The world’s first rewilding centre is to open near Loch Ness.
Trees for Life is to establish to centre at Dundreggan, the charity’s 10,000-acre estate in Glenmoriston.
It is expected to welcome more than 50,000 visitors annually – allowing people to explore stunning wild landscapes, discover Gaelic culture, and learn about the region’s unique wildlife including golden eagles, pine martens, red squirrels and wood ants.
The centre will boost the rural economy by providing a new attraction on the journey between Loch Ness and Skye, and benefit the local community through at least 15 new jobs.
It is being made possible by more than £2 million of support from The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), The National Lottery Heritage Fund and other funding.
Trees for Life’s chief executive Steve Micklewright said: “Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will showcase how rewilding and nature can give people amazing experiences, create jobs and really benefit local communities. It will celebrate one of the Highlands’ greatest assets – the wild landscapes and unique wildlife being returned through rewilding.
“Dundreggan has become a beacon of how to rewild a landscape. With this centre, it will become a beacon for rewilding people too.”
An all-weather visitor centre, cafe and events space will act as the gateway to fully accessible trails, child-friendly forest experiences and more adventurous walks. These will enable families and people with specific needs to get out into wild landscapes and get involved in rewilding.
SNH chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “A key priority for SNH is to help ensure tourism and other sectors benefit from, and invest in, Scotland’s high-quality environment. Nature and culture are closely linked in the Highlands and Islands, and in many places they are central to the local economy, maintaining rural populations, jobs and skills.”
There will displays and interpretation in English and Gaelic, classrooms, a Gaelic Resource Centre and events space.
Outdoor facilities will include trails, children’s forest experience area and more challenging trails. The centre will provide events and experiences for visitors to the area, and groups with specific needs – such as those with physical or learning disabilities, families, schools and other groups.
The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund has granted £714,000, while The National Lottery Heritage Fund has given support for a grant of £783,000. A total of £630,000 of other funding has been secured to construct the centre. Trees for Life is now seeking additional funding, including for sustainable power and heating.
Dundreggan is home to more than 4,000 plant and animal species – including several never recorded in the UK before or once feared extinct in Scotland.