News Environment World's First Rewilding Center Opens in Scotland The center will serve as a gateway to Dundreggan and Trees for Life's successful rewilding project. By Elizabeth Waddington Elizabeth Waddington Facebook LinkedIn Writer, Permaculture Designer, Sustainability Consultant University of St Andrews (MA) Elizabeth has worked since 2010 as a freelance writer and consultant covering gardening, permaculture, and sustainable living. She has also written a number of books and e-books on gardens and gardening. Learn about our editorial process Published April 16, 2023 12:45PM EDT Share Twitter Pinterest Email Dunreggan Rewilding Centre. Paul Campbell Photography News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive When many people think of Scotland, they think of the rugged open mountainsides and craggy peaks. However, few realize, as they make their way from Edinburgh through Loch Ness to the Isle of Skye and back again, how nature-depleted and "unnatural" many of the "wild" areas they pass truly are. After centuries of grazing and browsing by sheep, goats, cattle, and deer, the land is nothing like it once was. This is something that could change as more and more people visit the new rewilding center at Dundreggan, which seeks to bring rewilding to a wider audience and encourage people to think about broader landscapes in a way they may not have done before. There, they can learn about the importance of rewildling our degraded landscapes, the exciting rewilding projects currently on the go, and the future that is possible for people and wildlife in the Highlands of Scotland. What Is Rewilding? Dundreggan Rewilding Centre Opening I was recently invited to head up north for a sneak preview of this new rewilding center, which fully opens its doors to the public on the weekend of April 15th with a celebratory series of special activities and events. Warm, welcoming, and entirely free to access, the center will serve as a gateway to Dundreggan and Trees for Life's successful rewilding project. This project is part of Affric Highlands, the UK's largest rewilding project. Those who make it along for the opening weekend will be able to enjoy free events, including guided walks, tours of the tree nursery, storytelling sessions, plenty of fun for kids, and activities led by naturalist Nick Baker and expert in tracks and signs, Dan Puplett. A Preview of the Rewilding Center Trees for Life, visitors centre, Dundreggan. Paul Campbell Photography We took a tour a few days before the official opening for a look around the new architect-designed center, just a few miles from Loch Ness and on the A887 road to the Isle of Skye. Easily accessible, the building has a number of sustainable features, including solar panels and reclaimed wood furniture in the cafe area. This is one of two new buildings, the other of which offers accessible accommodation (40 rooms) for those who wish to come for a longer rewilding experience. Entering the building, the first thing that you see is a stunning sculpture—the work of local artist Helen Denerley. The sculpture depicts a tree with many native animals within it, made from reclaimed metal. This set the warm and inviting tone for the visit and resonated with the ideas and ideals this new center is all about. From here, we saw the other areas—classroom, event spaces, the cafe—and lively information panels throughout, giving information about rewilding, the interconnectedness of forest ecosystems, local wildlife, and more. As our guide so rightly pointed out, however, the building is just the jumping-off point—the hub from which people can branch out to discover so much more on a series of accessible trails and more adventurous hikes in the surrounding landscape. One key focus for this project is definitely community, as well as rewilding. It celebrates local Gaelic heritage and history as well as wildlife, woodlands, and natural wonder. The inclusive nature of the displays and the project as a whole mean that it is as much a hit with the locals as with keen rewilding enthusiasts. Speaking briefly with two friendly and welcoming employees working in the cafe who were among the 20 locals who have new jobs thanks to the project, their enthusiasm for the new center and excitement to be involved in getting it off the ground shone through. After taking our tour of the new center, my husband and I took a stroll on the "oak path." Though it was a rainy day, we enjoyed our brief walk past the tree nursery and between ancient oaks and regenerating woodland filled with mosses, lichens, and perhaps some of the fairy folk too. A Beacon For Rewilding Landscapes & People A red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). Mark Hamblin / scotlandbigpicture.com The first of its kind anywhere in the world. This center will bring the exciting world of rewilding to a wider audience, introducing its concepts to those who may not necessarily have heard much about it before. “For 15 years, Dundreggan has been a beacon for rewilding our landscapes. Now it will be a beacon for rewilding people too,” said Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s Chief Executive. “This is a place of hope. 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.” So, anyone looking for Nessie or heading over the sea to Skye should also definitely pay a visit to the new rewilding center to learn a little more about the landscapes they are passing through and the exciting ways in which they can and should change in the years to come. Learn more at Trees for Life: Dundreggan Rewilding Centre.