Affric and Loch Ness bid for Scotland’s third national park

It is regarded as one of the most scenic glens in Scotland, home to a 30 mile nature reserve of ancient Caledonian pine woodland. 

And now a bid to nominate Affric and Loch Ness as Scotland’s third national park has been launched, as organisers say the area’s globally important heritage deserves protection.

The national park would include part of Loch Ness and Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Rewilding Centre in Glenmoriston to the south, Kintail to the west and Beauly to the east.

It would also cover Glen Affric, a 30-mile nature reserve with ancient Caledonian pine woodland, that is widely regarded as one of the most scenic glens in Scotland. 

The partnership behind the proposal said the area of the Scottish Highlands is one of the world’s most beautiful places, and national park status would benefit future generations.

It would empower local communities, and open up economic opportunities including nature-based jobs, allowing people of all ages to keep living and working in the area, they say.

A national park designation would also help create sustainable employment and housing opportunities in these rural communities, it was said. 

It could also provide access to funding and infrastructure to protect and enhance the landscape and improve biodiversity. 

The Scottish Government has promised to create at least one new national park by 2026,

Strathglass Community Council, supported by a range of partners, is leading the national park nomination.

‘We are leading on the nomination process and want to hear and represent the views of local people and stakeholders,’ said Humphrey Clarke, chair of the community council.

‘We believe Affric and Loch Ness National Park would enable local people to protect and enhance our natural environment for future generations, while providing opportunities for sustainable employment and housing. 

‘The area is already popular with visitors, providing an important income stream in rural areas, and national park status would provide access to funding and empower local people.’

Steve Micklewright, Chief Executive of Trees for Life, said: ‘A new national park, centred on Glen Affric and extending to Loch Ness and the west coast, could enable nature restoration on a major scale in this stunning landscape of mountains, glens, lochs and ancient forests – helping biodiversity to recover and locking carbon in trees and peatland to help with the climate crisis.

‘The investment that nature recovery will generate, coupled with governance involving local people, could unlock the area’s potential for local communities and visitors alike – creating a vibrant local economy that serves all who live and work in the area. 

‘Trees for Life is proud to be a partner in this initiative and is committed to support the proposal as it develops.’