Will transhumance ever return to the Scottish Highlands? Since moving to Argyll 13 years ago I have been learning about the biocultural heritage of my region. Around me in Kintyre are the remains of old shielings. They are marked on Ordnance Survey maps and indicate temporary dwellings where Gaelic people brought their animals every Spring. They are always to be found near flowing water and are always up in the hills, for the folk practiced transhumance, the ancient art of exploiting the short upland growing season, when herbage grew fast once more in response to longer days. Transhumance informed Gaelic culture and traditions, being seen as a happy time after the long cold, wet, winter spent by the coast or in a deep valley. The young folk were put in charge of the herds and flocks (predominantly cattle, though goats as well), and flirted and match-made whilst busy making butter and cheese for the winter. In the French Alps I came across transhumance still in action: predominantly sheep, though goats as well, “mob” grazing
under the careful control of dogs and a shepherd (sometimes using a mobile phone). It made me think that we could revive this tradition in Scotland. Is there anyone out there who’d like to help me do this (we need to find land not planted up with conifers or built over with wind turbines)? Get in touch and let’s start a movement!