Coral sand beach and dunes at Balranald RSPB reserve, North Uist, Scotland, June 1997

Machair Grassland

Machair Grassland

Machair Grassland is a rare coastal habitat of low-lying grassland and shell sand unique to the north-western fringe of Europe. Over 90 per cent of the world’s machair is in Scotland and Ireland.

This landscape supports an outstanding variety of wildlife, including corncrakes, the highest densities of breeding waders in the UK and a large number of invertebrates.

One of the main aims of this Futurescape is working with crofters. Together, we’ll ensure the traditional, low intensity crofting methods intrinsically linked to machair are encouraged and maintained.

This will involve providing advice on agri-environment schemes and negotiating management agreements with crofters and landowners.

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Futurescapes - Machair Grassland

Explore the area

Find out what’s going on near this Futurescape, including places to visit, news and local events, plus how you can work or volunteer for us. 

Great yellow Bumblebee
Bee sitting on flower

Nearby reserves

Reserves and other protected areas are a key part of Futurescapes. They provide core areas for nature to thrive and eventually repopulate the surrounding landscapes. The key RSPB reserves within this Futurescape are:

Balranald

This beautiful Hebridean reserve has sandy beaches, rocky foreshore, marshes and sand dunes. An information centre explains the importance of traditional crofting agriculture for corncrakes and other wildlife. Many wading and farmland birds make their nests on the flower-rich machair and croft-land.

Ringed plover charadrius hiaticula, adult amongst razorshells. Side view. Titchwell beach, Norfolk

Featured projects

We're working to safeguard and improve special places for nature. Each Futurescape contains a range of initiatives in addition to our reserves. The combination of these creates better conditions for wildlife across the countryside.

Conserving Scottish Machair LIFE+ Project

Machair Life+ is a four-year project which aims to demonstrate that traditional crofting practices have a sustainable future. By engaging in management agreements with crofters it aims to show these traditional techniques benefit biodiversity. The project is also assisting with crop protection from greylag geese as well as conducting community work.

Testing trial crops for Hebridean corn buntings

Corn buntings were once one of the most common small birds of the Scottish islands, but these populations are now reduced to a remnant on the Uists in the Outer Hebrides, where less than 100 territories remain. This population is declining and conservation measures that provide more winter food, particularly ripe cereal grain, are likely to help recovery.

Corn bunting Miliaria calandra, February
Corn bunting

Our partners

Futurescapes is all about collaboration. There are many organisations and people involved in managing land in the Machair Grassland. Our challenge is working together to find ways of making more space for nature. To achieve this we’re working with:

The LIFE + Futurescapes Information and Communications programme 2011–2015 was generously funded through the EU LIFE Nature fund. LIFE is the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU. Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed nearly 4,000 projects, contributing approximately €2.8 billion to the protection of the environment.