Suilven (c) Adrian Warren and Dae Sasitorn

Britain from the Air - Suilven

One of Britain’s last wild places

Suilven is a majestic mountain that rises abruptly out of the loch-strewn, boggy moorlands of northwest Scotland. It is made from layers of ancient sandstone, some 500 million years old. All around, on some of the oldest rocks in Britain is an area as close to wilderness as you can find anywhere in our isles.

The mountain's peculiar shape is thought to have been formed by a mass of ice, which split to flow around both sides of the rock and gradually eroded it - leaving behind the elongated ridge we see today. Its steep sides make the mountain a popular destination for climbers.

The irregular low hills with small lochs in the rock basins between them - and plentiful peat bogs - is known locally as a ‘lochen’ landscape. Peaceful and remote, the rock hollows were gouged out of the ancient flat landscape in the last Ice Age. Peat bogs then formed over the past 12,000 years or so.

Scotland’s vast area of peat bogs includes 17% of the world’s ‘blanket bogs’. These form in permanently cool, wet areas with gentle slopes and poor drainage - like around Suilven. Blanket bogs are so named because they act just like a blanket covering the landscape.

The peat is made up of layers of mosses and other plants that have decomposed very slowly. Near the surface, the bogs are still a living landscape, with bog moss (sphagnum) the dominant plant. The depth of the peat varies and, although it is typically between 0.5 and 3 metres deep, it can quite commonly reach 8 metres as the peat slowly accumulates. Peatlands are suffering erosion in places, and once destroyed they take thousands of years to reform, even if conditions are right.

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Location: Inverpolly, Sutherland, Highlands IV27 4LH
Grid reference: NC 15376 18335

Britain from the Air - Suilven credits

Thank you to -

Adrian Warren and Dae Sasitorn for aerial photography

Text researched and written by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

Scotland has close to 2 million hectares of peat bogs - covering nearly a quarter of its entire land surface.