The Trust owns around 78,000 hectares of land, and cares for many different types of countryside including wetland, moorland, farmland, upland and wild land. Large areas of Trust land have significant natural features and important habitats that make them unique. A large number are designated sites - which means that their unique qualities are recognised and protected. These include a natural World Heritage Site and 27 places of European importance.
Designations can be of international, national or local importance. Some places are so special that they have more than one designation. St Kilda has dual World Heritage Site status for its natural and cultural heritage (the only natural WHS in Scotland). It is also a European Community Special Protection Area, a National Nature Reserve, a National Scenic Area and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. (The village is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.) St Kilda has the largest seabird colony in Europe.
National Nature Reserves
The Trust looks after 5 National Nature Reserves: St. Kilda, Staffa, Corrieshalloch Gorge, St. Abb's Head and Ben Lawers. Two more Trust sites, Torridon and Mar Lodge, have land within a National Nature Reserve.
Staffa is famous for its fantastic basalt columns and caves, including Fingal's Cave. It is famed for its seabirds, especially the puffin colony, and for the seals that come to shore to have their pups. Corrieshalloch Gorge is one of the best examples of a box canyon in Britain with dramatic views of the 46-metre Falls of Measach.
St Abb's Head is a major seabird nesting site; its birds include razorbills, guillemots, shags and kittiwakes; it is also a Voluntary Marine Reserve, protecting and raising awareness of its rich marine life. Ben Lawers comprises a range of mountains (with Ben Lawers the highest in the southern Highlands) where rare arctic and alpine plants grow.
Mar Lodge Estate and Torridon have some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in Scotland. The four next highest mountains (after Ben Nevis) are at Mar Lodge while Torridon is famous for its 750-million year old Torridonian sandstone.
Check out how the Trust manages a unique area of countryside that has been designated a National Nature Reserve: Case Study: Ben Lawers NNR
An important part of the Trust's holdings are its areas of wild land. Britain has no truly wild land: it has all been walked over, climbed, or managed by humans, at some point in its history. But some areas are almost wild, in that they are remote or inaccessible and have never been cultivated or altered significantly by humans. Trust places with wild land include: Glencoe, Torridon, Mar Lodge and Kintail.
Check out how the Trust cares for: Wild Land.
International Designations (protected sites)
There are many designations for areas of unique or special natural environments. Here are some of them:
World Heritage Site: this is the most prestigious accolade given to any area – it must have internationally important natural (or cultural) heritage. This non-statutory designation is awarded by UNESCO. The Trust's St. Kilda has dual WHS status.
Special Areas of Conservation: these land or sea areas are selected for their habitats and species that are listed in the Habitats Directive which provides the framework for their protection. The Trust's Ben Lawers, Glencoe, Mar Lodge, Balmacara and Fair Isle are all designated as Special Areas of Conservation.
Special Protection Areas: these areas are selected for their number of rare, threatened or vulnerable bird species, including migratory birds, ensuring that the birds and the habitats on which they depend are protected. The Trust's St Abb's Head, and islands of Canna, Mingulay & Berneray, are all SPAs. Threave Estate and Montrose Basin are both Special Protection Areas and Ramsar Sites.
Ramsar: named after the Iranian town where the Convention of Wetlands of International Importance was adopted in 1971. The UK signed up to it in 1976. The Convention aims to protect important wetlands throughout the world. As well as Threave, the Trust has Ramsar sites at Mar Lodge and the House of Dun.
OSPAR: European governments are working together to protect the marine environment. In 2003, it was agreed that there should be Marine Protected Areas.
Geoparks: Areas with outstanding or unique rocks and landforms where an appreciation of geology is encouraged. There are global and European geoparks. Scotland has two UNESCO European Geoparks on its mainland and one in Shetland.
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI): The Government's conservation body Scottish Natural Heritage states that SSIs ‘are the essential building blocks of Scotland's protected areas for nature conservation.' They are protected by law. Many are also Natura sites (Special Protection Areas or Special Areas of Conservation). Sites of Special Scientific Interest are selected for their diversity of plants, animals, habitats and landforms. The Trust cares for 45 SSIs, including Ben Lomond, Goatfell, Dollar Glen, Grey Mare's Tail, Torridon and Drum.
National Nature Reserves: these are areas of national importance for habitats and wildlife that people may visit. The Trust is responsible for 5 National Nature Reserves, and a part of 2 others.
National Parks: these are large areas of land that have significant wildlife, cultural heritage value and scenic qualities. Scotland has two National Parks. The Trust's Ben Lomond is within Loch Lomond and Trosssachs while Mar Lodge is within Cairngorms.
National Scenic Areas: selected for their beauty, they represent Scotland's outstanding landscapes. The islands of St Kilda have been designated a National Scenic Area and the Trust has land within more than twenty other NSAs.
Other national designations include: Marine Protected Areas, Forest Parks, Woodland Parks, Seal Conservation Areas, Garden & Designed Landscapes.
There are several Local Designations of which the most familiar (and statutory) one is managed by local councils: Country Parks are areas of land where people can enjoy the countryside in a more controlled environment. Recreational activities are encouraged and there are usually facilities for everyone, such as a cafes, toilets and shops. The Trust has 2 very popular country parks: Culzean and Brodick.
For more information:
Click on Countryside to learn more about the Trust's Countryside Department.
For more details about Protected Areas, please go to the Scottish Natural Heritage website. SNH supports the National Trust for Scotland's Protected Areas.