Culbin Sands and Bar IPA

Location: In north east Scotland, on the Moray Firth, east of Nairn off the A96.

Grid Reference: NH 961 621

Culbin Sands & Bar IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • The species richness of lichens on Coastal shingle habitats: stablised shingle
  • The species richness of vascular plants on Coastal dune and sand habitats, Coniferous woodland, surface standing waters and littoral sediment (saltmarsh)
  • One of the best UK examples of threatened habitats of:
    Perennial vegetation of stony banks
  • This remote and beautiful area of Moray is a unique landscape.

    Its sands are one of the largest dune systems in Britain and include intertidal flats, sand and shingle bars, dune, dune slacks, saltmarsh, heath, freshwater bodies, freshwater marshes and scrub woodland. Although tree planting, as an attempt to stabilise the dunes dates back to the early 19th century and large areas are now conifer forest, much of the original interest survives and other habitats are intact.

    Culbin Bar is a 7km long series of shingle ridges running parallel to the coast which has one of the best areas of vegetated shingle in the Britain. The range of plant communities associated with the various habitats is of special interest in the study of plant succession and contains an exceptional variety of species. A large number of rare or local plants occur and the diversity of fungi and lichens is also outstanding.

    The wide variety of habitats supports a diverse flora with over 550 species of flowering plants recorded. A number of nationally or regionally rare or scarce species occur, some at or near the limits of their range in Britain. These species include single-flowered wintergreen, twinflower, slender-leaved pondweed, marsh clubmoss, the eyebright Euphrasia foulaensis, coralroot orchid, oysterplant, seaside centaury, lesser tussock sedge, sea aster, Baltic rush, black bog-rush, lesser water-plantain, water lobelia, sea rush and all three of the British species of eelgrass - dwarf eelgrass, narrow-leaved eelgrass and eelgrass.

    The shingle ridges of Culbin Bar support the best and richest examples of northern heath on shingle, with heather, crowberry and juniper predominating.

    The diversity of lichens and fungi is also outstanding with 150 and over 450 species recorded respectively. One fungus species, the sand deceiver, is not found at any other site in Britain. Rare lichens include the matt felt lichen Peltigera malacea, Cladonia uncialis subsp. uncialis and Cladonia zopfii.