IT is a project which aims to create a one-of-a-kind nature lover’s paradise in the heart of the Highlands.

A planning application has been submitted for the world’s first rewilding centre between Loch Ness and Skye.

HeraldScotland: Camley's cartoon: Plan for Highland re-wilding centre.Camley's cartoon: Plan for Highland re-wilding centre.

Trees for Life wants to establish the unique attraction at its 10,000-acre Dundreggan estate in Glenmoriston.

The organisation has been rewilding Dundreggan since its 2008 purchase of the former deer stalking estate.

More than 4,000 plant and animal species, including some never recorded in the UK before or once feared extinct in Scotland, live there.

The new scheme will focus on restoring species such as golden eagles, wood ants, native trees, pine martens and red squirrels.

Among the features set out in the planning application, which has been submitted to Highland Council, is an innovatively designed visitor centre inspired by wild native forests and the rich natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands.

The conservation charity expects the pioneering project to welcome more than 50,000 visitors annually – showcasing the benefits of rewilding and working with nature rather than against it.

If proposals are approved, the centre will also provide a major boost to the rural economy and create at least 15 local jobs.

“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,” said Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s chief executive, as he welcomed submission of the plans.

In addition, it is intended that the centre will provide events, experiences and exhibitions for casual visitors and individuals who are seeking a more immersive experience. Groups with specific requirements – such as those with physical or learning disabilities, families and schools – will also be catered for.

To fit in with the landscape, the building’s design has been inspired by local Gaelic heritage and history, as well as the globally important but endangered Caledonian Forest. It includes verticals representing trees, while the incorporation of certain materials and colours will conjure up bracken and forest bark.

In the all-weather visitor centre, a “Welcome Tree” central space – featuring a striking Scots pine sculpture – will be a focal point where people can discover and learn more about the activities on offer.

A Gaelic bothy area will spotlight local history and heritage, and there will also be spaces for learning and events.

Leaders at Trees for Life hope that the building will act as a gateway to the forest and wild outdoors, where there will be fully accessible trails and walks for the more adventurous.

Family-friendly features where people can learn and relax include a Squirrel Wood forest play area and a wildlife pond for dipping.

An accessible 20-bed accommodation space will also be constructed on the site of an original lodge, enabling people to have longer stays at the acclaimed rewilding estate.

The project has been made possible thanks to more than £2 million in financial support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Scottish Natural Heritage-led Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund funded through the European Regional Development Fund, among others.

Trees for Life is also seeking further financial support to ensure the centre can be built on schedule in 2021.

Feedback from an extensive community consultation – which overwhelmingly supported the project – has been incorporated into the plans, with Inverness-based Threesixty Architecture leading the design team for the centre.

Highland Council granted planning permission in principle for the centre in April 2019.

Construction should begin in early 2021, with the centre opening in 2022.

Trees for Life is an organisation which is dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands.

Its volunteers have established nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites, encouraging wildlife to flourish and helping communities to thrive.