4 out of 5 stars

Normally the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the Dark Stuff is Guinness. What Murray thinks of though, is peat. This decomposed vegetable matter is formed on acidic and very wet ground, but when dried can then become fuel and is the strong scent in the delightful Islay whiskies. He had grown up with them in Scotland all around him and even fell in a few. But these moorlands that make up swathes of our uplands in our country and Ireland also exist in Europe and all around the world.

These moorlands have affected and influenced people for hundreds of years. Not only have they provided the fuel to heat and cook with, but they have been a focal point for ritual and darker matters in the past as well as inspiration for stories, art, poetry and folk tales. Murray takes us on a path through his own personal history of moors when growing up on the Isle of Lewis as well as peering into the murk to discover the cultural history and investigates the science and the crucial role they play in our climate. The challenge of keeping these fragile environments going and meeting the balance of economic needs of the local populations  is a difficult one given just how much carbon they are capable of storing

The book does weave around, just like the path that you would take through a bog, but it doesn’t lessen the impact of what Murray does here in telling us of his love for these places. There are fine illustrations from Douglas Robertson and a smattering of his own poems throughout the book which nicely adjusts the pace. Overall a fascinating book of a part of the landscape that is often overlooked.

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