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Wildlife Heaven at Ballachuan Hazel Wood

Ballachuan Hazel Wood is an unspoilt gem of a nature reserve tucked away on Seil Island. Wildlife enthusiasts come here from all over the UK to explore and discover rare lichens, moths and butterflies, and woodland and coastal wildlife, all with the breathtaking backdrop of Cuan Sound.

The wood is maintained by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and designated a site of international importance due to the diversity and rarity of wildlife, and unmanaged flora and fauna. And it’s because of this lack of human intervention, coupled with the almost unique Atlantic coastal habitat, that so many species come together in such a relatively small area and attracts so many visitors.

Butterfly enthusiasts flock to Ballachuan Hazel Wood and are guaranteed to see a wide variety of common and rare lepidoptera. In addition to common varieties such as Common Blues, Small Heaths and Chimney Sweeper moths, rarer butterflies are also spotted such as the Marsh Fritillary and Chequered Skipper.

Butterfly Marsh Fritillary

A rare Marsh Fritillary butterfly (Euphydryas aurinia)

If you are a licheneer, you can try to find some of the rarer specimens of the 250 species found at Ballachuan. Lichens adorn almost every part of the wood. As well as Scottish endemic species, it is home to specimens such as Leptogium brebissonii, Thelotrema petractoides, Parmelia testacea, Pseudocythellaria crocata, and the rare Hazel Gloves.

Visitors to the wood should also be on the lookout for deer, red squirrels, buzzards, and the elusive badger. Venturing closer to the shoreline, keep an eye out for otters swimming about in the kelp, seals lounging on the beach, porpoises rising through the waves, and, if you’re lucky, an ocassional golden eagle.

From Loch Melfort Hotel, Ballachuan Hazel Wood is only 45 minutes drive away through stunning, rugged scenery. Don’t be put off by the fact that Seil is an island. Access is via the “Bridge Over The Atlantic“, a quaint old stone hump-backed bridge designed by Thomas Telford which connects the island to the mainland.

The wood itself is on a long, straight ridge on the southern part of the island surrounded by dramatic coastal tidal races. Parking is available at Kilbrandon church and the reserve is about a 0.5km walk, the latter part of which is along a track leading fom Ballachuan Farm.