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Heath

Our mountains and moorlands – including the pinks and purples of heather-rich heathland – are part of what makes Scotland so special.

Heathland is the area above the limit of enclosed agricultural land and below the montane zone at around 600m.

Heath is widespread across the Scottish hills, making it a distinctive aspect of our landscape. Much of it is only maintained through human intervention, however.

A late summer heath of purple and pink heather is one of Scotland’s iconic sights. But heathland is much more than just heather – a variety of species are heath specialists, including the hen harrier and adder.

The habitat is typical of cooler oceanic areas, but there are heathlands across Europe. However heather-rich dry heath and Atlantic wet heath are only extensive around Europe’s western oceanic fringes.

A European stronghold

The UK supports a high proportion of the European heath, with outstanding diversity in both the wet and dry habitats.

Scotland is the European stronghold for upland heath. This very substantial and important habitat covers an estimated 21–31% of our land area.

Benefits of heath for people

  • Grazing – many heathland areas support large numbers of sheep and deer, which make an important contribution to the economy.
  • Recreation – uniquely Scottish experiences on our moorlands include red deer stalking, game bird shooting, wildlife watching and walking.

Find out more

Natural Heritage Futures: Hills and Moors