Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Remnants of Scotland's ancient forests of oak.

This view, of Beinn Sgritheall from Loch Hourn, is most people's idea of the scenery of Scotland: a wild landscape of bare mountains tumbling into deep sea lochs. It is, however, not natural. It is man made and is a result of deforestation. After the retreat of the last ice age, a beautiful sessile oak forest grew on much of the western sea board of Scotland. It was cut down over the centuries to clear the land for agriculture, to build ships, provide charcoal for the iron industry and tannin for the leather industry.

There are a few surviving pockets of the natural oak forest such as this one at the head of Glen Trool in Galloway.

The forest floor is carpeted with mosses, lichens, ferns and holly.

Another surviving pocket is on the north shore of Fleet Bay on the Solway Firth. Here the oaks grow right down to near the high water mark.

The great western sessile oak forest of Scotland must have been indescribably beautiful.


  1. Hello I visited Scotland 2 years ago. I thought the hills were very beautiful. I like this post and I am now interested in the history of the forests. They must have been a very beautiful place.


  2. Is there any efforts underway to replant the oaks?

  3. Hello Douglas, is the main problem not the number of deer? I recall several schemes to fence areas and cull the deer inside then plant new trees.

  4. Yeah, I loved that green carpet on the forest floor when I was in Wales too. About the time it starts getting green like that here the frost hits. :)

    It's interesting in that there is a distinct climate change between where I live and just another 10 miles north. Here we have deep oak forests and maple, then you drive 10 minutes and it's all sand and pine forest.

  5. Denise, thank you for calling, I am glad you liked Scotland. There are places left where you can still walk in natural forest. Places to look out for if you visit Scotland again are, Glen Trool, Glen Affric and Rothiemurchus.

    Hello Peter and Jim, there are many relatively small projects but as Jim says you need to fence the area to keep the deer and sheep out. In some places replanting has taken place but in others seeds that have remained dormant for hundreds of years since the forests were cleared are creating natural regeneration.

    Hello Derrick your point is very interesting. The oak forest of Scotland was mostly round the western seaboard. A few miles inland Scots pine begins to appear and these predominate by the time you get into the central part of the Highlands. Of course its not just the forests we have lost, its the wolves, bears, lynx, beavers etc etc.