A 10,000-acre Highland estate could be restored to its former glory after plans were lodged to build the world’s first rewilding centre.
Conservation charity Trees for Life have been rewilding the Dundreggan estate in Glenmoriston by protecting and expanding parts of the Caledonian Forest since its 2008 purchase of the former deer stalking estate.
Dundreggan is home to over 4000 plant and animal species, including some never recorded in the UK before or once feared extinct in Scotland.
The charity submitted plans for the Dundreggan estate, which is situated between Loch Ness and the Isle of Skye, to the Highland Council on June 22.
The plans feature a visitor centre inspired by wild native forests and the natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands.
Trees for Life expect the pioneering project to welcome over 50,000 visitors annually, showcasing the benefits of rewilding and working with nature, while boosting the rural economy and creating at least 15 jobs.
Trees for Life’s chief executive Steve Micklewright 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.”
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 visitor centre will feature a ‘Welcome Tree’, a striking Scots pine sculpture, which 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 accessible 20-bed accommodation space will be constructed on the site of an original lodge, enabling people, including students and researchers, to have longer stays at the acclaimed rewilding estate.
The project has been made possible thanks to more than £2m support 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.
Highland Council granted planning permission in principle for the centre in April 2019, and construction should begin in early 2021, with the centre opening in 2022.