Book Review: Mountains: Scotland’s Living Landscapes

Mountains: Scotland’s Living Landscapes. Scottish Natural Heritage. 2002

An attractive booklet with many colour photographs, clear text and a smattering of illuminating quotations.

The introductory section summarizes the geological events that produced the different rock types, within a nod to plate tectonics, then the effects of the glacial intervals in sculpting and eroding these rocks into the present ranges, ridges and corries of Scotland.

Biodiversity is then tackled by dividing the world of organisms into plants and animals. The plant section starts out with an ecosystem approach, considering trees and woodland then heaths and bogs. A few pages on plant life of the high peaks follows, covering both the commonplace vegetation and some examples of botanical rarities whose distribution is controlled by geological factors, or merely the remoteness and steepness of the mountain terrain that is the final redoubt of some once more widespread species. Some perspective diagrams to illustrate the distribution of plants life in the hills, similar to those used in other SNH publications, would have been a welcome addition.

The diversity of non-human animal life is, predictably, covered in four pages with a selection of the usual suspects: the birds and mammals of the uplands. The humans, who are part of nature, no matter how much some members of the species deny it, and their relationship with the uplands is discussed in the in the remainder of the book, including a brief summary of the cultural inspiration that the Scottish mountains have provided for the Arts. Sheep walks and deer forests are given equal space to hillwalking and mountaineering, with the helpful reminder for sporting estate owners that the latter activities are the largest income generators in the Scottish hill areas. A review of the impacts of human activities then leads on to an examination of the future stewardship of Scottish mountain areas, as befits a volume that was published in 2002, the International Year of Mountains.

A book that covers much that will be familiar to those involved in the outdoors in Scotland but nonetheless the slim volume, with magnificent colour photographs and a smattering of intriguing quotes and hints of the lives of some key figures in Scottish mountaineering history, has potential as a way to engage younger readers or first-time visitors to the Scottish mountains.

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I am a palaeobiologist in my early 40's carrying out research work. I am based in Scotland.

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Posted in Book reviews, Books, Geodiversity
2 comments on “Book Review: Mountains: Scotland’s Living Landscapes
  1. Disha says:

    I loved living in Scotland and I day dream of its landscape every so often. Thank you for the recommendation!

    • Al McGowan says:

      Thanks Disha. I lived away from Scotland for about 10 years, after 2 years of a lot of outdoor work building footpaths in the Highlands and working in Knoydart, so am glad to be able to lose myself in the hills again, although the varied geological foundations generate a lot of landscape variety for such a small place. The WalkHighlands website has lots of great photos

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Al is a Hill and Moorland Leader and has also completed the Expedition Skills module
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