Rassal Ashwood in Autumn
Rassal Ashwood in Autumn

Set in a landscape of heather moors and hills is this rare stand of ash woodland, growing on an unusual limestone outcrop at the south end of Glen Shieldaig. The unusual combination (for the Highlands) of lime-rich soil and woodland has created an unexpected eco-system for plants, lichen, and animals rarely found in the Highlands.

A Historic woodland Pasture

More than just a stand of ancient forest, Rassal seems to have been used from early times as a woodland pasture for animals. The farmers built stone walls and seem to have cultivated peat on a series of wide terraces defined by the stone walls.

Where the soil was deep enough they planted crops, and may have used manure to enrich the soil. These early inhabitants used the ash trees for making tools, and probably used the leaves for fodder. They also seem to have made small clearings in the woodland to create glades.

Rassal is the most northerly ashwood in Britain, and was named a National Nature Reserve (NNR) in 1956.

The ancient woodland is home to a wealth of wildflowers, and a happy haven for dragonflies. The woodland covers an area of just over 42 acres (about 17 hectares).


The woodland is very easy to find. It is located on the east side of the A896 between Shieldaig and the Pass of the Cattle road to Applecross. There is a small parking area just south of the woodland, and a trail leads past an interpretive sign (rather worn and difficult to read when I visited) to a gate in the fence containing the ashwood. From there you are free to wander and explore at leisure. There are no other facilities to speak of.

I found the woods fascinating, mostly because of the grotesque shapes created by the ash tree branches. If you are blessed with a green thumb and an interest in botany I expect you will really enjoy seeing the wide variety of lichens and undergrowth that abounds under the canopy of the trees.

Just for the sake of comparison I've included an image of typical Glen Shieldaig landscape taken a short distance from the ashwoods. It is remarkable to see how different the Ashwood is from the more typical moorland landscape.

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About Rassal Ashwood
Address: A896, Ardarroch, Wester Ross, Scotland
Attraction Type: Countryside
Location: On the A896, south of Shieldaig. The nearest postcode (for satnavs) is IV54 8XA. There is a small parking area on the east side of the A896.
Website: Rassal Ashwood
Scottish Natural Heritage
Location map
OS: NG845430
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Strome Castle - 2.7 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle) - 4.4 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Balmacara Estate and Lochalsh Woodland Garden - 8.1 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

Eilean Donan Castle - 8.6 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Totaig Broch - 9.1 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

Clachan Church, Applecross - 9.2 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Castle Moil (Caisteal Maol) - 9.9 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Torridon - 10.7 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Nearest Holiday Cottages to Rassal Ashwood:

Nearby accommodation is calculated 'as the crow flies' from Rassal Ashwood NNR. 'Nearest' may involve a long drive up and down glens or, if you are near the coast, may include a ferry ride! Please check the property map to make sure the location is right for you.

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