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A flavour of our Peat Cutting Calendar

Updated: May 20, 2021

To reach us here in the north end of Lewis, you will have driven, cycled or walked by miles of moorland. Some of you may think the peatlands look like quite a bleak, or uninspiring landscape, but peat has been a valuable, natural source of fuel to islanders both historically and today.

As you have passed by homes, you may also have seen stacks of peat built up outside, and wondered how these blocks are cut and used. In this article, we discuss the process of the peats - when it is cut, when it is dried, and when it is stacked, ready for use in the fire during the long winter months.

Cutting peat is an arduous job and usually the whole family, or a group of neighbours, get involved. Food for lunch is often taken out to the moorland as the job is long and difficult. Many crofters are keen to cut the turf from the peat bog prior to lambing season, which takes place between March and April.

The peat beneath the top turf is richer, hence why the top layer of mossy, heathery ground (barr fhadas) is removed. Traditionally, the turf is removed in sections using a tairsgear, an iron tool used to cut peats, and then begins the process of slicing peat from the peatbank. The process is usually to cut 4 peats deep to the back, and then you begin to cut downwards, but this can vary. The rectangular blocks of peats removed from the peatbank are thrown to the side and left on the moor to dry. They are usually placed upright on the top to give them a better chance of drying.