Dundreggan, site of the proposed centre

Dundreggan, site of the proposed centre

A conservation charity has submitted plans for what it says is the world’s first rewilding centre in the Scottish Highlands.

Trees for Life wants to build the facility on a former deerstalking estate in Glen Moriston.

The organisation had plans for the Dundreggan rewilding centre approved in principle by the Highland Council in 2019. It has now revealed details of the development, which it hopes to open to the public in 2022.

The conservation charity said it expects the pioneering project to welcome more than 50,000 visitors annually to the centre, north of Fort Augustus, whit is says will showcase the benefits of rewilding and working with nature rather than against it, while boosting the rural economy and creating at least 15 new local jobs.

It said the local community supports the planning application.

Trees for Life said the centre will provide events, experiences and exhibitions for casual visitors, those seeking a more immersive experience, and groups with specific requirements, such as those with physical or learning disabilities, families and schools.

It said: “To fit in with the landscape, the building’s design has been inspired by local Gaelic heritage and history, and by the globally important but endangered Caledonian Forest – with verticals representing trees, changing light to reflect how light plays in woodlands, and materials and colours conjuring up bracken and forest bark.

“In the all-weather visitor centre, a ‘welcome tree’ central space, featuring a striking Scots pine sculpture, will be a focal point where people can discover the activities on offer. A Gaelic bothy area will spotlight local history and heritage, and there will be spaces for learning and events.

“The building will act as a gateway to the forest and wild outdoors, where there will be fully accessible trails and more adventurous walks. Family-friendly features where people can learn, play and relax will include a squirrel wood forest play area, and a wildlife pond for dipping.”

An artist's impression of how the new centre will look

An artist's impression of how the new centre will look

Trees for Life has been rewilding Dundreggan, including by protecting and expanding fragments of the Caledonian Forest, since its 2008 purchase of the former deerstalking estate. Dundreggan is home to more than 4,000 plant and animal species, including some never recorded in the UK before or once feared extinct in Scotland.

The estate extends to 10,000 acres north of the Great Glen. The project has received more than £2m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Scottish Natural Heritage-led Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund funded through the European Regional Development Fund, and from others. Trees for Life said it is seeking further funding to ensure the centre can be constructed on schedule in 2021.

Plans also include an accessible 20-bed accommodation area to be constructed on the site of an original lodge, enabling people, including students and researchers, to have longer stays at the rewilding estate.

Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s chief executive, said: “Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will be a place for people from all walks of life to rewild themselves by exploring and enjoying a remarkable wild landscape in a beautiful Highland glen, and to spend time learning about the area’s unique wildlife and inspiring Gaelic history.”

Rewilding involves restoring and conserving wilderness areas. This can include the reintroduction of flora and fauna once native to the land. Trees for Life said it is dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands. Its volunteers have established nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites.

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