History of Loch Arkaig
Loch Arkaig Pine Forest is a fragment of the vast boreal (coniferous) forest that stretched across the northern hemisphere following the last ice age. It has been degraded by hundreds of years of exploitation, from the clear felling of ancient woodland in the 18th century to the planting of non-native conifers in the 1960s, as well as by grazing of sheep and deer.
During the second world war, the UK's first commando units were stationed at nearby Achnacarry House and used these woods as a training ground. In 1942 the troops accidently set fire to the forest burning more than 300ha over four days. The bleached white skeletons of fire-damaged Scots pine provide a reminder of their presence to this day.
In 2016, the site was purchased by the Trust from Forest Enterprise Scotland under the National Forest Land Scheme, which gives community organisations the opportunity to buy land for public benefit. In partnership with the local Arkaig Community Forest group, the Trust launched an appeal in April 2016 to raise £500,000 to fund the purchase, and a further £4m to restore the forest. Our appeal was boosted by a £750,000 award from the People's Postcode Lottery.
The Trust now plans to remove non-native conifers such as Sitka spruce, larch and lodgepole pine to recreate a more natural mix of woodland dominated by pine, birch and oak. Parts of the forest are so remote that trees may have to be taken by barge across Loch Arkaig to reach the road. The removal of lodgepole pine is a priority as it carries needle blight, a disease which has the potential to infect large numbers of Scots pines. The appeal to fund the work is continuing towards its final target of £4.5m.
According to legend, there is a buried treasure chest in the wood containing gold brought from France to support the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. It is thought to have been destined for Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart), whose allies reputedly hid in the woods, but he fled before the gold reached him. Gold coins found in the forest in 1850 support this fascinating tale.
The loch is believed to have its own kelpie (a water spirit often taking the form of a horse).
The Gaelic name for Arkaig was Airceig.