History of the Machair
Thousands of years ago, at the end of the last ice age, temperatures increased, causing glaciers to melt. This washed huge quantities of eroded sediment, sand and gravel into the seas, and at that time, sea levels were a lot lower than they are now, so this sediment spread out along the continental shelf.

Consequently, as sea levels began to rise, the sediment, mixed with a high density of crushed mollusc shells, was pushed back to shore by strong Atlantic winds and wave action. This eventually formed the sweeping white sand beaches and coastal sand dune systems we see along the western Hebridean coastlines today.

Over time, the prevailing westerly winds blew the shell based sand from the dunes, where it fell over the marshes, peatland and rocks further inland, creating the sandy calcareous grassland of the machair.

For more information about Machair history and its link to Hebridean culture, see Scotland’s Living Landscapes – Machair by John Love (Scottish Natural Heritage).