The Highlands are home to more than half of Scotland’s National Nature Reserves and nearly half of the nation’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
Now landowners, community groups and environmental scientists are working together to preserve these global treasures and restore them to their former wild state by undoing the damage caused by man over many centuries.
They are welcoming visitors from all over the world to come and see the stunning results of their efforts and to explore the beauty of landscapes that have evolved over millennia and which have the power to protect our planet for thousands of years to come.
Established in 2003, the Cairngorms National Park is the largest in the UK
Covering 1,748 square miles across Aberdeenshire, Moray, Highland, Angus and Perth & Kinross, the Park contains some of Scotland’s most spectacular highland landscapes and precious natural ecosystems. Nearly half of the Park is considered “wild land” and is home to a quarter of the UK’s rare and endangered species as well as a quarter of Scotland’s native forests.
By providing leadership to all those involved in the Cairngorms and working in partnership with communities, businesses, non-government organisations and the public sector, the Cairngorms National Park Authority delivers practical solutions on the ground to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area. Their work is co-ordinated through a National Park Partnership Plan, which sets out how everyone responsible for the Park can work together to tackle critical issues relating to its people, nature and places and, ultimately, address the climate and nature emergencies.
18,000 people live within the Park and it welcomes over 2 million visitors every year the National Park Authority summarises the inspiration for its vision with the Gaelic word, “Dùthchas”. Encapsulating the deep-rooted connection between people and nature and that vision is being realised through Heritage Horizons: Cairngorms 2030.
Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, this £43m programme brings together a partnership of over 45 organisations and puts the power to tackle the climate and nature crises in the hands of people who live, visit and work in the Cairngorms National Park. The programme encourages land managers to restore and enhance landscapes and is driving initiatives to make getting around the Park easier, safer, and greener. By putting local people at the centre of the decision-making process, the programme is designed to foster healthier, happier communities with well-being at their heart.
Dundreggan Rewilding Centre is restoring the Caledonian forest
Scotland’s Caledonian forest once covered 1.5 million hectares.However, human activity has reduced this huge expanse to fragments which now amount to just 2% of the original area. Rewilding charity Trees for Life is committed not just to preserving those fragments but expanding and connecting them.
Since it became a charity in 1993, the organisation has planted nearly 2 million trees and is actively protecting large areas in Glen Affric and Dundreggan to ensure that these precious habitats can recover through natural regeneration. Trees for Life is also exploring the potential of reintroducing missing keystone species such as lynx and beavers, which were pursued to extinction, and encouraging recolonisation by red squirrels in areas where populations have disappeared.
Trees for Life has been rewilding its 10,000-acre estate at Dundreggan since 2008, which is home to more than 4,000 species of plants and animals, including many rare and protected species. Involving people is also an essential part of the rewilding process, and a new visitor experience has been developed on the estate to inspire people to explore the landscape, connect with nature and discover local Gaelic culture. Visitors will learn more about the power of rewilding and how it can play a vital role in protecting the world from climate change.
In a world first, this visitor centre is dedicated to rewilding, demonstrating its value for nature, for the climate and for people. The Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will become a gateway to this unique landscape rich in natural and cultural heritage and hopes to attract tens of thousands of visitors keen to experience rewilding in action and learn how to protect Scotland’s wild places.
Highlands Rewilding’s joint goals - to rewild and re-people the Scottish Highlands - might seem contradictory.
But by increasing carbon sequestration and growing biodiversity, they are creating new green jobs and generating sustainable profit for purpose. They aim to become world leaders in the acceleration of nature-based solutions that demonstrate how we can fight the existential threats of climate meltdown and biodiversity collapse while also tackling social inequality and helping to rebuild local economies.
Currently, they have projects at two locations Bunloit (on the shores of Loch Ness) and Beldorney (in Aberdeenshire). Work is already underway at both locations to restore the land to deliver its full, wild, potential and create carbon sinks that will both tackle the climate emergency and address biodiversity collapse. Highlands Rewilding has also embarked on a crowdfunding campaign as a way to contribute to tackling the issue of land ownership inequality. With a low minimum investment, this is an opportunity for people to co-own the rewilding land as shareholders in the company.
The blanket bog covering over 400 square kilometres of the far north of Scotland is known as The Flow country.
Seen from above, it reveals itself as one of the jewels in The Highland’s crown with thousands of patches of open water glinting in the light. Rarer than rainforest, these peatlands are one of the most environmentally precious landscapes on the planet. While peatlands occupy just 3% of the world’s land area, they contain 30% of all the carbon stored on land.
The Flow Country Partnership brings together a vast range of stakeholders across the area to preserve this valuable resource and undo some of the damage wrought by drainage and other agricultural activities to help maintain and restore this globally significant treasure and ensure it reaches its full potential as a carbon store and home to an exceptionally biodiverse ecosystem.
It is small wonder the area is in the process of being declared a UNESCO world heritage site - putting it alongside the Great Barrier Reef, The Galapagos Islands and Yosemite National Park in in meeting key natural criteria.
Helping large swathes of the natural landscapes of the Highlands to return to something like they once were.
WildLand has a 200 year vision of a richer environment will help with the fight against climate change, reverse biodiversity loss and create sustainable economic opportunity for many future generations. Occupying 221,000 acres over three Highland estates, WildLand’s landholdings will empower local communities to flourish and draw those visitors who appreciate what can be achieved by helping nature take its own course. WildLand’s guests make a valuable economic contribution to this vision by staying in the remarkable accommodation that has been created and also enjoying a vast array of bespoke experiences on offer.
Wester Ross is one of the world’s 738 UNESCO Biospheres.
UNESCO describes these as places where solutions are being promoted to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with sustainable use. They are all areas in which we can learn more about sustainable development under diverse ecological, social and economic contexts.
Within the Wester Ross Biosphere’s 3,000 sq miles, you will find two National Scenic Areas (known as “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty” in other parts of the world). You’ll discover three of Scotland’s National Nature Reserves. With only 8,000 inhabitants across the region, there is plenty of space to feel immersed in the dramatic landscapes including pristine beaches, glimmering lochs, ancient pinewoods, and dramatic peaks and glens with crofting settlements interspersed throughout.