The site at Dundreggan. Photo: Trees for Life

The site at Dundreggan. Photo: Trees for Life

A charity hopes to attract 50,000 visitors a year to its new £2m rewilding centre in the Scottish Highlands.

Trees for Life plans to establish the facility at Dundreggan, the organisation’s 10,000-acre estate in Glen Moriston.

The charity has secured cash for the project from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Scottish Natural Heritage’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Trees for Life said the new centre would allow people to explore wild landscapes, discover Gaelic culture, and learn about the region’s unique wildlife including golden eagles, pine martens, red squirrels and wood ants.

It said the centre will boost the rural economy by providing a new attraction on the journey between Loch Ness and Skye, and benefit the local community through at least 15 new local jobs.

Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s chief executive, said: “Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will showcase how rewilding and nature can give people amazing experiences, create jobs and really benefit local communities.

“It will celebrate one of the Highlands’ greatest assets: the wild landscapes and unique wildlife being returned through rewilding.

“Dundreggan has become a beacon of how to rewild a landscape. With this centre, it will become a beacon for rewilding people too.”

The project will include an all-weather visitor centre, cafe and events space that the charity said will act as the gateway to fully accessible trails, child-friendly forest experiences and more adventurous walks. “These will enable families and people with specific needs to get out into wild landscapes and get involved in rewilding,” it said.

The main area of the centre will also include displays and interpretation in English and Gaelic and a Gaelic resource centre. Outdoor facilities will also feature more challenging trails. The centre will provide events and experiences for visitors to the area, and groups with specific needs – such as those with physical or learning disabilities, families, schools and other groups.

The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund has granted £714,000, while the National Lottery Heritage Fund has given initial support for a grant of £783,000. Other funding of £630,000 of has been secured to enable the core of the centre to be constructed. Trees for Life said it is now seeking additional funding, including to power and heat the centre in a sustainable way.

The Rewilding Centre has been developed following extensive consultation with the local community. A consultation with local residents produced a 10 per cent response, with positive views of the plans, the charity said. Planning permission in principle was granted by Highland Council in April 2019, and Trees for Life said it will apply for full planning permission this year. Construction should begin in early 2021, with the centre opening in 2022.

Trees for Life said its work at Dundreggan is protecting and expanding globally important fragments of Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest. The estate is home to more than 4,000 plant and animal species, including several never recorded in the UK before or once feared extinct in Scotland.

SNH chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “A key priority for SNH is to help ensure tourism and other sectors benefit from, and invest in, Scotland’s high-quality environment. Nature and culture are closely linked in the Highlands and Islands, and in many places they are central to the local economy, maintaining rural populations, jobs and skills.”

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