Stunning pictures celebrate Scottish mountain's 70 years at heart of UK's oldest national nature reserve

Stunning new pictures of one of Scotland’s favourite mountains have been revealed as the landmark celebrates 70 years since it was named the UK’s first ever national nature reserve.

Beinn Eighe, in the west Highlands, was designated as a national nature reserve (NNR) in 1951 to protect important ancient pinewood growing on its slopes – he largest remaining fragment in north-west Scotland.

To celebrate the landmark anniversary, Scotland’s nature agency has unveiled the winning entries from a special photography competition showcasing the dramatic landscapes, habitats and species found at the reserve, in the Torridon area of Wester Ross.

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The winning shot was captured by Ben Catchpole, from Norwich, who spent time at Beinn Eighe as a volunteer.

This eye-catching image, taken by Ben Catchpole from Norwich, was picked as the winner in a photographic competition run by NatureScot to celebrate Beinn Eighe's 70th anniversary as a national nature reserve
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“I took this image on a late spring evening, walking up the Allt a Chuirn path,” he said.

“The combination of perfect light and beautiful views make this one of my favourite photos.

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“At this time I was in the middle of a voluntary placement at Beinn Eighe NNR, which was a hugely influential experience in my life – helping me on my journey towards becoming a conservation professional.”

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Rachel Drummond from Wester Ross scooped second prize for her picture of the Pony Path pools on Beinn Eighe, her favourite place to walk in the local area

Second place went to Rachel Drummond from Wester Ross.

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She snapped the scene during a walk up the Pony Path, her favourite walk in the local area.

She said: “I took this photo because I love the way the stones in the pool look like melted gold floating on the pool's surface.”

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The Beinn Eighe site, which stretches across 48 square kilometres of rugged terrain, is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including golden eagles, pine martens and deer.

It has received numerous accolades and designations to protect vital habitats and species over the seven decades since it became the nation’s inaugural NNR.

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The reserve is part of the Unesco Wester Ross biosphere and in 2019 became the first Gene Conservation Unit in the UK, recognising the genetic importance of the Scots pine at Beinn Eighe.

It is also one of only two sites in Scotland to hold a European Diploma from the Council of Europe.There are now 43 NNRs in Scotland.

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NatureScot’s Doug Bartholomew, reserve manager for Beinn Eighe, said: “We’re all thankful this Highland gem was protected way back in 1951 and we are very proud this is the oldest NNR in the UK.

“The nature reserve is an incredibly special place to so many people – as well as a vital part of Scotland’s nature for many animals and plants.”

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And there are big plans for the next 70 years at Beinn Eighe.

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He said: “Our vision is for a connected, flourishing western pinewood and for the whole nature reserve to continue to support a range of healthy habitats and a rich variety of species.”

The top two prize-winners will be treated to a day of exclusive access to the reserve with a professional photographer who will share industry hints and tips.

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All winning and short-listed photographs, along with images taken by pupils from Gairloch High School, will be on display at an anniversary celebration in Kinlochewe village hall on 27 November and in Gairloch museum for most of February and March next year.

There are also plans for the pictures to be displayed in NatureScot offices in the future.

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