Highlands set to build world’s first rewilding centre

An application has been submitted for the site in Glenmoriston, between Loch Ness and the Isle of Skye, which is expected to welcome over 50,000 visitors annually and create up to 15 new jobs for the rural economy.

Trees for Life has submitted a planning application for the world’s first rewilding centre at its 10,000-acre Dundreggan estate in Glenmoriston.

The planning application submitted to the Highland Council on June 22, features an innovatively designed visitor centre inspired by wild native forests and the rich natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands.

The conservation charity expects the pioneering project to welcome over 50,000 visitors annually – showcasing 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.

The site in Glenmoriston, where the rewilding centre is to be constructed. (Trees for Life)

Trees for Life has been rewilding Dundreggan since its 2008 purchase of the former deer stalking estate.

The estate, on the north side of Glenmoriston to the west of Loch Ness, is home to over 4,000 plant and animal species including some previously never recorded in the UK before.

“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,” said Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s Chief Executive.

The inclusive centre, designed by Inverness-based Threesixty Architecture, 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.

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, the all-weather centre will also have a ‘Welcome Tree’ central space.

The conservation charity expect the project to welcome over 50,000 visitors annually and create at least 15 new local jobs.

Featuring a striking Scots pine sculpture, the ‘Welcome Tree’ will be a focal point where people can discover the activities on offer and its Gaelic bothy area will spotlight local history and heritage, with 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.

It will also contain family-friendly features where people can learn, play and relax in a Squirrel Wood forest play area, and a wildlife pond for dipping.

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

The project has been made possible thanks to over £2 million support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund supported through the European Regional Development Fund, among others.

Trees for Life is seeking further funding to ensure the centre can be constructed on schedule in 2021.

A community consultation overwhelmingly supported the project and Trees for Life has incorporated its feedback into the plans.

The Highland Council granted planning permission in principle for the centre in April 2019 and its construction should begin in early 2021.

The centre is expected to open in 2022.

Volunteers for Trees for Life have established nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites, encouraging wildlife to flourish and helping communities to thrive.

You can learn more on their website.

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