Visitors will be able to explore the mysterious Celtic Rainforest

Visitors will be able to explore the mysterious Celtic Rainforest

Outdoor enthusiasts are being offered the chance to explore a rainforest – without leaving Britain.

The National Trust for Scotland and Plantlife Scotland are joining forces to reveal the riches of the mysterious Celtic Rainforest.

The two charities will stage an event on the Coille Mhòr estate in Wester Ross later this month, which will include walks around the area, overlooking Loch Alsh. The area is notable for the flora that thrives in the damp, ancient forests of Scotland.

Members of the public can join the guided walks to spot species such as Norwegian specklebelly, prickly featherwort, stinky sticta and tree lungwort lichen.

National Trust for Scotland ranger at Balmacara estate, Gavin Skipper said: “You do not have to travel to Brazil to experience a rainforest.

“There are amazing examples of the Celtic Rainforest on Scotland’s west coast. They are teeming with life and just as fascinating. We hope that this initiative highlights these beautiful habitats to more people and encourages them out to explore.”

Polly Phillpot, Plantlife Scotland outreach officer, said: “Plantlife is delighted to be working with the National Trust for Scotland in welcoming people to enjoy the mysterious and magical world of Scotland’s unique Celtic Rainforests.

“We hope that the guided walks and leaflet we’re launching will attract an increasing amount of people to discover the hidden gems of the Celtic Rainforests: small plants such as the tree lungwort lichen or the delicate prickly featherwort, a species of liverwort.

The area contains internationally important plant species

The area contains internationally important plant species

“Many of the lichens, mosses and liverworts that are found in these rainforests are very rare in Europe, and some are globally important. Plantlife seeks to shine a brighter light on these amazing small plants, including rare lichens such as the Norwegian specklebelly, a UK priority species, which is found at Coille Mhòr.”

As well as the guided walks, a storytelling session is also planned for the launch of a new Plantlife Scotland leaflet exploring the important plant area on Tuesday 21 February.

Booking is essential for the guided walks, with participants meeting at 9.30am at Balmacara Square before being transported to Loch Achaidh na h-Inich to join staff from the National Trust for Scotland and Plantlife Scotland on the walk back through the Coille Mhòr estate.

The walk will last for about three hours and is about 4km (2½ miles) on good surfaced paths and tracks with one moderate but rather long ascent. Participants will need walking boots, warm and waterproof clothing, a snack and a hot drink.

A storytelling session with Claire Hewitt will also take place, with participants meeting at 2pm in Balmacara Square

Ms Hewitt will share stories and tales of the Ghillie Dhu in a shorter walk through the southern part of the estate. Appropriate clothing and footwear for the weather should be worn, and the walk crosses boggy terrain and involves climbing steep gradients so a high level of agility and fitness is required. A wet weather alternative will be based indoors at the NTS Education room in Balmacara Square.

Bookings can be made by ringing 01599 566325. More information is on the NTS website.

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