Swarms of midges on its shores are said to have led to Harry Potter film crews abandoning a take.

However, while there is little chance of the indomitable wee beasties vacating the site any time soon, environmentalists are hopeful they can remove another species that threatens a Highland beauty spot.

One of the biggest ever projects to restore ancient Caledonian pinewood is underway at Loch Arkaig near Spean Bridge in Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands.

Some 70,000 tonnes of mainly Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine will be removed over the next five years in efforts which project leaders hope will allow the remaining Scots pine and other native trees to flourish.

Loch Arkaig Pine Forest has five of just 84 remaining fragments of ancient Caledonian pinewood in Scotland.

HeraldScotland:

Its ancient, wide-crowned ‘granny’ pines were in danger of dying out without reproducing, squeezed out by non-native commercial conifers planted in the 1960s. 

Woodland Trust Scotland and local charity Arkaig Community Forest bought the spectacular 2,500 acre site in 2016 which was used to dramatic effect in the Harry Potter Deathly Hallows penultimate film.

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Site manager Henry Dobson said: “A huge amount of preparation has been required since then to allow us to start extracting timber. 

“The bridge over the River Arkaig had to be strengthened and the access track into Glen Mallie upgraded to accommodate the vehicles removing the timber.  

“Covid 19 delayed us by a year but we have finally reached what is a major turning point for the restoration of the site.” 

HeraldScotland:

Loch Arkaig Pine Forest comprises two blocks of woodland: Glen Mallie which can be reached by a new upgraded track, and The Gusach, which is usually visited by boat. 
Woodland Trust Scotland plans to barge timber out over the loch from this more remote block starting in the New Year.

Loch Arkaig is in the rainforest zone running down Scotland’s west coast. 

READ MORE: The ghost of trees past: The Beuly wych elm 

Where conditions are right the clean, warm, moist air coming in from the Atlantic supports a lush growth of lichens, mosses and liverworks under the tree canopy. 

Experts say the restoration of native woodland on the site will also expand rainforest habitat. 

HeraldScotland:

According to legend, there is a buried treasure chest in the wood containing gold brought from France to support the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. 

It was  destined for Bonnie Prince Charlie, whose allies reputedly hid in the woods, but he fled before the gold reached him. Gold coins found in the forest in 1850 support this tale. 

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British Commandos and Allied Special Forces including the Free French trained at Loch Arkaig during WWII.  During exercises with live ammunition in 1942 forest fire raged across the hillside. 

Scots pines cooked in their own resin were preserved and still stand today. Pale in colour they have been dubbed “ghost” pines. 

Scientists have discovered rare “fire” lichen growing on the stumps of trees destroyed during the war. 

Carbonicola anthracophila only grows on charred conifer trees and has been recorded at just three other locations in the UK:  Glen Affric, Glen Quoich and Glen Strathfarrar. 

HeraldScotland:

Ten volunteers have been recruited for a two-year pilot project to supply seeds for direct seeding, enrichment planting, and woodland creation in and around Loch Arkaig.

A tree nursery based at nearby Clunes run by Arkaig Community Forest will also be set up.

Gary Servant of Arkaig Community Forest said: “We look forward to working together to ensure that Loch Arkaig Pine Forest continues to produce a regular and reliable supply of marketable timber - increasingly of native species such as pine, oak and birch - in future years and for future generations.”