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Ptarmigan forest is located on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, north of Rowardennan, sat below the summit of Ben Lomond and along the shoulders of the Ptarmigan ridge. It is a highly visible part of the lochside.

There has been a presence of woodland in this area since before 1850 when it was utilised for pastoral grazing and cottage industries. Much of that original and native woodland can be seen today along the shoreline. In the 1960’s, planting of productive conifers began above the ancient semi-natural oak woodland, raising the treeline to its current position and increasing the woodland area by nearly 200%. For much of the last 60 years, the woodland has been left to mature and develop, becoming part of the landscape that would eventually become a national park.

In 1995, an area of over 4000 ha along the eastern shore was designated as the Ben Lomond Memorial Park, established as an area of conservation and tranquillity in memory of those who fell in the world wars of the 20th century. The memorial takes in the woodlands north and south of Rowardennan as well as the open hill ground above. At the establishment of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park in 2002, the memorial area was re-designated as the Ben Lomond Memorial Landscape and its status broadened to be in the memoriam of all those who have given their lives in the name of protecting the country. The work of managing the memorial landscape is undertaken by both Forestry and Land Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland.

Constraints and issues

The Ben Lomond Memorial Landscape objectives relate to removing all non-native species and promoting the colonisation of native species in a sympathetic way. This work has been ongoing for the last 25 years in the rest of the memorial landscape, but its effect has been more subtle due to the flatter topography.

Much of the eastern shore of Loch Lomond is environmentally designated with several SSSIs and the Loch Lomond Woods SAC. The purpose of the designations is to preserve and conserve sensitive and important habitats. In order to remove the non-native species in Ptarmigan it will be necessary to disturb parts of these designations, doing so is only possible if the benefits outweigh the impacts and permission can only be given at ministerial level.

The land upon which Ptarmigan sits is steep, rocky and, in parts, unstable, making it challenging terrain in which to operate a productive forest that works sympathetically with the landscape. The existing conifer woodland is now reaching an age and height where it is beginning to blow over in multiple small pockets across the woodland. If left much longer, there is a risk of more significant wind throw and when combined with the terrain, could make it too dangerous to recover the timber.

Across the UK a tree disease called Phytophthora Ramorum has been spreading through Larch tree species. Starting in Cornwall in 2008, it has now reached Central Scotland. Indeed known infections are just a few miles away. Around 20% of the coniferous plantation of Ptarmigan is Larch. Only 1% of the Larch can currently be accessed by the current forest infrastructure making it very difficult to comply with legal requirements should infection arrive.

Forestry and Land Scotland recognise the importance of the West Highland Way to the local area and its economy. To close or divert any part of this long distance route would have wide reaching impacts. We are working to create a plan that ensures we never need to do that and, in the long term, the work will benefit the visitor experience.


Given the constraints and issues identified, Forestry and Land Scotland intends to seek permission to remove all non-native conifer trees from the Ptarmigan forest over the next 10-15 years. Whilst the pace of change is much faster than might be expected normally, it has been agreed amongst environmental authorities and the local authority, that there are significant benefits to this proposal from FLS, providing it can meet both legal and safety requirements.

In future the woodland will be replanted with only native tree species, mostly broadleaf. These trees will be more natural in their planting pattern, mirroring the adjacent Ancient Semi Natural Woodland, with dense gullies and less dense planting on the open slopes. The choice of species will also kick start greater opportunity for natural regeneration and expansion of the Oak woodlands. It is intended that these trees will be retained in perpetuity, enhancing the natural landscape and providing habitat for a variety of flora and fauna. Native trees are more likely to root deeper in to the slopes, providing improved slope stability; where in future trees may blow down, they will further enhance the natural environment, providing habitat to another part of the ecosystem.

Converting Ptarmigan to native woodland will further the objectives of the memorial landscape by over 20%, bringing the conversion away from non-native species to near completion. It will also enhance native habitat connectivity the length of Loch Lomond and connect in with our work at Loch Katrine and the Great Trossachs Forest.


Forestry and Land Scotland intend to submit a land management plan to the regulatory authorities in late summer 2022. As this land management plan requires a ministerial derogation to undertake work within the environmentally sensitive areas, FLS would not expect to begin forestry operations until 2024/25.

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