Isle of Arran IPA

Location: One of the most southerly Scottish islands, The Isle of Arran sits in the Firth of Clyde between Ayrshire and Kintyre. It can be reached by ferry from Ardrossan.

Grid Reference: NR 957 355

Isle of Arran 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 Sorbus and Killarney fern.
  • The species richness of vascular plants in Littoral and sublittoral sediments.
  • The species richness of vascular plants in coastal dune and sand habitats and coastal shingle habitats.
  • The species richness of vascular plants in rock cliffs, ledges and shores including the supralittoral.
  • The species richness of vascular plants in raised and blanket bogs.
  • The species richness of vascular plants in base-rich fens.
  • The species richness of vascular plants in temperate shrub heathland.
  • The species richness of vascular plants in hedgerows.
  • The species richness of vascular plants in broadleaved deciduous woodland.
  • The species richness of vascular plants in arable habitat
  • Arran is an island of two halves, the north being rugged and mountainous and the south having green rolling hills and moorland which feel the warming effect of the Gulf Stream.

    It is surrounded by a coastline which ranges from rocky cliffs and ledges to shingle beaches and sand dunes.

    The climate of Arran is relatively mild due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream and as a result there is a year-round rich diversity of wildflowers and ferns (notably the Killarney Fern), with around 900 flowering plants recorded on the island. Even in the winter, up to 50 species of wild flowers can be found, the most common being gorse with a flowering season starting in November and reaching its peak in late spring.

    In the spring the first flowers to appear are marsh marigold, wood anemone, lesser celandine and golden saxifrage, followed by colonies of ramsons, bluebell, pignut and bugle. In early summer you can see a wide variety of colourful plants in wetter areas of the island, such as colonies of yellow iris. Most damp-loving plants though are at their best after July on Arran, when stands of purple loosestrife, meadowsweet, marsh ragwort, valerian and hemp agrimony can be seen. Marsh cinquefoil, brooklime and water mint can be found at the side of burns.

    On the hills and glens of Arran, you will mostly find large quantities of bracken, heather and bilberry, but in boggy places you might also discover the carnivorous butterwort and sundew. On the tops of the hills you can find alpine ladys' mantle, dwarf willow and mountain sorrel, and higher still you might spot roseroot and both mossy and starry saxifrage. The great majority of the flowering plants present on Arran can be found somewhere on the shore or the cliffs behind.

    Where the cliffs are steep and generally bare of vegetation, thrift, sea campion and navelwort grow, but grass-covered slopes offer more shelter for plants, so there is a greater variety with wood vetch and bloody cranesbill, to be found on the south coast. Just beyond the normal high tide mark you could find skullcap, wild carrot and woody nightshade if conditions are dry. In wetter places, you might see gipsywort and bog myrtle or grass-of-Parnassus with ragged robin if the grass and other vegetation are not high.

    The island has three endemic species of tree, the Arran Whitebeams. These trees are the Scottish or Arran Whitebeam, the Bastard Mountain Ash or Cut-leaved Whitebeam and the Catacol Whitebeam. If rarity is measured by numbers alone they are amongst the most endangered tree species in the world. They are protected in Glen Diomhan at the north end of the island by a partly fenced off National Nature Reserve, and are monitored by staff from Scottish Natural Heritage.