Dunvegan Castle and Gardens has been awarded a £1 million grant from the Scottish Government and EU for a native woodland creation scheme at Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye.

After over a year and a half in development, the MacLeod Estate’s new native woodland creation scheme has been awarded the grant and the project is being overseen by Scottish Woodlands Ltd, who will plant the scheme on the estate’s behalf by the end of 2021.

The native woodland creation scheme is the first phase of the MacLeod Estate’s evolving rewilding strategy which Hugh MacLeod, estate director, has been working on in recent years.

The first phase focusing on transforming the marginal land of Dunvegan’s former home farm, Totachocaire, into a 240 hectare native woodland area that will be treble the size of the existing contiguous woodlands around Dunvegan Castle and Gardens.

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A total of 372,000 trees will be planted with different species mixtures to suit the land’s terrain and ecology. The carbon offset is estimated to exceed 40,000 tons over a 65-year period.

It is in addition to the 60,000 native trees planted by the estate in 2010, to replace a monoculture coniferous plantation dating back to the post-war years, with further rewilding and peatbog restoration plans in development.

As one of the largest native woodland projects on the Isle of Skye, it will bring the total number of native trees planted on the MacLeod Estate since 2010 to 432,000.

The Herald: Dunvegan CastleDunvegan Castle

Mr MacLeod said: “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.

"I had the idea over ten years ago, when I decided to stop farming at the estate’s Totachocaire Farm which is not only two 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. 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.”

Ben Goldsmith, an environmentalist and chief executive of Menhaden, a London-listed investment firm which focuses on energy and resource efficiency, said: “Politicians, communities and landowners 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 ground-breaking nature restoration project at the historic Dunvegan Castle on Skye is one of the most exciting rewilding stories in Britain today.”

John Laing, chair of Dunvegan and District Community Council, said: “The new woodland will, in time, be a tremendous asset for Dunvegan and for Skye. It will bring pleasure and enjoyment for locals and visitors for generations to come.”

John Risby, Scottish Forestry’s Highland & Islands Conservator added: “We were pleased to be able to approve this important woodland creation scheme which will contribute to the Scottish Government’s tree planting targets.”