The Machair

The Machair

Running down the Atlantic side of the islands is one of the jewels of the Hebrides… the Machair (Mahair).

Lying between the unfertile moorland and the sea, it’s like a Scottish Garden of Eden. Over centuries, the winds have blown shell-sand up onto the islands, balancing out the acid of the peat. But the machair wouldn’t be this rich if it wasn’t for people. Generations of crofters have carried seaweed onto the land to make it more fertile, and they leave the small fields fallow in some years – allowing wildflowers, insects and birds to move in. In high summer, the machair hums with rare bees like the moss carder and the great yellow bumblebee – extinct in most of mainland Britain. Meadows like this hardly exist there anymore because of intensive farming.

The rich supply of insects makes this an ideal home for corncrake and skylarks, who live along side other local residents such as redshanks and oystercatchers. The machair is also globally important because it’s home for birds like lapwings which nest on the ground.

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