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Issue 42 - Wild at heart

Scotland Magazine Issue 42
December 2008

 

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Wild at heart

John Cormack visits Alladale Wilderness Lodge and Reserve, north of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands.

Ambitious plans to “rewild” 21,000 acres of remote Scottish countryside are well underway.

Alladale Wilderness Lodge, a Reserve and Eco-Tourism development on the border of Sutherland and Ross-shire, forms the location for Oxford University’s “WildCRU” scientific research project designed to provide evidence that will underpin biological conservation in the Highlands.

Alladale’s mission statement is straightforward: “The Alladale Reserve’s purpose is to restore the balance of nature in a wilderness area of the Scottish Highlands while bringing prosperity to the region and its community through investing in conservation and education.” But, Alladale is not only the location for an exciting environmental experiment but also a destination for special interest groups, corporate gatherings or groups of friends who want to relax in a remote spot in the Scottish Highlands.

The original Alladale Lodge was built in 1877 and rebuilt in 1920, as a sporting lodge.

Today it stands on an elevated plateau surrounded by native woodland and with panoramic views over the Reserve Recently BBC Scotland screened a television serial – The Real Monarch of the Glen featuring estate life, progress as well as future plans.

Well-publicised plans to introduce bear, lynx and wolf to the Estate have inevitably been the centre of some controversy – but before this part of the dream can be realised more land will be required and a perimeter fence completed. Eight miles have been built, but many more will be needed before wolves run free in Scotland again.

The erection of the fence has raised eyebrows especially among the hill-walking fraternity who see their ‘right to roam’ being compromised.

But while wolves may seem a distant dream many initiatives are underway – much has been achieved recently.

Earlier this year European Elk were introduced on site, and separate fenced-off areas now support wild boar whose interaction with the land and the soil is feeding into scientific experiments been run by Oxford University. Oxford and Alladale are now half way through their boar research programme – in 2009 new research centred around wild cats, red squirrels, pine martens and badgers will begin.

The Estate is working with the Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust to replant some 35 miles of riverbank with up to 70,000 native pine trees. And, The Challenger Trust – lottery funded and The Lister Charitable Trust run outward bound teambuilding trips for up to 150 local teenagers each spring.

Alladale has recently switched on its very own hydro Electric station. The Estate will now have enough power to provide green energy to the Lodge and all other buildings planned on site. Work is underway on two cottages with completion by spring 2009.

The Estate now has its own saw mill and next summer a new organic greenhouse will be completed which will supply most of the Estate’s fruit and vegetable requirement.

Alladale is also keen to tap into opportunities from Europe and beyond.

Next year the Estate, working with partners, will be offering courses in business and general English – a sort of working holiday for senior executives and their partners who need to brush up on their language skills.

Alladale Lodge offers luxury accommodation for up to 16 guests – in seven en suite bedrooms and a twin. The all-in rates include accommodation and food – a three course evening meal with wine around a communal dining table is a high point Included in the price are a number of amenities including a gym and sauna, the use of a full size billiard table and mountain bikes. Open all year, the lodge and grounds offer further free attractions including deer stalking and fishing in season, guided walks and 4 by 4 safaris. Other amenities are clay pigeon shooting, golf and pony trekking and local sightseeing.