National Scenic Area
Arran’s mountains are more pronounced than most other hills in southern Scotland and make a dramatic sight as they rise from the waters of the Firth of Clyde to their highest peak, Goatfell, at 2866 feet. Seen from the north east the sky-lined ridges have an outline that gives them the name of “The Sleeping Warrior”, complete with helmet and plume. Viewed from the Island, itself, the hills and glens have a majesty and serenity of their own, wholly in keeping with the expectations of a designated National Scenic Area.
Site of Special Scientific Interest
On the scientific side, the Arran Northern Mountains Site of Special Scientific Interest supports a variety of habitats and species. The mountains, which include two nationally important geological areas, support the largest and most diverse upland habitat assemblage in west central Scotland. This habitat assemblage includes a variety of shrub heaths, alpine heath, moss heath and others. Such rare plants as the three endemic sub-species of white beam and the Killarney fern may be found here, whilst the diverse upland bird community includes red throated diver, Hen Harrier, Peregrine and Golden Eagle. Two hundred species of bird have been recorded on the Island. Other interests include the breeding ground for at least nine species of dragonfly and three of water beetle.
These mountains support an uninterrupted sequence of plant communities from sea level to mountain top, over a relatively short distance, which is influenced by the maritime climate and acidic soil type.
Some of the flat wetland areas within the heather moorland support the rare Large Heath butterfly, the Emperor moth as well as the Speckled Wood and Green Hair Streak which are scarce in neighbouring Ayrshire.
The Island’s red deer herd is noted for its freedom from hybridisation and the Island is classed as a “refugium” for the species, where careful management maintains the size of the herd consistent with its habitat. This is achieved through deerstalking.
Much of the area has been infested with bracken and a huge effort has been spent on reducing this through aerial spraying in recent years.