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Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) are areas of land and water that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) considers most representative of our natural heritage - our habitats, plants, animals, rocks and landforms, or a combination of these natural features.

Most SSSIs are privately owned and managed as parts of working farms and estates.

The 1,450 or so sites are the essential building blocks of Scotland's protected places for nature and form part of a wider GB series. Many are also Natura sites and some are managed as national or local nature reserves.

Many SSSIs are popular places for walking, birdwatching and other recreational pursuits.  For example, many of our highest mountain tops (Munros) are in SSSIs and many kilometres of public paths run through SSSIs.  Many are rarely visited corners of farms, while others – like Arthur’s Seat Volcano (Edinburgh) or the Fossil Grove (Whiteinch, Glasgow) – attract many thousands of people each year.

SSSIs also provide a range of other environmental services – for example, they hold many thousand tons of peat and act as huge carbon stores. By designating these areas as SSSIs, SNH can influence their management and ensure that their special qualities are maintained.

These are legally protected places and you should take care to take access responsibly, as set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and follow any local advice. 

You can find out where SSSIs are,  and what their protected natural features are, using  ’Mapsearch’ on the ‘Sitelink’  facility on the SNH website. If you see someone damaging an SSSI, please call the police immediately.

Blawhorn Moss
Blawhorn Moss, Site of Special Scientific Interest