Scotland’s Flow Country steps closer to World Heritage status

Plans are advancing to make Europe’s largest expanse of blanket bog a World Heritage Site.

Flow Country © David Tipling/Universal Images Group/Getty

The Flow Country is a vast area of peatland, studded with bog pools and lochs, that stretches across a huge expanse of the interior of Caithness and Sutherland in the north of Scotland.

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Formed over thousands of years, the peat here can be up to 10 metres deep, and covers an area larger than Greater London, Edinburgh and Cardiff combined.

Once a battleground between conservation interests and commercial forestry, it is now recognised as internationally important for its breeding birds – such as greenshank, scarce ducks and divers – and thick, wet blankets of carbon-storing bog mosses.

A bid for the area to be awarded World Heritage status passed its first stage in 2020 by getting approval from a UK government expert panel.

This summer, the Flow Country Partnership – a coalition of many different groups – is moving to the next phase by consulting with local communities on the site’s possible boundaries.

The final bid, shaped by those meetings, will be assessed by UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

If successful, the Flow Country will become the world’s first peatland World Heritage Site and rank alongside places such as St Kilda, the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.

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Main image: Blanket bog after snowfall in early spring at Forsinaird RSPB Reserve, Flow Country, Sutherland and Caithness, Scotland. © David Tipling/Universal Images Group/Getty