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Special Areas of Conservation


Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Country Scotland
Unitary Authority Highlands and Islands
Centroid* ND239975
Latitude 58.85833333
Longitude -3.319444444
SAC EU Code UK0012791
Status Designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Area (ha) 9501.27
* This is the approximate central point of the SAC. In the case of large, linear or composite sites, this may not represent the location where a feature occurs within the SAC.
Location of Hoy SAC

General site character

  • Shingle, Sea cliffs, Islets (2.5%)
  • Inland water bodies (Standing water, Running water) (2%)
  • Bogs, Marshes, Water fringed vegetation, Fens (35%)
  • Heath, Scrub, Maquis and Garrigue, Phygrana (56%)
  • Dry grassland, Steppes (1%)
  • Broad-leaved deciduous woodland (0.5%)
  • Inland rocks, Screes, Sands, Permanent Snow and ice (3%)

Download the Standard Data Form for this site (PDF <100kb)

Note When undertaking an appropriate assessment of impacts at a site, all features of European importance (both primary and non-primary) need to be considered.

Annex I habitats that are a primary reason for selection of this site

  • Hoy’s high sandstone cliffs have a superb range of vertical faces with a range of aspects, and well-developed talus fans. The ledges provide habitat for cliff plants and birds despite the high exposure, and northern Scottish species are well-represented.

  • Hoy provides an important representation of dystrophic lochs and pools on 7130 Blanket bogs and heathlands. The dystrophic lochs and ponds range in size and substrate type from pool complexes to moderate-sized lochs with peat, sand or stone substrates. The waterbodies support a limited flora typical of the acidic, low-nutrient habitat that includes bulbous rush Juncus bulbosus. As with many upland sites the remote location has protected the waterbodies from significant disturbance.

  • The northern form of northern Atlantic wet heaths, characterised by an abundance of lichens, is very local in the UK but is extensively developed on Hoy. Both M15 Scirpus cespitosusErica tetralix wet heath and M16 Erica tetralixSphagnum compactum wet heath are found here and are relatively undisturbed. This lack of disturbance may have contributed to the luxuriance of the lichen cover. A range of transitions to 4060 Alpine and Boreal heaths, 7130 Blanket bogs and flush mire are also found on this site.

  • Hoy is representative of the more northerly oceanic sub-types of Alpine and Boreal heaths, where the cool and windy climate results in the development of this habitat at low altitude. The site has the largest high-quality examples of H17 Calluna vulgarisArctostaphylos alpinus heath in the UK, and the community is unusually rich in lichens. The alpine heaths are developed on an impressive series of solifluction terraces. The western oceanic H14 Calluna vulgarisRacomitrium lanuginosum heath, occurring here with bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, is also represented. On more sheltered slopes, there are well-developed transitions to alpine forms of the oceanic H10 Calluna vulgarisErica cinerea heath, and to 4030 European dry heaths..

  • 7130 Blanket bogs (* if active bog)  * Priority feature

    Despite its island setting, the extensive blanket bog on Hoy, dominated by heather Calluna vulgaris and hare’s-tail cotton-grass Eriophorum vaginatum, is akin to the more continental bogs found in the drier parts of the mainland, although more typically oceanic communities do occur locally. Lichen-rich blanket bog with Cladonia spp. is characteristic of higher parts of the site. In addition to pool systems and areas of extensive bog-moss Sphagnum cover, the site supports numerous peat mounds, a feature typical of, but local within, northern blanket bogs.

Annex I habitats present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for selection of this site

Annex II species that are a primary reason for selection of this site

  • Not Applicable

Annex II species present as a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

  • Not Applicable

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.