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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about a geographic landform. For the TV series, see Machair (TV series)

The machair on Berneray, Outer Hebrides

The Gaelic word machair or machar refers to a fertile low-lying grassy plain found on some of the north-west coastlines of Ireland and Scotland, in particular the Outer Hebrides. Two distinct types exist:

The machair on Berneray



In both cases, a machair is a former beach, left higher in elevation than the current adjacent beach following a drop in sea level or isostasy.

Machairs largely owe their fertility to the fact their sand has a high seashell content- sometimes as high as 90%. This sand is blown inland, acts to neutralize the acidity of the peatbogs and results in the fertility of the grassland.


Machairs have received considerable ecological and conservational attention, chiefly because of their unique ecosystems. They can house rare carpet flowers, such as Irish Lady's Tresses, orchids and Yellow Rattle,[1] along with a diverse array of bird species including the corn crake, twite, dunlin, redshank and ringed plover, as well as rare insects such as the northern colletes bee. Some machairs are threatened by erosion caused by rising sea levels as well as by recreational use of vicinity beaches.


  • Angus, S. (1997). The Outer Hebrides: the Shaping of the Islands". The White Horse Press. ISBN 1-874267-33-2


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