South Uist, and the Uists are thought to date back several million years and would have been one land formation above sea level at that time, before the gradual rise in standard tides. Where tidal inlets have formed in the passing centuries (such as at Lochboisdale) the stumps of old forest can be found under the water as evidence of this.
The islands history is fascinating. We are told in 1098. King Magnus the Third took much from the Uists including gold, before setting the peat rich islands on fire, and later in 1745 the island was visited by Bonnie Prince Charlie where he came to shore at Corodale Bay by the French ship Du Teillay before hiding from the navy. It is here that his introduction to a young Flora MacDonald led to the Prince, disguised as a servant girl, travelling with her across the water to Skye.
There are many medieval ruins on the island including a 13th Century castle on an island at the mouth of Loch Boisdale to where Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to have taken refuge in 1746.
Machair is rare, bio-diverse coastal grassland, unique to the north-western fringe of Europe. It is listed on Annex 1 of the EU "Habitats Directive", and occurs over a total global area of just 19,000 ha, with 70% of this in western Scotland, mostly on the offshore islands, and the remainder in western Ireland.
Machair is generated by an exceptional blend of physical factors, including climate, substrate and topography, combined with longstanding human influences. It forms when sand with very high shell content blows landwards by prevailing westerly winds, creating a fertile, low-lying plain. For generations, man has worked and moulded machair in a low intensity crofting system that has created a mosaic of open habitats. Working the machair is a huge part of Gaelic culture, supporting communities and wildlife like no other habitat.
Grazing regimes and rotational cropping - involving unique low intensity cultivation techniques and crop varieties, support globally significant conservation interests and the machair sites comprise a key element of Scotland’s Natura network. As such, machair has traditionally maintained a high density and diversity of wildflowers, which in turn supports a wide range of birds and invertebrates.
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