‘Vastness of Space’ – The Bogs of the Flow Country
‘Vastness of Space’ – The Bogs of the Flow Country

‘Vastness of Space’ – The Bogs of the Flow Country

Episode 51: ‘Vastness of Space’ – The Bogs of the Flow Country

Let’s dive deep into the dark peat pools of Europe’s largest blanket bog on this journey to the Flow Country in the far north of Scotland.

‘A Vastness of Space’ is a story about my trip to the Flow Country, a region of vast peatlands spanning Caithness and Sutherland. We travel through the area by car, by train, by bike and on foot, and learn about the fascinating ecology of a blanket bog. From its complex system of interlinked peat pools to a variety of birds and insects that call these moorlands their home.

Then we talk to Milly Revill-Hayward from the RSPB who – along with her colleagues – takes care of the Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve at the heart of the Flow Country.

In our conversation we cover…

  • What makes the blanket bog of the Flow Country so special,
  • How to appreciate the landscape of a blanket bog,
  • What animals and plants you can find here,
  • How carbon storage works in peatlands,
  • Why Scotland’s drinking water tasts so good and more!

At the end, I’m sharing my top tips to get the most out of a trip to the Flow Country, including where to learn about the social history of the area.


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Blog post: Travel Guide for the Flow Country

What is a blanket bog?

Listen to our episode ‘The Big Picture’ to learn more about peat bog restoration.

Check out the website of the Flow Country World Heritage campaign

Learn about the RSPB’s work at the Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve, check their Facebook page for upcoming events or sent them an email: forsinard@rspb.org.uk

Dive into the social history at the Timespan Museum in Helmsdale and the Strathnaver Museum in Bettyhill

Read Annie Proulx’ book Fen, Bog and Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and its Role in the Climate Crisis

Read Robin Crawford’s book Into the Peatlands: A Journey through the Moorland Year

Disclaimer: All information provided in this podcast is based on personal travel experiences. Companies mentioned in the story or tips were active at the time of release. If you listen to episodes at a later point, note that this information may have changed in the meantime.

5 Travel Tips for the Flow Country

1) Spend a few days exploring the Flow Country

You can probably guess that it’s not enough to simply drive north on the A9. You really have to take the time to walk some of the trails and I highly recommend visiting the bog at different times of the day. I spent three nights at Forsinard Lodge, a small B&B in walking distance of the train station, the RSPB visitor centre and the trail to the Lookout Tower. It was a great homebase for my trip.

My detailed Flow Country Travel Guide will help you plan a trip to the area.

2) Take binoculars

While much of the exciting plantlife I found was right beneath my feet, the Flow Country is also a great place for bird watching. And for that, you’ll want to bring binoculars – and maybe a bird ID book.

3) Hike the Forsinain Trail

There are two trails at RSPB Forsinard Flows. In the story, I mention the shorter one along the boardwalk to the Lookout Tower. But there is also a longer trail that leads from the farmland in Forsinain up onto the blanket bog, through areas of ongoing peatland restoration and along one of the many rivers of the region.

The trail gives you a good introduction to different habitats in the nature reserve, and how they all work together to support an abundance of life. It takes about 2.5 hours but isn’t too strenuous.

4) Have a meal at the Crask Inn

While it isn’t exactly around the corner from Forsinard, the Crask Inn near Lairg is a great place for a meal if you’re exploring the Flow Country by car. It is easily one of the most isolated pubs in Scotland and offers great food in stunning surroundings.

5) Remember the people

While this episode focuses primarily on the natural environment of the Flow Country, the area is of course also home to many people and has an interesting social history.

Historically, the glens and straths of Sutherland and Caithness would have supported thriving villages and settlements, but during the Highland Clearances, many people were forced off their land and moved to the coast or emigrated overseas. Two museums that tell the fascinating and often heart-breaking social history of the area are the Timespan Museum in Helmsdale and the Strathnaver Museum in Bettyhill. 

I highly recommend you learn about this aspect of Northern Scotland as well.

The Flow Country in Pictures


Written and hosted by Kathi Kamleitner.
Produced, edited and sound design by Fran Turauskis.
Transcript by Kathi Kamleitner.
Social media support by Kirsty Spain.
Cover Art illustrated by Lizzie Vaughan-Knight.
All original music composed by Bruce Wallace.
Field recordings and all photographs by Kathi Kamleitner.
Additional sound effects from Zapsplat.

One comment

  1. Pingback: The Flow Country: Learning about Blanket Bogs & Highland Clearances

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