Field Work

Windy Peaks and Wildflowers: Hiking Foudland Hill

Welcome, nature enthusiasts, botanists, botanical illustrators, and hikers! Today, we embarked on an invigorating hike up Foudland Hill via Red Hill. This journey provided us with stunning views and immersed us in the diverse flora of the Scottish hills.

Hiking Foudland Hill

Our hike began with a brisk ascent up Red Hill, where we quickly reached the two prominent cairns marking the summit. Despite the early July date, the weather was characteristically Scottish – chilly and windy! At 467 meters, Foudland Hill offers great views of Aberdeenshire and beyond. The hill’s historical remnants, including old slate quarry pits and stone foundations, add a unique layer to its natural beauty. These spots also provided shelter from the wind, making them perfect for a coffee break.

Foudland Hill is blanketed with cottongrass at this time of year, creating a mesmerising landscape.

The Beauty of Cotton Grass

As we continued our walk, the sight of cotton grass blowing in the wind greeted us. Foudland Hill is blanketed with these delicate plants this time of year, creating a mesmerising landscape. Two of the varieties we saw stood out: the hare’s-tail cotton grass and the common cotton grass.

The hare’s-tail cottongrass was one of the final pieces I studied during my Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh botanical illustration course. Its name comes from the fluffy, white, cotton-like flower heads resembling a hare’s tail. These tufts form from a single spikelet, giving the plant a distinctive, elegant appearance.

The common cotton grass, with its large, fluffy clusters of cotton-like blooms, provided a striking contrast against the hill’s green and purple backdrop. Unlike the hare’s-tail, the common cotton grass has multiple flower heads per stem, typically three to five, creating a fuller and more robust appearance. 

More Botanical Encounters

Our journey wasn’t just about cotton grass. We encountered a vibrant array of Scottish wildflowers, including

  • Erica cinerea, the bell heather
  • Vaccinium vitis-idaea, the cowberry (also known as lingonberry, partridgeberry or mountain cranberry)
  • Vaccinium myrtillus, the blaeberry (also known as bilberry, wimberry, and whortleberry)
  • Dactylorhiza fuchsii, the common spotted orchid
  • Digitalis purpurea, the foxglove or common foxglove

Continuing the Journey

Whether you’re a hiker, botanist, or nature enthusiast, this hill walk promises a rewarding and picturesque journey. Exploring Foudland Hill via Red Hill was a magical experience, blending history, breathtaking views, and vibrant botanical life. This hike not only offered a chance to enjoy Foudland Hill’s natural beauty but also to reflect on the intricate details that make botanical illustration so rewarding. For more on cotton grass, check out my previous post, Exploring the World of Cotton Grass: A Botanical Illustrator’s Delight.

Visit my gallery for more botanical illustrations, and stay connected with my latest adventures and illustrations.

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