More than 370,000 native trees will be planted on an Isle of Skye estate next year as part of its owner’s rewilding strategy.
The woodland creation scheme at the 42,000-acre MacLeod Estate, which is home to Dunvegan Castle and Gardens, is backed by a £1 million grant from the Scottish Government and the European Union.
The trees will be planted over the next year by Scottish Woodlands Ltd, and estate director Hugh MacLeod said it was the first phase of his rewilding strategy for the property.
The scheme will be based on marginal land at Dunvegan’s former home farm, Totachocaire, which will be transformed into a 593-acre area of native woodland.
“In a difficult year of persistent bad news, I am thrilled that the MacLeod Estate has been awarded this grant for one of the largest and most ambitious native woodland creation projects on the Isle of Skye,” said Hugh MacLeod.
“I had the idea over 10 years ago, when I decided to stop farming at the estate’s Totachocaire Farm, which is not only marginal land, but was also loss-making for almost every year of its operation since it was revived by my late father in the 1970s.”
He added: “This is the first phase of our nascent rewilding plans and once the woodlands are established, this will create an extensive and biodiverse habitat to support a number of native species.”
Mr MacLeod said 372,000 trees will be planted with different species mixtures to suit the land’s terrain and ecology.
Estimates suggest the woodland will offset more than 40,000 tonnes of carbon over a 65-year period, and Mr MacLeod said he hopes it will encourage others on Skye to take steps to rewild the island to restore its land after centuries of over-grazing.
Environmentalist and chief executive of investment firm Menhaden, Ben Goldsmith, praised the project and said: “Politicians, communities across Britain are coming to the realisation that restoring the terribly depleted natural fabric of our landscapes offers a pathway for ecological, economic and social renewal.
“Hugh MacLeod’s groundbreaking nature restoration project at the historic Dunvegan Castle on Skye is one of the most exciting rewilding stories in Britain today.”
Dunvegan and District Community Council chairman John Laing said: “The new woodland will, in time, be a tremendous asset for Dunvegan and Skye.”