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Scotland's next national park is being contested by glens, lochs, and isles.
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Scotland’s next national park is being contested by glens, lochs, and isles.

Glen Affric, located in the Highlands, is a sanctuary for various animals such as deer, ospreys, and otters. It is also home to one of the biggest Caledonian pine forests in Scotland. This glen is often praised for its stunning scenery and rich biodiversity, and is officially recognized as a national nature reserve.

Currently, various local organizations are pushing for it to be designated as Scotland’s third national park. This is in competition with over 10 other regions that have also expressed their desire for the title.

The most recent proposal, put forth by the Strathglass community council and backed by multiple local organizations, suggests creating an Affric and Loch Ness national park that would cover part of Loch Ness and Glen Affric. This park would span from the Dundreggan rewilding center in the south, to the mountainous area of Kintail in the west, and the historic village of Beauly in the east.

Humphrey Clarke, the chair of Strathglass community council, stated that the region is already a popular destination for tourists, bringing in significant revenue for rural areas. He believes that obtaining national park status would not only grant access to funding, but also give local residents more authority.

The CEO of Trees For Life, Steve Micklewright, is supporting the bid and believes it could have a positive impact on the environment in the area.

The river Affric running into Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin in Glen Affric, Affric HighlandsView image in fullscreen

According to the speaker, the creation of a new national park in this beautiful landscape, filled with mountains, valleys, lakes, and old forests, could greatly aid in the restoration of nature on a large scale. This park would promote the recovery of biodiversity and also help combat the climate crisis by storing carbon in trees and peatlands.

The Scottish government has committed to establishing a new national park by 2026 as part of the Bute House agreement, a collaborative agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens. Nominations for the park opened in October and will close next month, with the proposals set to be reviewed in the spring.

Other regions that have expressed interest are Galloway and the Scottish borders in the southern part, Tay Forest in Perth and Kinross, Lochaber in the western Highlands, and the Inner Hebridean islands of Skye and Raasay.

Lorna Slater of the Scottish Greens, the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, said Scotland’s national parks were “among its greatest assets”.

She stated that these areas contain famous and beautiful landscapes and are great for leisure activities and for the people who live nearby. They also have an important role in addressing global warming and preserving our valuable natural surroundings for future generations.

Scotland currently boasts two designated national parks: Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, spanning from the vicinity of Glasgow to the southern Highlands, and the Cairngorms mountain range in the northeast.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority board convener, Sandy Bremner, stated that obtaining national park status would have numerous benefits. He explained that this designation would bring a greater emphasis on preserving and improving the area’s natural and cultural heritage. Additionally, it could provide crucial aid to struggling communities and foster cooperation to achieve positive transformations.

Currently, there are 15 national parks located in the United Kingdom, with 10 in England, three in Wales, and two in Scotland. The UK government and Welsh senedd have made a pledge to investigate potential plans for establishing an additional national park in both England and Wales.

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Red deer in the pine forest at Glen Affric.

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Three competing proposals have been entered for a national park.


Galloway, situated in the southwest of Scotland, includes the ancient regions of Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire. It aspires to be the southernmost national park in the country. In 2016, the Galloway National Park Association was formed to advocate for this goal.

The area is a combination of hills, moors, pastures, and coastline, and it is home to a variety of supporters. They believe that gaining status would provide a much-needed boost to the struggling land-based industries and economy in the region.

Skye and Raasay

In Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, the islands of Skye, Raasay, and Rona have the potential to form Scotland’s inaugural national park. Skye is famous for its breathtaking scenery, including mountains, valleys, cliffs, waterfalls, and diverse wildlife. Raasay, its neighboring island, boasts similar landscapes and is also recognized as the site of Scotland’s first legal distillery and the birthplace of renowned poet Sorley MacLean.

Tay Forest

Supported by Perth and Kinross Council, the planned Tay Forest national park in the highlands of Perthshire encompasses several well-known tourist destinations such as Aberfeldy, Pitlochry, Dunkeld, Birnam, Crieff, and Comrie, as well as the breathtaking river Tay. The park spans over 200,000 acres of forest and showcases some of Scotland’s tallest trees. The Tay is also Scotland’s longest river and provides a habitat for salmon, otters, and other significant aquatic species.

Source: theguardian.com