The Applecross Trust
Beinn Bhan is designated as an SSSI (Special Site of Scientific Interest) and separately designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The area is a good example of a Torridonian sandstone mountain with high cliffs and deep corries.
A range of upland plant communities include alpine and sub-alpine heaths, ledge vegetation dominated by tall herbs and types adapted to survive amongst the acidic scree. The summit plateaux are dominated by alpine and subalpine heaths but on rocky ground close to the top of the main ridge there are examples of dwarf juniper heath. This community forms a mat, generally less than 10cm thick, where dwarf juniper and heather are especially frequent along with a distinctive oceanic moss and liverwort flora and the rare alpine bearberry. The Beinn Bhan juniper heath is particularly significant as one of mainland Scotland’s most southerly and highest altitude examples, as well as one of the few examples on sandstone. Scottish dwarf juniper heath, is an Annex 1 habitat under the EU Habitats and Species Directive and is considered to be of national importance at this site.
Of major additional interest are the tall herb communities on ledges inaccessible to grazing animals. One of the most impressive is Ratclife’s Ledge in Coire na Poite. This huge, sloping ledge is over 200 metres long and around 45 metres wide and supports a dense and luxuriant growth of ferns, and tall herbs in patches where base-rich seepages occur. This species-rich community includes locally notable species such as alpine saw-wort and dwarf cornel. On other parts of the cliffs base-rich springs and flushes support base-loving mosses, including one nationally scarce species. The patches of tall herb on the enriched soils correspond to the eutrophic tall herb community, which is an Annex 1 habitat under the EU Habitats and Species Directive and is considered to be of national importance at this site.
Finally, screes form an important habitat for pioneer species and frost and grazing sensitive species. The slopes below the corrie cliffs are mostly acidic scree, with patches of herb-rich grassland. These communities are similar to those located on the cliff ledges. Elsewhere, shady block screes support good examples of dwarf shrub heath dominated by heather, bilberry and crowberry. The screes also support late snow bed communities in which parsley fen is abundant.
Designated features of the site include Upland assemblage, Alpine and subalpine heaths, Tall herb ledges, Acidic scree, Plants in crevices on acid rocks, Dry heaths, Wet heathland with cross leaved heath and Montane acid grasslands.