Loch Maree Islands - Access to the Islands

Access to Loch Maree Islands 

Loch Maree Islands are special and given their isolation have matured ancient woodlands that are some of the least disturbed by humans in the UK (Find out more from The Story of Beinn Eighe NNR).  These habitats support many very rare species of plant, insect and bird.  The Loch Maree Islands are nationally and internationally protected and designated a National Nature Reserve to protect the unique and important nature found here, including rare breeding birds such as black-throated divers.

We want people to enjoy our stunning nature and landscapes, but we also want to preserve the Loch Maree Islands special nature, so it is important that if you visit the islands (non-motorised craft only) you do so responsibly and leave no trace of your visit. 

If you plan to access the islands then please follow this advice (with further information below) to help keep this place special:

  • During April to August please remain for no longer than 30 minutes on any island to avoid disturbance to unseen nests
  • Please do not camp on the Islands from April to August. Plan ahead and book a local campsite.
  • No Fires, BBQs or fire pits on any of the islands at any time of year
  • Do not paddle toward birds, if you see a Black-throated diver please move away from the area.
  • Please stay well away from floating Islands and other nests - see picture below.
  • Take litter home to recycle or use the bins available
  • Do not camp on Isle Maree at any time of year as this island is a scheduled ancient monument.
  • Be aware of the weather conditions and stay within your comfort zone

Please note that motorised access is not permitted on Loch Maree without the landowner’s permission.

This advice has been drawn up in agreement with key stakeholders including the local access authority.  This advice will be kept under review.  If you are planning a trip in 2022, please refer back to this page for updates.  Please contact NNR@nature.scot for any queries.

Black-throated diver

 

 
Floating island for black-throated divers

Further information and context on the above advice

  1. This advice is to minimise disturbance to legally protected Black-throated divers, which are very rare birds that breed on the islands.  Black-throated divers are specially protected by law, it is an offence to disturb them at the nest or while they have dependent young (Find out how Scotland’s wild birds are protected).  Divers are particularly sensitive to disturbance and can be disturbed when within 500m of a nest and the rarity of these species means that these impacts could have population consequences.  There are several pairs that breed throughout the islands.  
    1. Preferred access points to the islands (beaches) are often the chosen nest sites for divers.  The nests are often well hidden and the adult birds will disappear from the nest if disturbed.  Limiting the time on the islands minimises the risk to disturbing unseen nests. 
    2. Wild camping in proximity to a nest (even it is unseen) carries a high risk of disturbance to the birds.  As this disturbance is prolonged then it is more likely to result in nest failure.  Black-throated divers are Schedule 1 birds protected under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act, and disturbing them at the nest or with dependant young is an offence.  There is a camp site (tents only) at Taagan (NH01346373) at the Kinlochewe end of Loch Maree which is free to use, and a number of excellent local campsites.  Overnight parking is not permitted at the Slattadale car park which is managed by Forestry and Land Scotland.
    3. Canoeing & other non-motorised watersports has a high risk of disturbance for breeding Black-throated divers.  The approximate distance at which they will be vulnerable to disturbance is 500m.
    4. Floating islands (~2m x 2m) have been constructed to provide nesting spots for the Black-throated divers to minimise the risk from predators and flood risk.  Please stay well away from these small islands.
  2. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code state that you should “never light an open fire in areas such as forests, woods or on peaty ground”.  The Loch Maree Islands are entirely either woodland or peaty ground, and as such open fires should not be lit on any island.  Fires can be damaging to the legally protected vegetation and fires that get out of control can cause major damage, for which you might be liable.  Access for fire crews tackling a wildlife on the island is difficult, and could be dangerous.
  3. Please be aware of the weather conditions and stay within your comfort zone -  find out more about safe paddling from Canoe Scotland.  
  4. For guidance relating to camping at Scheduled Ancient Monuments read Historic Environment Scotland's guidance note or contact them for more information.

 

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