Moniack Gorge IPA

Location: South from Easter Moniack on the A862 about 6 miles west of Inverness.

Grid Reference: NH 558 431

Moniack Gorge 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 green shield-moss.
  • The species richness of bryophytes in broadleaved deciduous woodland.
  • The species richness of bryophytes in inland cliffs, rock pavements and outcrops.
  • The species richness of lichens in broadleaved woodland.
  • The species richness of lichens in boreal woodland.
  • The Moniack Gorge in north-east Scotland is a steeply cut, wooded ravine through which flows the Moniack Burn. Its varied topography and mostly alkaline soils have allowed a very diverse upland mixed ash woodland to develop.

    The damp and shaded environment favours mosses and the woodlands support a rich lichen assemblage. The site also contains a rich range of vascular plants (over 250 species), and some impressive exotic trees including Douglas fir, one of which (Dougal Mor) was previously the UK’s tallest known tree at 64 metres high.

    Birch – hazel woodland is the most common woodland type, found on the sides of the gorge. Willows, aspen and rowan occur amongst the hazel, with whitebeam being particularly abundant. On the valley floor willow and alder dominate the wetter areas, with ash found further north, where the ground flora reflects the more base-rich soils.

    On the upper, drier and more stable slopes birch and rowan are the most frequent. Juniper may be found on the rock outcrops, away from grazing. Open glades are a feature of the woodland and in places the woodland floor is lush with ferns.

    The site supports a very rich range of vascular plants due to the variety of conditions and soil types found here. Notable flowers include the creeping lady's tresses, maidenhair spleenwort, intermediate and serrated wintergreens, parasitic broomrapes and birds nest orchid amongst other typical woodland species.

    The variety of tree species and sheltered conditions have allowed a rich lichen flora to develop, including those of the Lobarion community. The bark of hazel is noted for a different lichen assemblage and the abundance of this tree provides the right conditions for the Graphidion species.

    The lower section, Reelig Glen, is home to the green shield-moss, which in the UK is listed as Endangered and has very specific habitat requirements, being restricted to well-decayed wood (particularly conifer logs) in damp and sheltered woodland locations. This moss is only known from 4 sites in northern and eastern Scotland, with very few plants at each.