Monday, 13 July 2009


There's a great deal of controversy about using peat - particularly among middle-class English gardeners who've observed that peat is a non-renewable (or, at least, only very slowly renewable) resource, and really it would be better to use our home-made organic compost to enrich our soils instead.

In the Hebrides, however, there's no escaping from peat in daily life.

There are very few trees on the islands so unless you want to heat your house with expensive oil (brought in tankers on the ferries), cutting and burning peat seems to be the way to go. Certainly you can't walk through a village - even in summer - without the distinctive smell of peat smoke filling your nostrils.

Peat lies just below the surface of the grass on the Hebrides, so it's relatively easy to get to by cutting into the hillsides:

Peat Cutting

Touring the islands, you can often see the scars on the landscape where trenches of peat have been cut out in the past:


The 'peats' (blocks of peat) are laid out to dry:

Peats drying

Then stacked in large piles to dry out further (fresh peat contains a large percentage of water) and ready for use on the fire:

Piles of Peat

More information in my next post on the unusual growing conditions created by the peat... and if you're interested in taking a similar trip, check out my guest post on Europe A La Carte which has some of the logistics.


Chef E said...

Call me crazy, but I long to see peat in person...and fill my nostrils with its essence...

Yeah comes from reading English novels, and Sherlock Holmes growing up!

Anonymous said...

Where would a smokey whiskey be without peat?

Bells said...

i'm fascinated by peat for reasons I can't quite figure out. Also, I'm knitting with an English yarn in a colour called peat and until I saw these photos I thought my yarn was misnamed. Not at all I see now!

Heidi Ashworth said...

Hmmm . . .I thought they only burned peat in Ireland. Wow.

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