Cawdor 'an example of trees and homes co-existing'
A village with links to a legendary tree has been held up as an example of how development and woods can co-exist.
Cawdor, near Nairn, is mentioned in a Scottish government-commissioned assessment of Highland Council's plan for future development in the region.
The plan includes measures to protect and promote woodlands.
According to legend, Cawdor Castle was built around a hawthorn said to be the same tree that stands inside a vault within the castle.
The Thane of Cawdor, a medieval nobleman, was said to have wanted a stronger fortified home than the small tower he lived in.
A donkey carrying a chest of gold was allowed to roam the nobleman's land.
Where it rested for the night was to be the location of the new tower. The gold the donkey carried was expected to bring good fortune to the site.
The animal eventually rested under a hawthorn, according to the legend.
Scientific analysis of the tree inside the castle has suggested it is a holly dating from the 1300s.
Cawdor Castle's grounds include Cawdor Wood, which is one of the largest oak woodlands in north-east Scotland and has Special Area of Conservation status.
Properties in the village nearby also sit among the wood's mature trees.
Trees and how they fit with future development in the Highlands is a feature of the Highland-wide Local Development Plan.
The document was the subject of public consultation before being scrutinised by Scottish government-appointed officials called reporters.
The reporters looked at issues raised by members of the public and organisations before they made recommendations on how they could be dealt with in the plan.
Cawdor Estates for the Trustees of the Cawdor Scottish Discretionary Trust raised concerns that Highland Council's plan favoured preserving trees and discouraged new planting.
The organisation argued that developers would avoid planting trees at the sites of new housing projects because they would then not be allowed to remove them if they wanted to build on the land later.
It said the plan should allow for trees to be removed for housing provided more trees were planted somewhere else.
Cawdor Estates said the village of Cawdor was an example of where trees sat "comfortably close to development" and had helped to create the community's "special environment".
In the Highland-wide Local Development Plan, it has been proposed to add 285 new houses to Cawdor.
At the moment the village has about 50 homes and only one new property has been completed in the last 10 years with two others under construction.
The government-appointed reporters noted public concerns that the village would expand too quickly and that some properties could impact on Cawdor Wood.
During public consultation on the plan, other organisations made comments on forestry and woodland.
Action for Mental Health said more trees should be planted across the Highlands.
Kincraig Community Council raised concerns about neglected woodland in Badenoch and Strathspey and said non-productive areas of forests should be used for housing, rather than farmland.
The reporters concluded that Highland Council guidelines on protecting and managing woodland should be a feature of the plan as they would address many of the issues raised.
The officials' 614-page report of examination allows Highland Council to push ahead with finalising the Highland-wide Local Development Plan.
In January, Highland councillors will consider the reporters' conclusions and recommendations.