To provide you with the best experience on this website, cookies are used. By using the site it's assumed that you're happy with our use of cookies. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time. More info on cookies.
Allow cookies

Machair

Machair is a Gaelic word meaning fertile low lying grassy plain. This is the name given to one of the rarest habitats in Europe which only occurs on exposed western coasts of Scotland and Ireland. Machair habitats in the Outer Hebrides run up the western shores of Uist, Harris and Lewis.

Here sand, largely made up of crushed shells, is regularly blown ashore by Atlantic gales. Over time the calcium rich shell sand and traditional Outer Hebrides crofting land practices have led to the development of a mosaic of fertile Scottish grassland habitats renowned for its Outer Hebrides wildflowers, Western Isles birds and insect life.

The most extensive areas of Outer Hebrides machair can be found on the West Coast of the Uists. Here you’ll see the succession from dunes to grassland and traditional arable cultivation worked in rotation. On the fallow areas that have recently been cultivated you’ll find the greatest diversity of flowers where up to 40 Western Isles plant species can be found within a square metre.

Many of these are quite common Outer Hebrides flowers but it’s the sheer abundance of blooms that makes the machair so special. The colours change through the season with yellows dominating at first and then fading into reds, whites and blues.

However, the Western Isles flora on display on each machair is different depending on the history of land use and the local environment so it’s worth visiting several areas. Flowers of the Outer Hebrides are at their best between mid June and mid August.

The diverse plant community supports a rich insect life. The rare Great Yellow Bumble Bee and the unusual Belted Beauty Moth with its flightless female form are two of the most characteristic machair insects found in the Outer Hebrides.

The machair are bustling with Western Isles bird life at all times year. Corncrakes and breeding waders are the most distinctive spring arrivals. Large flocks of geese, lapwing and golden plover make this their home in winter.

Number of items:

Number of items: 23

, currently showing 1 to 10.

  1. © Copyright Ian Capper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

    Add Common Twayblade-Loch Thallan to your Itinerary

    Common Twayblade-Loch Thallan

    Type

    Flora and Fauna - Machair

    South Uist

    The Common Twayblade is an orchid which can be found around Loch Thallan.

  2. Machair Flowers-Bornish

    Add Machair Flowers-Bornish to your Itinerary

    Machair Flowers-Bornish

    Type

    Flora and Fauna - Machair

    South Uist

    Colourful fallow or crops full of Corn Marigold can be seen from the main track across the machair.

  3. Lesser Butterfly Orchids-Boisdale

    Add Lesser Butterfly Orchids-Boisdale to your Itinerary

    Lesser Butterfly Orchids-Boisdale

    Type

    Flora and Fauna - Machair

    South Uist

    More abundant to the west of the main road. You can access the area easily as it is unfenced although plants can be seen from the main road in fenced fields further north too.

    When to See
    Flowers in June.

  4. Sea Bindweed - Princes Strand

    Add Sea Bindweed - Princes Strand to your Itinerary

    Sea Bindweed - Princes Strand

    Type

    Flora and Fauna - Machair

    Eriskay

    This pink and white, striped funnel-shaped flower is found only here in the Outer Hebrides

  5. Machair Flowers-Howmore

    Add Machair Flowers-Howmore to your Itinerary

    Machair Flowers-Howmore

    Type

    Flora and Fauna - Machair

    South Uist

    An excellent small area to see a good variety of machair flowers.

  6. Great Yellow Bumble Bee-Borve

    Add Great Yellow Bumble Bee-Borve to your Itinerary

    Great Yellow Bumble Bee-Borve

    Type

    Flora and Fauna - Machair

    Isle of Benbecula

    The Great Yellow Bumblebee is a large bee with a yellow or brownish yellow body with a single black band (between the wings).

  7. © Copyright Frances Watts and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

    Add Hebridean Marsh Orchid-Clachan Sands to your Itinerary

    Hebridean Marsh Orchid-Clachan Sands

    Type

    Flora and Fauna - Machair

    Isle of North Uist

    Rare flower found only in North Uist!

  8. Machair Orchids-Northton

    Add Machair Orchids-Northton to your Itinerary

    Machair Orchids-Northton

    Type

    Flora and Fauna - Machair

    Harris

    Frog orchid, northern marsh orchid, early marsh orchid, greater twayblade, and lesser butterfly orchid are typical machair orchid species.

  9. Lady's Bedstraw-Dalmore

    Add Lady's Bedstraw-Dalmore to your Itinerary

    Lady's Bedstraw-Dalmore

    Type

    Flora and Fauna - Machair

    Isle of Lewis

    Short, low growing with spike of bright yellow flowers

  10. Red Clover- Garry Beach

    Add Red Clover- Garry Beach to your Itinerary

    Red Clover- Garry Beach

    Type

    Flora and Fauna - Machair

    Isle of Lewis

    Low to medium growing with globular flowerheads, found on coastal grassland and agricultural land

See & Do

Search See & Do

Type
Area
Name

Use My Travel Planner below to plan your perfect holiday, then either book it yourself or send it to our local holiday operator partner for a complete quotation.

My Travel Planner

Build your own itineraries by clicking the Add to My Travel Planner button to add an item to your Itinerary basket.

If you already have a travel planner saved, you can access it below.

Our holiday operator partner, Hebridean Hopscotch Holidays, is a fully bonded operator with many years experience in providing individually arranged holidays in the Outer Hebrides. Their holiday advisers live locally and they can discuss your plans, offer advice, submit a firm holiday quotation and, if acceptable, arrange all your sea or air travel, accommodation and activities to suit your requirements. Use our expertise to get the most out of your holiday.