National Nature Reserves

National Nature Reserves must be well managed for wildlife and to encourage people to enjoy these special places.

National Nature Reserves (NNRs) are areas of land set aside for nature. As in other countries, the accolade is given to Scotland’s best wildlife sites, to promote their conservation and enjoyment.

Most reserves contain nationally or internationally important habitats and species, so the wildlife is managed very carefully. Visitor facilities are designed and managed to ensure that people can enjoy NNRs without harming or disturbing the wildlife that lives there.

Scotland has 43 NNRs; these are special places, showcasing the very best of Scotland’s nature, and cover less than 1.5% of Scotland’s land area.

Included in the series are mountain tops, ancient woodlands, remote islands with huge colonies of breeding seabirds, and lowland lochs that are vitally important staging posts for migrating birds.

Explore our NNRs on Scotland’s National Nature Reserves website.


Since 2013, a partnership of NNR providers and community representatives has overseen the award of the NNR accolade.

The current partnership comprises representatives of:

  • Community Land Scotland
  • Forestry Commission Scotland
  • National Trust for Scotland
  • RSPB Scotland
  • Scottish Land and Estates
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Scottish Wildlife Trust
  • South Lanarkshire Council
  • Woodland Trust Scotland

View the partnership’s National Nature Reserve selection criteria and standards.

SNH continues to fulfil the statutory designation functions under the:

Most NNRs are also Sites of Special Scientific Interest and many are Natura sitesSpecial Areas of Conservation and/or Special Protection Areas.

Ownership and management

NNR managers must own or have sufficient management control of the land, e.g. through a lease or formal agreement. SNH manages many of Scotland’s NNRs, while partner organisations own and manage others. Some NNRs are managed jointly.

The management priority is to conserve the important habitats and species present within the NNR. But management must also provide opportunities for people to enjoy and engage with nature.

National Nature Reserve principles

The vision for the NNR accolade is based on three clear principles agreed by the SNH Board in August 2012:

  1. The national accolade of National Nature Reserve will be applied to land and water of acknowledged significance for nature that is being managed to agreed high standards for nature and the enjoyment of nature. Nature on these reserves will be of national importance and the sites will be managed primarily for nature in the long term and for people to enjoy nature.
  2. National Nature Reserves will be run by a range of public, private, community and voluntary organisations; and the accolade will be managed by a partnership representing these organisations.
  3. This partnership will agree selection and review criteria, and set high and demanding management standards expected of a national accolade.

How to apply for the accolade

Any landowner, community or organisation interested in attaining the NNR accolade on their land should first read the FAQ for potential applicants.

To indicate your interest in applying, you should email the partnership secretariat at