8 miles (13 km) in length and reaching 3 miles (4.8 km) at its widest point. Although Colonsay appears bare and rather forbidding on approach from the sea, its landscape is exceptionally beautiful and varied.

    For its size, the island provides a large variety of natural habitats from cultivated woodland, moorland and peat bogs to cultivated farmland, meadows and rough pastures, in which can be found a wealth of indigenous plants that includes a number of rarities.

    The unsheltered west faces the full force of the Atlantic Ocean and as a result the coastline is deeply indented with numerous rocks and reefs backed by machair, a fertile low-lying grassy plain typically found on the islands of western Scotland. The central part of the island is much more sheltered with an almost sub-tropical climate.

    The machair bursts into flower in May and is at its best in July. The May primroses gradually disappear into the yellow of buttercups, bedstraw and trefoils, which in turn are replaced by the whites, blues and purples of later summer. These include pansies, clover, vetches, ragged robin, gentians and orchids.

    The hills, moorlands and shore also contribute their share of botanical interest and beauty at various times of the year. Amongst flowers such as thrift, sea asters, sundews, cranesbills and heathers, rarities include the sea samphire and marsh helleborine and the very rare Irish lady’s-tresses. A string of three small lochs supports a rich aquatic and marginal flora including extensive beds of najas flexilis, the slender naiad.

    Image: Colonsay © dun_deagh under CC BY SA 2.0