Site details

UK map showing location of Rassal Special Area of Conservation/Site of Community Importance.
Location of Rassal 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

7230 Alkaline fens
Rassal in the north-west Highlands is representative of Alkaline fens developed from flushing through Durness limestone. The main type of fen are the more closed mires rich in Carices and other calcicolous small herbs (M10 Carex dioicaPinguicula vulgaris mire). Open, stony flushes (M11 Carex demissaSaxifraga aizoides mire) also occur, and are transitional in flora to 7240 Alpine pioneer formations of the Caricion bicoloris-atrofuscae. These are spring-fed mires and are numerous across the site. Black bog-rush Schoenus nigricans, broad-leaved cottongrass Eriophorum latifolium and the moss Scorpidium scorpioides are abundant locally in the fens.
8240 Limestone pavements  * Priority feature
Rassal is one of four sites representing Limestone pavements on Cambro–Ordovician Durness limestone in north-west Scotland. In terms of the extent of the pavements, within Scotland Rassal is second only to Strath. Although the pavements are less well-developed structurally than on Strath, they occur up to a higher altitude (230-380 m) and have a more montane flora, similar to that at Inchnadamph. Notable northern and montane species occurring in the grikes include holly-fern Polystichum lonchitis (especially abundant), whortle-leaved willow Salix myrsinites, stone bramble Rubus saxatilis, green spleenwort Asplenium viride, globe-flower Trollius europaeus and rock sedge Carex rupestris. Stunted trees and shrubs, mostly downy birch Betula pubescens, rowan Sorbus aucuparia, ash Fraxinus excelsior and holly Ilex aquifolium are confined to rock crevices by browsing. Mountain avens Dryas octopetala occurs on thin soil on the clints and grades into 6170 Alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands. Patches of S. myrsinites scrub are referable to 4080 Sub-Arctic Salix spp. scrub, while 9180 Tilio-Acerion forests of slopes, screes and ravines is also developed on part of the same exposure of limestone pavement. These are all Annex I habitats for which the site is also selected.
9180 Tilio-Acerion forests of slopes, screes and ravines  * Priority feature
Rassal is unique in Scotland as the only large ash Fraxinus excelsior wood on limestone, and is important in representing Tilio-Acerion forest at the extreme north-western limit of its range. The site also encompasses the adjacent Allt Mór Gorge which contains further examples of the habitat. The wood is nationally important, particularly for its lichens, and the ground flora is species-rich with a number of plants of very restricted distribution, such as dark-red helleborine Epipactis atrorubens.

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

4080 Sub-Arctic Salix spp. scrub
6170 Alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands
7220 Petrifying springs with tufa formation (Cratoneurion)  * Priority feature
8210 Calcareous 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.

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.