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Loch Morar Activities
Loch Morar Activities

Terrestrial Flora

Rowan Berries

The catchment of Loch Morar is comparatively small relative to the size of the loch itself.  For hundreds of years the surrounding hills were extensively grazed by sheep for which muir burning was practiced on an annual basis, usually in March and April.  Traditional land management practices of the 17th to 20th Centuries, as well as various land-forming processes such as post-glacial uplift, have influenced greatly the landscape of the Highlands that we see today.  Sediment cores from Loch Morar estimate that the loch itself was connected to the sea as recently as 5,500 years before present.  At this time, during the cooler post-glacial period, there was only very limited human settlement in Scotland and the hillsides would probably have been extensively wooded with many of the species that are still common today, such as ash, rowan, birch and hazel and in wetter areas alder and willow.  Dryer and more mature woodland may have been similar to the Atlantic oak woodland that can be seen along Loch Nam Uamh, of which there is also a remnant area in the southwest of Loch Morar at Camus Rubh and Druim Dubh.

Lesser Butterfly

Up to the beginning of the 20th Century, the considerably more dispersed, if not larger human population around Loch Morar used the resources at hand, and cleared the low-lying areas for crop cultivation (predominantly potatoes), felled trees for building materials and fuel, which was supplemented with locally cut peat, and grazed their livestock, which would originally have been long-horn cattle, later replaced with sheep.  It may well have been the sheep that caused the greatest impact on the hillsides, both in the need to muir burn to bring fresh shoots for grazing as well as the sheep’s ability to browse just about everything else, thereby preventing new tree growth, and the natural development of mature woodland.  The flora of Loch Morar is one that has been shaped by climate, humans and livestock, which are not necessarily bad influences and may have caused a higher diversity of flora, as well as types of habitat, than might otherwise be present.