Glasdrum’s ancient woodland

Continuing our series on Argyll’s National Nature Reserves, we focus on an ancient wood near Oban. Overlooking a sea loch, ash and oak trees dominate the wood, with trunks softened by a thick coat of mosses and lichens which drip water in the moist air.

Glasdrum Wood NNR clings to the lower slopes of Beinn Churlain, a mountain rising up from Loch Creran on Scotland’s west coast. The wood is a remnant of the woodland that once covered many Argyll hillsides, with native birch and alder dappled amongst the oak and ash.

The Gulf Stream gives Glasdrum a mild, moist and relatively warm oceanic climate, providing ideal conditions inside the wood for a great variety of insects, lichens, ferns, mosses and liverworts – more than 200 species of mosses and liverworts have been recorded in Glen Creran Woods alone. Otters slip cautiously between the woodland and the clear waters of Loch Creran.

Shelter provided by the trees produces suntraps in the glades which can become very warm on the steep southeast facing slopes. Where sunlight can penetrate between the trees, smaller flowering plants grow providing a rich larder for butterflies. Glasdrum Wood is one of the best sites in the country to spot butterflies: the reserve is particularly noted for its population of rare chequered skipper and pearl bordered fritillary, which thrive in the wood’s open clearings.

Chequered skipper

Chequered skipper

Glasdrum’s wildlife is of UK and European importance. The reserve forms part of the Glen Crenan Wood Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), nationally important for its exceptionally rich lichen and bryophytes, as well as its oak woodland and rare butterflies. The larger Glen Creran Woods are internationally important for the mixed and western acidic oakwood and its otter population, and is designated as a European Special Area of Conservation (SAC).



People have been managing the wood, once part of Glasdrum Farm, since at least the17th century. Back then the wood was managed for charcoal production and as pasture for livestock. These uses and increasing deer numbers have influenced the wildlife found in the Wood today.

For more than 25 years Glasdrum Wood NNR was managed solely for nature conservation, with the aim of maintaining and enhancing the woodland. With the discovery of the chequered skipper in 1974, management for butterflies became a priority.

Management of the reserve has maintained Glasdrum Wood’s rich natural heritage since it was first identified more than 40 years ago. Over the years the extent of the woodland has increased and its condition has improved. There is no longer any grazing or coppicing to retain the open woodland structure, so the scrub and bracken are cut to keep the glades open and suitable for butterflies. The chequered skipper and pearl-bordered fritillary still thrive in the wood, indicating that our management measures have been successful.

Glasdrum is a wood for professionals and amateurs, specialists and enthusiasts alike. The reserve was opened to visitors in 2003 and it is open all year round. There is a car park at the entrance towards the northeast end of Loch Creran, where there is an all abilities picnic area with views across the Loch to the south. A 1km circular route climbs up through the woodland, with benches provided at intervals around the trail for you to stop, admire the view and enjoy this special reserve.

You can find out more about Glasdrum Wood NNR and its management here.

All photos © Lorne Gill/SNH, except otter © Andy Rouse/2020VISION

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