The world's first rewilding centre, by the shores of Loch Ness, will open its doors to the public for the first time on Friday.

The centre, located on the 10,000 acre Dundreggan Estate has been part of a rewilding project by Trees for Life since 2008, with the group allowing the forest to regenerate naturally after centuries of damage caused by sheep, goats and deer grazing.

It lies just eight miles from the shores of Loch Ness on the main road to Skye, and has already seen golden eagles successfully breeding on the site for the first time in 40 years.

HeraldScotland: Golden eagle (Aquila chyrsaetos) adult female flying into nest site with small branch, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland, to accompany piece on Dundreggan

Around 20 new jobs have been created on the site, which it is hoped will boost the local economy as people arrive to visit the rewilding centre and stay in its 40 room accomodation building.

Dundreggan is part of Affric Highlands, the UK’s largest rewilding landscape which will potentially cover more than 500,000 acres.

Steve Micklewright, chief executive of Trees for Life, said for 15 years “Dundreggan has been a beacon for rewilding our landscapes” and that “now it will be a beacon for rewilding people too”.

He added: “We want to breathe life into the huge potential of the Highlands to help nature return in a major way – providing people from all walks of life with fantastic experiences while supporting re-peopling, boosting social and economic opportunities, and tackling the climate and nature emergencies.”

Displays will be in both English and Gaelic, and will also feature a cafe, classrooms and an events space.

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Laurelin Cummins-Fraser, the centre’s director, said it is “embedded in the landscape and the community”.

She added: “Its design is inspired by Gaelic heritage and history, and by the 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.”

Rewilding is seen as an effective way of combating climate change and its impacts.

The United Nations has appointed 2021–2030 as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration with the explicit aim “to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean".

Rewilding pasture lands reduces the number of cows and sheep while increasing the number of trees and reducing carbon emissions.

Some rewilding projects also focus on the reintroduction of so-called 'keystone species' which are seen as crucial in maintaining the ecological balance of an area.

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These can include carnivores which prevent a herbivorous animal from eliminating all of a local plant species, for example the sea otter which prevents the destruction of kelp forests by feeding on the sea urchins which eat them.

In Scotland there have been calls to reintroduce the lynx, which has been extinct in Britain since the Middle Ages, and the Eurasian wolf.

The United Kingdom currently has no terrestrial apex predators, and it's thought the reintroduction of such species could keep deer numbers in check and prevent extensive damage to the ecosystem.

In 2020, Lynx Trust UK began a consultation into releasing the animals into the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park north of Glasgow but it was met with opposition from sheep farmers.

Jen Craig of the National Sheep Association said of the plans in 2021: "The last consultation to date carried out by Lynx UK Trust was flawed and subsequently denied.

“It is also worth remembering that the cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing has made his disapproval of any reintroduction in the past quite clear, and we will continue to ensure that view is maintained in Scotland.

"Yet another predator to our flocks is certainly not required in these very tumultuous times."

However, supporters of the lynx's reintroduction point to their ability to prey on deer and prevent the destruction of woodland by grazing and state that the cats are known to kill foxes so may actually prevent livestock loss.


The beaver has already been successfully reintroduced into Scotland, with the first released in 2009 into Knapdale Forest in Argyll.

Seven beavers – an adult pair and five young offspring - were released into Loch Lomond earlier this year though two of the kits are believed to have died in an otter attack.

The move, which saw the animals relocated from Tayside, came after the Scottish Government in late 2021 announced its support for translocation, which involves safely trapping and moving the animals to a more suitable area, rather than culling them when they cause problems.