Site details

UK map showing location of Caenlochan Special Area of Conservation/Site of Community Importance.
Location of Caenlochan SAC/SCI/cSAC


When undertaking an appropriate assessment of impacts at a site, all features of European importance (both primary and non-primary) need to be considered.

Annex I habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site

4060 Alpine and Boreal heaths
Caenlochan is the most continental hill in the SAC series for Alpine and Boreal heaths, and shows proportionately the most extensive development of lichen-rich heath and the least development of more oceanic kinds of heath. H19 Vaccinium myrtillus – Cladonia arbuscula heath is extensive and well-developed, with abundant lichen cover. Characteristic species such as the lichen Cetraria nivalis and trailing azalea Loiseleuria procumbens are widespread. Other communities represented are H13 Calluna vulgaris – Cladonia arbuscula, H20 Vaccinium myrtillus – Racomitrium lanuginosum and H22 Vaccinium myrtillus – Rubus chamaemorus heaths.
4080 Sub-Arctic Salix spp. scrub
Sub-Arctic Salix spp. scrub is relatively frequent at Caenlochan, growing to a high altitude on highly to moderately calcareous schist. Corrie Sharroch holds the largest single patch (around 0.5 ha) of W20 Salix lapponum – Luzula sylvatica scrub remaining in the UK. The scrub is also found spread across a larger area of crag and steep rocky slope than on any other site in the UK. The most abundant species, and generally the dominant one, is downy willow Salix lapponum, which probably occurs in larger numbers here than on any other site in the UK. There is a relatively large patch of scrub dominated by woolly willow S. lanata, and the site may hold the second-largest population of this species in the UK. Whortle-leaved willow S. myrsinites and net-leaved willow S. reticulata are also present. The associated habitat is mainly 6430 Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels.
6130 Calaminarian grasslands of the Violetalia calaminariae
Caenlochan in north-east Scotland represents natural, open Calaminarian grasslands over serpentine debris, occurring at about 850–870 m altitude on Meikle Kilrannoch, the highest representation of the habitat in the UK. The site is notable for the large population of the rare alpine catchfly Lychnis alpina, which occurs at only one other locality in the UK (the other station being in the English Lake District). Other characteristic plants of the debris include thrift Armeria maritima, mossy cyphel Minuartia sedoides and scurvygrass Cochlearia sp. This is the only known site for the Scottish endemic subspecies of common mouse-ear Cerastium fontanum ssp. scoticum.
6150 Siliceous alpine and boreal grasslands
Caenlochan is representative of Siliceous alpine and boreal grasslands on high hills in the eastern Highlands. This is the most continental site in the series and is unique because it is the only site where the predominant community of the summit plateau is U8 Carex bigelowii – Polytrichum alpinum sedge-heath rather than the more widely predominant U10 Carex bigelowii – Racomitrium lanuginosum moss-heath. The extent of Carex – Polytrichum sedge-heath is the largest of any site in the UK. The more characteristically oceanic Carex – Racomitrium moss-heath is represented by some good stands but is not so extensive. U7 Nardus stricta – Carex bigelowii grass-heath is also well-represented. There is a moderately large representation of late-lie snow-beds of U11 Polytrichum sexangulare – Kiaeria starkei snow-bed and U12 Salix herbacea – Racomitrium heterostichum snow-bed, while some small examples of U14 Alchemilla alpina – Sibbaldia procumbens dwarf-herb snow-bed are also present on shelves on high ground.
6430 Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels
Caenlochan is the most easterly site selected and is representative of hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities in the eastern Highlands. The habitat type is widely-developed across the site and is found on ledges of calcareous and more acid schists with a wide altitudinal range, including very high altitudes (550–870 m). Caenlochan is considered to have the greatest extent of this habitat type in the UK. There is an extremely diverse and well-developed montane flora containing a range of characteristic species, such as roseroot Sedum rosea, red campion Silene dioica, water avens Geum rivale, globeflower Trollius europaeus and wood crane’s-bill Geranium sylvaticum. Rarer species include black alpine-sedge Carex atrata, alpine gentian Gentiana nivalis, alpine fleabane Erigeron borealis, alpine mouse-ear Cerastium alpinum and alpine cinquefoil Potentilla crantzii. A very rare species that occurs on more acid ledges and is not represented on any other site in the series is alpine blue-sow-thistle Cicerbita alpina. The ledges at lower altitude have woodland species, such as wood anemone Anemone nemorosa and dog’s mercury Mercurialis perennis, which are usually rare in the habitat type.
7130 Blanket bogs (* if active bog)  * Priority feature
Caenlochan contains extensive areas of high altitude Blanket bogs representative of the eastern Highlands of Scotland. The blanket bog belongs to the M19 Calluna vulgaris – Eriophorum vaginatum blanket mire community and is extensive between 700 m and 900 m altitude. Above about 800 m, where the bogs occupy an extensive high plateau, heather Calluna vulgaris is replaced by cowberry Vaccinium vitis-idaea and the montane dwarf-shrubs crowberry Empetrum nigrum ssp. hermaphroditum and bog bilberry Vaccinium uliginosum. These montane blanket bogs show floristic affinities with mountain bogs in Scandinavia.
7240 Alpine pioneer formations of the Caricion bicoloris-atrofuscae  * Priority feature
Caenlochan is one of two sites in the eastern Highlands representing base-rich mires at moderately high to high altitude. These mires are frequent within the site and have high species diversity. There is a well-developed community structure and the rarer species occur frequently. Open flushes of M11 Carex demissa – Saxifraga aizoides mire and the closed M10 Carex dioica – Pinguicula vulgaris mire are both widely-developed. Characteristic species include three-flowered rush Juncus triglumis, chestnut rush J. castaneus, alpine rush J. alpinoarticulatus, Scottish asphodel Tofieldia pusilla, and sheathed sedge Carex vaginata. Hair sedge C. capillaris, alpine bistort Persicaria vivipara and alpine meadow-rue Thalictrum alpinum are also present. An additional interest is the presence of an eastern outlier of the mainly western M12 Carex saxatilis mire.
8120 Calcareous and calcshist screes of the montane to alpine levels (Thlaspietea rotundifolii)
Caenlochan is representative of communities on calcareous and calcshist screes at high altitude in the eastern Scottish Highlands. Although the habitat type is localised within the site, Caenlochan has a variety of different screes with an unusual flora. Fern-rich screes on calcareous-schist rocks support holly-fern Polystichum lonchitis, buckler-fern Dryopteris spp., roseroot Sedum rosea and mountain sorrel Oxyria digyna, while porphyritic screes have alpine penny-cress Thlaspi caerulescens and alpine speedwell Veronica alpina.
8210 Calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation
Caenlochan represents high-altitude Calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation in the eastern Highlands, on extensive outcrops of calcareous schists. The site has one of the most extensive and diverse high-altitude crevice habitats in the UK, with an abundance of characteristic high montane plant species. These include a number of rare species, such as mountain bladder-fern Cystopteris montana, alpine woodsia Woodsia alpina, rock sedge Carex rupestris, glaucous meadow-grass Poa glauca and hoary whitlowgrass Draba incana. The montane calcicole bryophyte flora is also outstanding and includes a number of species not present on other selected sites.

Annex I habitats present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for selection of this site

4030 European dry heaths
6230 Species-rich Nardus grasslands, on silicious substrates in mountain areas (and submountain areas in Continental Europe)  * Priority feature
7230 Alkaline fens
8110 Siliceous scree of the montane to snow levels (Androsacetalia alpinae and Galeopsietalia ladani)
8220 Siliceous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation

Annex II species that are a primary reason for selection of this site

Not applicable.

Annex II species present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

Not applicable.

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