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Hostile Habitats: Scotland’s Mountain Environment

Hostile Habitats: Scotlands Mountain Environment

About two years ago, I started to become a lot more interested in the flowers, trees, animals, bugs, fungi, and geology that I encountered on my backpacking trips. I became an amateur naturalist. This added a whole new dimension to my walks and led to hours of research and entertainment after I got home.

Since I’m going to be walking across Scotland in a few months, I decided to get a jump start on learning about the environment that I’d be passing through. I contacted Chris Townsend via Facebook and asked him what I should read. Chris has written a few books about hiking in Scotland and the US which are filled with this kind of detail. It really fills out the narrative and it’s pretty darn interesting.

He recommended Hostile Habitats – Scotland’s Mountain Environment: A Hillwalkers’ Guide to Wildlife and the Landscape and it turned out to be an awesome book. Unfortunately, it is too heavy to bring along on my walk, but it’s been a great read and given me all kinds of tips about what to look for and photograph when I’m out and about.

Hostile Habitats is written by a dozen experts and covers:

  • Mountain Climate
  • Rock Identification
  • Land form Identification
  • Vegetation Cover
  • Invertebrate Life
  • Mountain Birds
  • Mammals, Reptile, Amphibians, and Fish
  • Human History and it’s impact on Scotland

Despite being written by different authors, the text flows uniformly and is extremely well edited, with excellent photos and diagrams throughout.

While I’ve been to Scotland many times and have even walked in the Highlands, this book taught me all about the different ecosystems and the complex inter-relationships between weather, tectonics, and industrialization that have created the Scottish Mountains we have today.

Having finished this book there are a few things I will be specifically looking for on my route and hope to photograph including different rock types, birds, and bugs. Honestly these things never would have interested me before, but this book has given me a whole new appreciation for their beauty and role in the alpine wonderland of the Scottish hills.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.

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  1. This is a thoroughly enjoyable book. I spend a lot of time browsing through it before I go to Scotland, and then consulting it when I return. However, when I'm in Scotland I find I have completely forgotten everything!!

  2. I am afraid that will happen to me too. However, I am working on pulling together a portable blogging + writing system for the Challenge that may enable me to bring some electronic reference material such as digital photos to consult. Have to keep the entire thing under 2 pounds, but this is looking doable, and I can write on my rest days and town stops.

  3. I recently spent one month mapping glacial landforms for my masters degree in the Glen Roy area – to the southwest of the Monadhliath Mountains.

    I see that your TGO route passes through the Corrieyairack Pass which formed the northern border of my field site. It is a real shame that you cannot include Glen Roy in your route (although it would mean a serious detour) as the valley is home to the 'Parallel Roads' which are well defined former lake shorelines running the length of the valley at 260m, 325m and 350m. Charles Darwin speculated that they were formed by marine process at a time of higher sea level, however Louis Agassiz (founder of glacial theory) proposed that they were formed by a large glacially dammed lake that increased with depth as glaciers flowed northwards into Glen Roy during the last ice age. Darwin later stated that this was the greatest mistake of his career and wholly regretted his publication on the matter. My work in the region used geomorphological mapping to investigate the interaction of small ice masses with the 3 lake levels. Some pictures can be seen on Wikipedia ( although they don't do the sight justice.

    I can also add that there are bothies at Melgarve (mouth of Corrieyairack) and at the the mouth of Allt Chonnal at the northern end of Glen Roy.

  4. I wish I could detour – I'll just have to come back again. BTW. I've been warned off the bothy at Melgarve since it's apparently close to the road and been advised to keep going and camp nearer to Garva bridge to to "unsavory characters". Interesting stuff you've done. I will read up on it further.

  5. Collins do a series of guides called Gem, these are mini reference books that cover birds, trees, etc. Might be worth a look.

    Otherwise tag along with a 'local' and see what they point out.

  6. That's a good tip. Chris recommended the Beasley book series of nature guides, but I can't possibly bring all of them. Something lighter might be good.

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