It dominates the local area and is home to some of the world’s rarest species along with ancient pine woods and temperate rainforests,

Now a woodland charity has launched a bid to raise £1.6million to buy a mountain in the  North West Highlands.

Woodland Trust Scotland wants to buy Ben Shieldaig after the 534m (1752ft) peak – classified as a Marilyn but not a Munro – and the surrounding estate was put up for sale by its private landowner.

The conservation charity, which owns and cares for 60 sites covering more than 8,000 hectares across Scotland, said it was an “incredibly rare opportunity” to purchase its very first mountain, however.

It highlighted the mountain’s two rare forest habitats, teeming with wildlife including red squirrels and golden eagles, and its “vast potential”.

Director Carol Evans said: “This is a rare opportunity for us to bring a whole mountain under our care.

“It already supports a magnificent area of ancient Caledonian pinewood and a temperate rainforest of native birchwood. Perhaps even more exciting is the potential to manage these within a mosaic of their natural neighbours.

“Our aim is to see native woodland, montane scrub and open moorland habitats meshing naturally with each other from sea to sky. That would encapsulate all that a restored landscape can be, not just in Torridon but across the Highlands.”

Ben Shieldaig covers about 4,000 acres, set in the dramatic Torridon landscape within the Wester Ross National Scenic Area.

Known for its walking routes and spectacular views from the summit towards Skye and the  Outer Hebrides, the area is home to two rare types of woodland.

The Trust described Ben Shieldaig’s birch woodland, confined to the moisture-laden strip of land between the mountain and the sea, as “Scotland’s rainforest”.

Part of a unique habitat shaped by the mild climate and clean air, it contains some of the world’s rarest lichens, bryophytes and liverworts.

It is also home to a significant remnant of ancient Caledonian pinewood that has occupied the spot – at the very limit of the Scots pine’s northern European distribution – since just after the last ice age.

The pinewood is one of the most westerly remnants of native pine in Europe that is one of the closest to sea level and possibly also one genetically unique to the north-west of Scotland.

The existing woods are in good health and notable for a lack of non-native invasive species, such as Rhododendron ponticum.

The Trust says a combination of natural regeneration and planting, along with effective deer management, could see a tripling of woodland cover on the mountain.

The mountain and its surrounds are also home to famous Scottish wildlife, including sea eagles, golden eagles, red squirrels, pine martens and otters. 

The UK’s smallest dragonfly, the black darter, and the vulnerable azure hawker dragonfly have both been recorded there, as well as the Red Data Book-listed hover fly Callicera rufa.

The Trust says a full site survey could also reveal pipistrelle bats, smooth newts, woodpeckers and siskins.

Ms Evans added: “We aim to manage the site for wildlife and people and encourage recreational access – perhaps building a small car park and creating a path to a viewpoint for visitors to enjoy.

"We will consult local people about our plans once we secure ownership. Before anything can happen though, we need to raise the money to fund the purchase.”

Ben Shieldaig is Scotland’s 3,698th highest peak and is classified as a Marilyn because it has a prominence of at least 150m (492.1ft) above the surrounding area.