Often mis-pronounced by celebrities, the pronounciation of machair (the “ch” is hard, like in “loch”) is a crucial part of the ecosystem across the Hebrides. It is the inspiration behind the Machair Herbal Infusion.
Machair is made from sandy soil running down to the shore. It is an incredibly rich habitat, often carpeted with stunning wild flowers in the spring and summer.
The ground is grazed by sheep and cattle in the winter and left ungrazed in the summer to encourage the flowers. This creates a wonderful habitat for insects.
One of the rarest bees in the UK makes its home on the machair – the Great Yellow Bumblebee.
The Great Yellow Bumblebee (GYBB) can be identified by its yellow or yellowish-brown colouring with a distinct band of black hairs between the wings. Due to changing farming practices, these beautiful bees have declined by 80% in the last century. Now, great yellow bumblebees are only found in some islands of Scotland (including Tiree), and Caithness and Sutherland the North.
The main causes of decline are the loss of flower-rich meadows and more intense farming and grazing practices. With its expanses of machair habitat, and wildlife-friendly land management the Isle of Tiree is home to one of the largest populations of great yellow bumblebees in the UK. That makes it an important refuge nationally. Sadly, even here, the bees appear to be struggling.
Machair (Herbal Infusion)
Machair is a sweet and fragrant herbal infusion. It is inspired by the expanses of machair in the Scottish islands – fertile, flower filled fields which stretch down to the shore.