RASSAL ASH WOOD
Scottish specials in a unique woodland setting
Rassal Ash Wood is on the eastern side of the Kishorn River estuary, about eight miles south of Torridon. It is found tucked away to the back of Loch Kishorn, where it extends from just above sea level, up a gradual and sheltered valley side then into a neighbouring gorge. This area has become part of the ‘North Coast 500’ tourist route, which has had a dramatic influence on the number of people using the area since 2014 when it was started. It branches off before the Ash wood to Applecross and I imagine few people, if any, actually think the area is worth a visit! So, you should have it to yourself, as I did. It is not famous for its birdlife, rather its actual trees, being the furthest north in Britain where Ash grows. That should not put you off, though, as there’s the potential of seeing some of the highland specials. Mountains rise around you and with an estuary to boot, there is the chance of both eagles. The trees are a magnet for small raptors like Merlin and Sparrowhawk. You could see mixed tits, finches and summer migrants, such as Redstart, Tree Pipit and Willow Warblers in numbers. Cuckoos will use pipit nests to lay their eggs, and may even pick the odd Pied Wagtail’s. The area around the wood includes alpine and subalpine calcareous grasslands, mountain willow scrub, limestone pavement and also petrified springs with tufa formation. Along the approach road you will find Wheatear and, possibly, both Whinchat and Stonechat. The River Kishorn should have both Dipper and Grey Wagtail. The estuary has a mixture of waders with Greenshank, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, and Common Sandpiper likely in summer, with the odd Whimbrel, Curlew, Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit dropping in on migration. Out in deeper water, look for divers, with Great Northern common for eight months of the year, along with both Red-throated and Black-throated dropping in to feed. Eider, Shelduck, Red-breasted Merganser and Mallard will also be around.