Loch Lomond Woods IPA

Location: The woods surround Loch Lomond, which runs 24 miles from the north of Dumbarton in Strathclyde, Scotland.

Grid Reference: NS 381 970


Although Loch Lomond is the largest body of water in Britain, it’s the ancient woodland clothing its shores that makes this area globally important for plants. In the damp climate, a remarkable diversity of mosses and liverworts hang from the trees, while flowers brighten the woodland floor in spring.

This Important Plant Area is home to:

  • An exceptional diversity of bryophytes growing in broadleaved woodland.
  • Some of the top 5% of old oak and holly woodlands in the UK.
  • At 24 miles long and 5 miles wide, the enormous Loch Lomond straddles the Highland Boundary Fault, a vast and ancient fault-system in the rocks that separates the lowlands of Central Scotland to the south-east from the Scottish Highlands to the north-west. The loch forms a long, steep-sided and relatively narrow glen along the fault. Clothed with woodland, heathland and farmland, the glen opens out to lower lands to the south.

    Large stands of woodland are found on both banks of the loch and cover many of its thirty or so islands. The shelter of the glen combined with the high-rainfall Atlantic climate has produced a mild and humid environment especially rich in mosses, liverworts and lichens tolerant of a cool, damp atmosphere. The steep terrain, with numerous burns cutting into the rock, has led to a series of ravines or gorges that are not suitable for pasture or timber management. The persistence of these ancient, often unmanaged stands of woodland has allowed the bryophyte and lichen communities to flourish.

    The woodlands are dominated by oak, birch, hazel and ash, with alder becoming prominent in wetter soils. Although it appears untouched, many areas show signs of past coppicing and other woodland management. In the wet atmosphere, mosses, liverworts and lichens not only cling to the tree trunks and branches but also clothe rocks, form large hummocks on the ground, and carpet the roots of trees on the shore of Loch Lomond itself. They include wonderful communities of rare and threatened species including lungwort lichens, flaky freckle-pelt, sea-storm lichen, Norwegian specklebelly, Hutchins’ hollywort, juniper prongwort and MacKay’s pouncewort.

    In spring, the woodlands burst into colour with wildflowers. Bluebells, wild garlic, primroses, wood sorrel, put on their fantastic displays along with the more muted tones of dog's mercury, great woodrush and a host of ferns. In summer you might find tutsan, wood avens, wood crane’s-bill, wood forget-me-not, broad-leaved helleborine and giant bellflower. Rarer species include smooth-stalked sedge, wood speedwell and green spleenwort. As you’d expect in such rich woodland, autumn brings a wealth of fungi including puffballs, waxcaps, fly agaric, wood blewit, stinkhorn and a variety of bracket fungi.

    In the south-east corner the Endrick Water flows into the loch, creating a floodplain with a mosaic of wetland habitats, with swamp, mire, fen, marsh, reed bed, wet woodland and open water. Rare wetland plants occur around the river mouth, including the nationally scarce tufted loosestrife and cowbane and a small population of the extremely rare Scottish dock. This is of particular importance as in Britain it is limited to a few populations around the lower part of the Endrick catchment and the southern shore of Loch Lomond.

    image: Loch Lomond © Abubakr Hussein CC BY-SA 2.5