Uplands, view east from summit of Cairngorm across Strath Nethy to Bynack Moor | The RSPB

Uplands: Mountains and moors

You can find rugged uplands on our mountains and our bigger hills. Wild, unforgiving and stunning to look at, uplands support varied wildlife from remote Scottish islands to moorland and mountain ranges.

What makes this habitat different?

Uplands are important for people and wildlife. They store lots of peat which is full of carbon. If the peat dries out it will release carbon dioxide which causes global warming. It also gathers much of our drinking water, so it's important we look after it. Many of our most cherished and visited landscapes are uplands, too. 

For wildlife such as wading birds and birds of prey like eagles and hen harriers, uplands are really important.

What lives there?

You just can't beat the scenery created by our mountains and uplands, and it's made even better by the fascinating wildlife found there.

Mountains and moors are often cold, inhospitable places in winter, so many birds head to lower altitudes then. But visit in spring and you'll hear the joyful, bubbling song of the curlew, high-pitched twittering from meadow pipits and maybe see hen harriers 'skydancing'.

In a few areas, male black grouse gather to 'lek' - that is, gather and show off to the females. If you're in the right area, you could even be bowled over by the sight of golden eagles doing their 'rollercoasting' display flight.

Uplands are wild, isolated locations which are a privilege to visit.

Why is it in trouble?


As these places often have awesome views, they are being built on more so people can go on holiday there. If not done well, these buildings can leave less room for nature.  

Cows and sheep

Even though some grazing by cows and sheep in this habitat can be good, too much can damage the rare, slow-growing plants that live here. Also, the nutrients from their dung can upset the balance of the soil favouring other more common plants.


It might sound strange that more trees could be a bad thing, but the kind of trees planted to make money from the wood are often not from the UK and change this delicate rare habitat into woodland with much fewer different types of plant and animal.

See it for yourself!

Our upland reserves are wild, rugged and scenic. Take advantage of excellent walking opportunities among some of the best scenery in Britain, or simply enjoy the view. Our upland reserves, and the wildlife they support, are varied and range from remote Scottish islands to moorland and mountains.

Uplands, mountains and moors reserves

To find out more, pick a marker from the map or zoom in.
    • Aghatirourke


      Aghatirourke is part of the Cuilcagh Mountain World Geopark in County Fermanagh. It's an area of extensive upland blanket bog habitat bordered by limestone grassland to the north, and montane heath on the summit to the south.

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    • Carngafallt


      Carngafallt is a wonderful place to see birds or simply enjoy the view. The moorland landscape looks especially colourful in late summer, while spring is the perfect time to come and see migrant birds.

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    • Corrimony


      Watch the black grouse springtime courtship displays, see the crested tits and look out for the Scottish crossbill, the only UK bird that's found in no other country.

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    • Dove Stone

      Dove Stone

      A landscape that will take your breath away. Towering hills, sheer rock faces, swathes of open moorland, a picturesque reservoir - that's Dove Stone, the northern gateway to the Peak District National Park.

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    • Geltsdale


      Set in the beautiful North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Geltsdale is home to black grouse, birds of prey and breeding waders and ideal for walking. There are four waymarked trails leading from the car park at Howgill.

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    • Haweswater


      If you want to see a golden eagle but can't get to the Highlands of Scotland, you could try Haweswater where a male displays in the hope of attracting a mate.

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    • Fairy Glen

      Fairy Glen

      Walk by a fast stream and gleaming waterfalls in this wooded glen, looking for grey wagtails, dippers and buzzards. This beautiful steep-sided valley is an oasis of calm, but do take care as paths are rugged in places.

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    • Fetlar


      The whole island of Fetlar is a haven for flora and fauna, and a great place to come exploring. Along the coast you might be lucky enough to see otters. The island is full of birds in summer.

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    • Forsinard Flows

      Forsinard Flows

      A threatened landscape, peatlands have vanished across much of Scotland, but the RSPB is helping to preserve this vital area of internationally important habitat. Summer is the time to come.

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    • Hobbister


      This reserve is a magical mixture of land and sea, from sea cliffs to saltmarsh, from moorland to sandflats. Stroll through the moorland and you may well see hen harriers, short-eared owls and red-throated divers, all of which nest here.

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    • Hoy


      This mixture of moorland and cliff tops may be exposed to the elements, so you really do need to wrap up warm, but a visit is very rewarding. You'll see the famous Old Man of Hoy rock stack.

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    • Inversnaid


      Inversnaid is on the east shore of Loch Lomond, where oak woodland rises steeply from the loch and gives way to open moorland with spectacular views. In the summer months you might see pied flycatchers here, as well as buzzards.

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    • Lake Vyrnwy

      Lake Vyrnwy

      Our visitor centre and well-stocked shop are the ideal places to start your visit. Join a trail through the woodland and wildlife is soon all around you.

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    • Loch Garten, Abernethy

      Loch Garten, Abernethy

      When ospreys returned to breed in Scotland, this ancient Caledonian pineforest is where they chose to come. The Loch Garten Osprey Centre provides fantastic views of these magnificent birds on the nest.

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    • Loch na Muilne

      Loch na Muilne

      This is a fantastic place to see a variety of breeding birds. During spring and summer, its most special inhabitants are red-necked phalaropes - tiny wading birds which feed by swimming on the loch in search of insects.

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    Top tips for a visit!

    These tips will help you to make the most of your visit:

    • Come prepared for a change in the weather - bring extra layers and waterproofs
    • Stout foot wear is recommended as the terrain may be rugged in places
    • Take a walk - our upland reserves provide great walking opportunities