When you think of Scotland, what comes to mind? Boggy moors, earthy woodlands, myriad kinds of life in the wetlands, and meadows for miles. It’s a place where you can connect to nature.
The deforestation of Scotland unfolded over hundreds of years, beginning in the early 18th century when trees were felled on a massive scale for fuel and buildings. In the early 19th century, more trees were cleared to make space for farming. By the 1950s, only about 1 percent of the original Caledonian Forest — the forest that once covered most of Scotland — remained.
What Is Rewilding?
Conservationists and ecotourism companies are working to revive Scotland’s wilderness through rewilding. They are taking a whole-ecosystem approach to nature. Rewilding efforts include removing invasive species, reforestation, and reintroduction of endemic plants and animals.
The long-term goals of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance include achieving a complex, self-regulating ecosystem, with a high level of biodiversity. In 2021, the Scottish Rewilding Alliance, a group of nonprofits and businesses, petitioned for Scotland to be the world’s first rewilding nation. This would mean committing 30 percent of Scotland’s public land to the rewilding effort by 2030; reintroducing keystone species, such as beavers, lynx, and oysters; and creating a coastal zone where dredging and trawling are not allowed.
Focus On Cairngorms
Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands is the United Kingdom’s largest rewilding project. A combination of deforestation, overgrazing, and climate change has led to the disappearance of huge expanses of forests and many animal species. Because it is home to one-quarter of Scotland’s native forest, Cairngorms is a major focus of rewilding efforts.
Ecotourism Supports Rewilding
Ecotourism businesses are now stepping in to support rewilding and increase awareness of rewilding efforts. Ecotourism helps infuse money into the non-profits’ efforts.
One ecotourism company, Wilderness Scotland, guides hikers through the flourishing landscape. The company is working with one of its charity partners, Trees for Life, a nonprofit dedicated to nature restoration in the Highlands, on a new adventure. A five-day journey will take hikers through hills of vibrant trees and end at Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Estate.
Farther north in the Highlands, Scottish Rewilding Alliance member Alladale Wilderness Reserve is focusing on restoring nature on a former hunting estate. Founder Paul Lister has dedicated the reserve’s 23,000 acres to reforestation and has planted over one million trees. Visitors can hike the trails, plant native trees, and attend events and exhibits that showcase progress.
Rewilding The Oceans
For more than 25 years, the Community of Arran Seabed Trust has been “seawilding” the waters around the Isle of Arran, found off the west coast of Scotland. The protected area covers 69,190 sea acres. Travelers can explore the protected areas via the self-led Arran Snorkel Trail, where they might see anemones, crabs, seals, otters, and jellyfish.
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