Drumbuie & Duirnish Crofting Meadows, Kyle of Lochalsh
"Crofting" - a traditonal form of scale-scale farming and way of life unique to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland - has been in decline in Scotland for many years. However the townships of Drumbruie and Duirnish, where these meadows can be found, are bucking the trend. Crofting activity has increased here in recent times. In fact, the Coronation Meadow is used as an outdoor classroom for a recently established course in the tradition, delivered at Plockton High School to encourage the next generation to maintain it.
The neutral to acidic meadows are a blaze of colour throughout the spring and summer, with hay rattle, oxeye daisy, red clover, meadow buttercup and meadow vetchling. As well as these, both lesser and greater butterfly orchid are to be found, as well as the beautiful globeflower, a rarity of meadows these days. This floral display naturally attracts many butterflies and moths, including common blue, six-spot burnet moth (see ‘Species to spot’ below) and emperor moth. A huge variety of birds have been seen in the meadows - skylark, twite, linnet, lesser redpoll, reed bunting, yellowhammer, grasshopper warbler, wheatear, whinchat & stonechat. As if this wasn’t enough, there have been rare glimpses of otter and pine marten.
Some of the meadows were almost lost to industry: the site at Drumbuie was touted to become a construction yard for oil rigs in the 1970s, but following a campaign and a public enquiry the proposal was dropped and relocated to Kishorn. The local crofters played a key part in saving them and demonstrates the deep seated attachment here for both their land and their tradition.
Species to spot
Greater butterfly orchid
Best time to see: June - July
Despite its name this dainty flower is largely pollinated by moths, attracted by a vanilla scent that grows stronger at night. The lesser butterfly orchid looks very alike - the main difference the size and position of its pollen sacs.
Best time to see: May - Sept.
A semi-parasitic flower, that feeds off nutrients in nearby grass roots. In doing so it helps restrict the vigorous grasses, allowing more delicate wildflowers to emerge. Its 'rattle' is from tiny seeds in their pods.
Best time to see: All year
Male skylarks can be spotted rising almost vertically from the ground, hovering and singing from a great height before parachuting back down to earth. Despite their aerial activities, skylarks nest on the ground, laying three to four eggs. Image (c) Stefan Johansson
Six-spot burnet moth
Best time to see: June - Aug
Unlike many moths, the burnet moth flies during the day. Its caterpillars feed on Bird's-foot Trefoil whilst the adults feed on the nectar of knapweed, thistles and other grassland flowers. Image © Bob Coyle
A hardy breed who's long wavy hair offers protection from Scotland's inclement weather. Known as kyloes in Scots, they are very self-sufficient - so much so, they do not need housing over winter. A herd is known as a "fold". Image © Nilfanion/CC BY-SA
National Trust for Scotland