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You can see some of the finest flower-rich pastures in Europe along the Atlantic edge of the Hebrides. Here, windblown shell sand has built-up over thousands of years to give the islands a narrow but productive rim.  

What to look for

Watch for grassland on sandy soil just inland from dunes along western edges of Hebridean islands. Many machair plants are low-growing, so stopping to have a close look could pay dividends. In other places, the colour and extent of machair flowers can be obvious, such as a sheet of daisies or buttercups across a whole field.

When to see it

Late June and July are the best months for machair colour (and should give good chances of hearing a corncrake calling in its west European stronghold). Oystercatchers and other wading birds that breed on the machair are most active in May and early June.

Where to see it

One of the best places to learn about machair, small visitor centre, programme of guided walks - including listening for corncrakes, is at Balranald on North Uist. Much of the western edge of the Uists, Benbecula and Barra has good machair, as does the island of Berneray, accessible by causeway from North Uist and ferry from Harris, in the Sound of Harris. On the Inner Hebrides, the finest machair is on Tiree and Coll, but there are also smaller areas of machair on many of the other islands.