One year after a devastating wildfire in the highlands that burned for over a week and destroyed a nature reserve and local habitats, wildlife is starting to make a miraculous recovery.

In 2023, a fire believed to have begun on Tuesday, May 23 broke out in the north of Scotland that was so big it could be seen from satellites in space.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) was first alerted of the blaze in the Highlands near Cannich to the southwest of Inverness during the afternoon of Sunday 28 May. However, it would end up taking more than a week to fully extinguish it, with operations also leading to two firefighters who were on their way to the incident, being airlifted to hospital after suffering injuries.

Helicopters were used to waterbomb the flames and firefighters worked tirelessly to dampen the surrounding grounds as it spread across a huge area near the village of Cannich.

The Herald: The fire has been blazing for two days


The fire had left moorlands and local habitats blackened with ash, and it would later be confirmed to be the largest wildfire in Scottish history, surpassing the record-breaking blaze between Melvich and Strathy Sutherland in May 2019 that covered 20 square miles. The Cannich wildfire burned through 30 square miles of land.

At the time, Scotland’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds warned that, with the affected area being home to Corrimony Nature Reserve, local wildlife and woodland habitat had been decimated.

The fire had destroyed around 50% of the reserve as well as large parts of land owned by Forest and Land Scotland. It impacted the homes of dozens of species including the Black Grouse and Scottish Crossbill, as well as other wildlife such as invertebrates and Common Lizards.

At the time, Simon McLaughlin said: “At this time of year, I should be seeing young chicks emerging from their nests but now only their parents are left in the charred landscape.”

The Herald: Wildfire L-R Jamie Thrower incident commander with SFRS and Simon McLaughlin from the RSPB at the

The devastation led to the RSPB putting out an emergency appeal to raise funds for the recovery of the area and to help nature find a way back.

Now, almost a year to the day from when emergency services first started tackling the wildfire, bosses at the RSPB say the impact of restoration efforts funded by the successful appeal can be seen.

Simon Mclaughlin, Site Manager at RSPB Scotland Corrimony said: “We were devastated by the impacts of the wildfire which destroyed huge amounts of the habitat here and undid decades of crucial woodland restoration. The generosity of our members, supporters, and partners has enabled us to begin to recover this incredible nature reserve.

“Set in stunning moorland and Caledonian forest, Corrimony is a treasure trove for anyone who loves birds and hosts species ranging from Black Grouse, Scottish Crossbills, and  Crested Tits to soaring Golden Eagles in the wider Glen Affric area. 

“Tragically the fire burned for days despite staff from Corrimony and nearby RSPB nature reserves, multiple fire crews, helicopter teams, neighbouring landowners and staff, and others working round the clock to extinguish the blaze. 

“But one year on and with much work on the ground in the aftermath, the green shoots of recovery are already starting to show. 

“It has been uplifting to see the positive impact we have been able to make already, from planting new trees to rebuilding important deer fencing. The support we have received from across Scotland and beyond has been essential in helping to restore Corrimony.” 

Through the support from RSPB members, supporters, and philanthropists, the appeal went on to raise more than £200,000, with restoration work also supported by Barratt Homes and Trees for Life.

The funds have helped support the costs of replanting woodlands, providing deer management, and better equipping the nature reserve against future wildfire risk. 

The fire came in the wake of a 'very high' wildfire warning which covered most of Scotland, and had been in place since 26 May, then later extended to June 5 2023.

Amidst soaring forecasted temperatures, another 'very high' wildfire warning was also declared by the SFRS from 7 to 10 June. In the announcement on June 7, the fire service said that the Cannich wildfire was still ongoing.

It was believed to have been started by a camping stove on the nearby Glen Affric and Kintail Way, but the source was never confirmed.

READ MORE: Wildfire burning for three days 'may have been caused by wild campers'

It was later revealed that the fire had been visible from Space with NASA satellites picking up a thick bloom of smoke that could be seen through the clear skies of Scotland.

The Herald:

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service says that Wildfires still pose a serious threat in the country, and especially the highlands when the conditions are dry, sunny, and windy. Extreme risk warnings were issued by SFRS as recently as May 11 in the Invernesshire area and large parts of northern Scotland.

Included in the warning was a video showing the intense and rapid spread of a recent wildfire in the Highland village of Glenuig in Lochaber which broke out during the first weekend of May this year. It spread across two miles before being extinguished by more than 30 firefighters over the course of two days.

Information on understanding wildfires, and how to prevent or report them can be found on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Website, alongside advice on how to protect homes and property.