The Highlands ’13 – Reflections – Forests of the Highlands – 14

Wildlife. Fake forests in the Highlands. Graveyards for trees. 


One evening, I think the day after visiting the lighthouse, we had trouble finding anywhere to park up for the night. We were in rolling valleys, the road at the lower-most point had rises on either side that tracked up into mountains. Eventually we came to an area at the side of the road—a main road, though just as desolate as most in the Highlands, especially at night—that was set aside for tourists to stop and check the views. Outside, the rain left a shiny film along the tarmac. The sounds were of trickling water and drops against glass. To our left was a herd of deer; they ran off, nothing more than dark shadows on the hill side.


Wild animals could be found all around Scotland. On one occasion I had to get out of the car to chase a rabbit off the road. We crawled along behind it for some time. When we moved so did it but when we stopped, it halted carelessly and waited for the engine to start up again. Eventually, we gave up hope that it would run off on it’s own volition and so I got out and chased it into the undergrowth. Then the car continued down that lane, headlights on chewed up tarmac.


A desolate area, partly because of the destruction of the forests.

Another defining feature of our trip was the forests. Scotland is heavily wooded and has some of the oldest forests in Europe. However, modern Scotland is a logger’s wet dream. We past countless clear cuts; graveyards for wild nature. To kill a forest is also to deprive forest dwellers of habitat. It has an impact besides for the deaths of the trees. Driving around we found that most of the forests we could see were fake. Which is to say, walking through them you’d notice the ground was very unsteady, full of mossy bumps. These were the remains of the last generation of trees, planted in a perfect grid. Now nothing but trip hazards. In short, you’d realise you were strolling through a forest farm, the floor littered with the dead of harvests past.


Note the massive brown/grey/yellow area; a huge clearcut that stretches far outside the frame of the photograph. Trees would have covered this entire valley and range once.

The forests that we saw were almost all these fake arrangements. Especially obvious because many of the woods consisted of the exact same type of tree. This was a little heartbreaking. When we realised, it caused us to look back on times exploring Scottish wilderness; it left us wondering whether what we’d been enjoying was genuine. Most intriguing were the areas that were allegedly protected under this act or by that government body. They were just as clearcut and fake as the others. It begged the question, what were they protecting these places from; environmentalists?


About Luke Smith

I travel around and write about it. When I'm not travelling around, I write about whatever seems meaningful to me at the time; these are usually meditations on current events, finding ways to survive the crushing existential grind of modern civilisation or vaguely philosophical musings.
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9 Responses to The Highlands ’13 – Reflections – Forests of the Highlands – 14

  1. steve kelly says:

    I appreciate your recent comment at POM. Also like your recent entry. Here’s a blog you might find interesting: – steve kelly, bozeman, montana

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sue Vincent says:

    There are a lot of places now that are removing the old plantations and replacing them with a more diverse mix of native trees. The landscape will take a decade or two to recover, but it is a start…and very good to see.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Gunta says:

    A big thanks for visiting my blog. I see we share the same views of tree farms or fake forests (I like that description!) I just finished reading a great book about wildfires (mostly in Canada) and the research that’s being done. It points out the additional dangers to our planet from the ever increasing wildfires. You seemed interested in my post about our recent wildfire. If you’re interested and/or can find it, it’s: “Fire Storm – How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future” by Edward Struzik.


    • It’s an interesting topic, I’ve read a few books about deforestation and environmental topics, but never veered into deforestation through natural causes. Its interesting to me that nature’s version of a clearcut is a lot healthier and has a rejuvenating effect. Thanks for your recommendation.


      • Gunta says:

        Nature doesn’t normally do clearcuts. 😉 There are quite a few trees that are adapted to a normal cycle of fire and require it for regeneration. I’m not familiar with the ancient forests in your area, but one of the huge mistakes our forest service people made was to try to suppress ALL forest fires which allowed too much understory growth. Then when fires did get started, naturally or otherwise, they turned into infernos that totally destroyed the older growth which was adapted to survive smaller fires. Now, given climate change, those infernos are becoming more frequent and uncontrollable. Hard to tell where this will take us.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The Lake District and the Highlands ’13 – Complete Contents Page | Journeys Through Pre-World War 3 Britain

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