Scotland was a truly wild place at Highland tiger, a distinctivelyroaming among Caledonian pine forests. The Romans referred to the country's northern region as "The Great Wood of Caledon." However, humans gradually cleared have become extinct. By the turn of the twentieth century, forest covered only 5% of Scotland's land.
With country is now experiencing a zeitgeist moment for rewilding—in essence, the rebuilding of ecosystems to their natural uncultivated states. The actions of those responsible are converging, and if successful, Scotland will be the world's first rewilded nation.
"Scotland has majestic scenery and beautiful glens, but the ecological completeness of the country has long been greatly diminished," says Peter Cairns, executive chairperson of nonprofit Scotland: The Big Picture. "Climate breakdown is one of the main drivers for rewilding, which is gaining traction now because it unites everyone."
These rewilding organisations hope to open visitors' eyes to what the future could look like through volunteer programmes and immersive overnight experiences. Here are a few spots where you can catch a glimpse.
beginning in spring 2023, visitors to Glenmoriston were created to preview the ambitious project and show visitors new ways to see nature.
This revitalised landscape now supports over 4,000 native plant and animal species, including an influx reconnect with nature in new ways when they return home. The rewilding gateway, which will include exhibitions and classrooms, will also have a 40-bed complex for researchers and volunteers.
Cairngorms Connect, Scotland's most ambitious rewilding project, allows visitors to try to rekindle their relationship with everything from pine cones to pipits. Visitors can already participate in ranger-led tours and rewilding weekends to help revitalise the landscape. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland will introduce 20 wildcats next year.
Not all returning native species seek refuge in gorse-strewn glens. Eurasian beavers have been reintroduced and translocated to sites such as the Knapdale Scottish Beaver Trail in Argyll and Bute and the Argaty Red Kites near Doune, northwest of Stirling, according to James Nairne of the Scottish Wild Beaver Group. On an evening canoe safari along the magnificent River Tay with tour operator Perthshire Wildlife, visitors may see the river-dwellers. The scurrying rodents are at their most active at sunset.
Scotland could become first ‘rewilded’ nation—what does that mean? https://t.co/lOh2c5uTnD— Stuart Dickson (@StuartD50444405) November 2, 2022
"The Scottish beaver was wiped out 400 years ago, but there are now around 1,000 thriving in the wild," says Nairne. "We get more of everything by reintroducing this species into our Riverlands and lochs."
Other reintroduced species are driving new ventures in a landscape where nature-based tourism contributes nearly 40% of total visitor spending, according to government agency NatureScot. The red kite has been reintroduced to the Galloway Kite Trail on Loch Ken in Kirkcudbrightshire. At the same time, the golden eagle is now being bred in the braided Moffat Hills thanks to the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project's translocation of 40 raptors.
Meanwhile, Alladale Wilderness Reserve in Sutherland, 50 miles north of Inverness, aims for the Highlands' traditional Victorian-era country sports estates. The 23,000-acre plot, once the sole domain of a dozen deer stalkers, now attracts approximately 1,500 visitors per year. They "come to the end of the road, connect to the environment, and feel spiritual," as "wildlife laird", Paul Lister puts it.