IT is a gem in the heart of Loch Lomond once frequented by Coleridge and Wordsworth who were enchanted by its beauty.
But centuries after it nourished the imagination of the Romantic poets, the island of Inchtavannach is at the centre of a row between one of Scotland’s most prominent landowners and the country’s heritage body.
Sir Malcolm Colquhoun, the owner of Luss Estates, has accused Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) of committing “wanton vandalism” by “poisoning” a tract of centuries-old trees on one of the loch’s largest islands.
The baronet has demanded an “immediate” response from SNH over the way in which it removed the native beech trees from Inchtavannach, warning that it will take generations before the area’s “beautiful view” can be restored.
SNH said it agreed with Luss Estates and the tenant to remove the trees by injecting the stems rather than felling but “didn’t appreciate” the effect this would have on the landscape.
It said it is now in discussion with Sir Malcolm to reduce the “impact” of the dead trees.
The island, near Aldochlay on the western shores of Loch Lomond, was once the site of a monastery, giving rise to its alternative name of Monk’s Isle, and it has long been a popular visitor attraction for loch-farers.
However, Sir Malcolm said that the way SNH has disposed of the beech trees by “ring barking” and using “poison” has caused lasting damage to an area prized for its landscape.
He said: “I am outraged and shocked at this act of wanton vandalism and the resulting blight on the landscape of Inch-tavannach Island. It will take years and indeed generations for the canopy to recover and this beautiful view to be restored.
“I simply cannot understand why the supposed guardian of our natural heritage has killed off these wonderful trees for no apparent reason.”
Sir Malcolm said he has sent a “very strongly worded letter” to Susan Davies, the chief executive of SNH, demanding “an immediate explanation of its actions.”
Ian MacEachern, the convener of Luss and Arden Community Council, also said the loss of the trees was a “travesty” for the area.
In a statement, SNH said it had consulted the estate about a management plan it agreed with Inchtavannach’s tenant in 2013 to remove non-native beech and rhododendron from the island. It added: “As this work progressed, we agreed with the tenant and contractor that it would be more cost effective to control the beech by injecting the stems rather than felling.
“We didn’t appreciate the impact that this would have on the landscape and we are in discussion with the estate and tenant regarding felling of the dead trees to reduce this impact.”