Loch Yes! Campaign Launches to Make Nessie’s Home Scotland’s Newest National Park

Photo by Ramon Vloon

A bold proposal has been launched to designate the storied landscape surrounding Loch Ness and Glen Affric as Scotland’s third national park, an ambitious effort supporters say would protect the area’s globally cherished natural beauty and empower local communities.

The nomination, led by the Strathglass Community Council and backed by an array of conservation groups, businesses and other partners, would cover a sprawling area of the Scottish Highlands encompassing Loch Ness, the pine forests of Glen Affric, and stretches of the western coastline. If approved, it would become the country’s first new national park in nearly two decades.

Proponents argue that national park status for Affric and Loch Ness is long overdue, saying few places on earth match the diversity and splendor of the region’s scenery, wildlife and cultural heritage.

“This is one of the most remarkable landscapes in the world,” said Humphrey Clarke, chairman of the Strathglass Community Council. “National park designation would enable us to protect this area for future generations while also creating new opportunities for local residents.”

The proposed 750 square-mile park would include the 30-mile Glen Affric Nature Reserve, considered among the most picturesque glens in Scotland, with ancient Caledonian pine forests and scenic lochs. It would also incorporate the famous body of water that gives the park its name — Loch Ness, home to the mythical Loch Ness Monster.

In their nomination, organizers tout the potential benefits of national park status, from promoting sustainable tourism and providing funding for conservation projects, to attracting new investment and creating jobs rooted in the local environment.

They also say having an empowered national park authority, with greater decision-making devolved to people in the region, would allow communities to chart their own future in harmony with the landscape.

“This would be a national park created by and for the people who live here,” said Clarke. “We want to maintain this area’s heritage while also building a vibrant and sustainable local economy.”

The proposal has already garnered enthusiastic support from an array of groups invested in the region, including the renowned conservation charity Trees for Life, the University of the Highlands and Islands, the Glen Affric Community Company and the Kintail Community Council.

Steve Micklewright, chief executive of Trees for Life, which is based at the Dundreggan Rewilding Centre in Glenmoriston, said the park would enable large-scale ecological restoration to combat biodiversity loss and climate change.

“This could be a landmark opportunity to unleash the full potential of this landscape to benefit nature, people and the planet,” Micklewright said.

Local officials also back the nomination, arguing it would bring critical investment and jobs to rural communities that have seen populations dwindle.

“We’ve seen too many young people leave because of lack of opportunity,” said Alex Graham, a Highland Council member representing the Black Isle ward. “The national park could change this trajectory.”

The Scottish government has pledged to establish at least one new national park by 2026. The Affric and Loch Ness proposal is the first to be formally submitted under a new nomination process that closes next February.

Over the coming months, Strathglass Community Council will hold public meetings and gather input through its website, NewNationalPark.org. The group plans to submit a detailed proposal to the government next year.

Scotland’s two existing national parks — Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and the Cairngorms — were established in 2002 and 2003 respectively.

Advocates say the parks have successfully balanced conservation with tourism and new development. They point to studies showing the parks have produced economic benefits for surrounding communities.

“The evidence is clear that national parks deliver for both people and nature,” said Clarke. “We have a rare opportunity to achieve something special here.”

Clarke and other organizers acknowledge challenges ahead, from navigating complex land ownership issues to assuaging local concerns about overtourism. But they remain confident their ambitious dream can become reality.

“People once said there would never be a Loch Ness Monster national park,” Clarke said. “But just imagine what we can accomplish if we work together.”

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