The diversity of landscape and climate in Scotland means that it is home to some of the rarest plants and wildlife in the U.K.

When thinking about tropical climates Scotland is not the first place that springs to mind for most people however, for plant lovers the South West of Scotland offers the perfect conditions for species that would not survive in other areas of the U.K. or even in other areas of Scotland. The reason for this is the warmer winds and generally milder climate brought by the Gulf Stream from the North Atlantic, meaning that the West coast of Great Britain is generally a couple of degrees warmer than the East.

The most dramatic results of the Gulf Stream effect can be seen on the Westernmost coast of Scotland. Situated in Stranraer, Castle Kennedy Gardens is a fine example of a garden that has been able to grow and maintain rare collections due to the unique climate.

Jay Jerry Follow Castle Kennedy GardensPart of the Stair Estate, the gardens span 75 acres with the ruins of the old Castle Kennedy at one end and Lochinch Castle at the other. They are surrounded by the Black and White Lochs.

Castle Kennedy Gardens boasts an impressive 20 Champion Trees. A champion tree is one that is the oldest, tallest or most massive of its kind ever recorded by the Tree Registry. These trees would not have grown to such record sizes without the effects of the Gulf Stream.

The first rhododendrons to be brought to Europe were brought to the Castle Kennedy by Sir Joseph Hooker in 1851 from the Himalayas. The gardens have become well known for their large collection of rare rhododendrons including the British Champion Rhododendron Arborum, awarded its title for being the tallest.

There are several “Avenues” which were planted in the 18th and 19th Century to showcase specific species and areas of the estate. The Monkey Puzzle Tree Avenue was planted in 1856 using the first seeds to be brought to the country from South America.

As well as rare trees and plants Scotland is also home to species of wild animal that do not live anywhere else in the British Isles.

The Red Squirrel is native to Scotland and can usually be found in the woodlands and forests in many parts of Scotland however they are no longer found in parts of Eastern and Central Scotland due to the introduction of the grey squirrel, which carries a virus that is deadly to the Red Squirrel.

Red Squirrel

The Scottish Wildcat can be found in forested areas and heather moorlands of Aberdeenshire and Highland areas. Larger than a normal domestic cat, the Scottish Wildcat is a shy creature and sightings are rare. There are reportedly only about 2,000 cats left in the wild and although they are a protected species they are sometimes killed by land owners as they often cannot be distinguished from feral former domestic cats living in the wild.

The Pine Marten is a member of the weasel family and was facing extinction in the 19th century due to the removal of vast swathes of forest, taking away its natural habitat and leaving it vulnerable to predators. At the end of the First Word War the Forestry Commission was created to replenish the U.K’s timber stocks after their depletion during the conflict and gradually the Pine Marten has started to thrive again.

Pine Marten

In recent years Pine Martens have been relocated to Wales to help keep the grey squirrel population under control, with possible plans to do the same in England in future.

In 1976 the Chequered Skipper butterfly was declared as being extinct in England, however some years later it was re-discovered near Fort William and closely surrounding damp woodland areas.

The plants and wildlife found in Scotland compared to the rest of the U.K. highlights how much difference a couple of degrees in temperature or a change in habitat can make to the chances of life or death for a species of plant or animal.

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