Trees for Life wants to build the centre at its 10,000-acre Dundreggan estate in Glenmoriston, between Loch Ness and the Isle of Skye.
The planning application submitted to Highland Council features a visitor centre inspired by wild native forests and the natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands.
The conservation charity expects the centre to be visited by more than 50,000 visitors a year. The aim is to showcase the benefits of rewilding and working with nature, while boosting the rural economy and creating at least 15 new local jobs.
“Dundreggan Rewilding Centre will be a place for people from all walks of life to rewild themselves by exploring and enjoying a remarkable wild landscape in a beautiful Highland glen, and to spend time learning about the area’s unique wildlife and inspiring Gaelic history,” said Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s chief executive.
Trees for Life has been rewilding Dundreggan – including by protecting and expanding fragments of the Caledonian Forest – since its 2008 purchase of the former deer stalking estate. Dundreggan is home to over 4,000 plant and animal species – including some never recorded in the UK before or once feared extinct in Scotland.
To fit in with the landscape, the building’s design has been inspired by local Gaelic heritage and history, and by the globally important but endangered Caledonian Forest. It has vertical features to represent trees, with changing light to reflect how light plays in woodlands, and materials and colours conjuring up bracken and forest bark.
In the all-weather visitor centre, a ‘central space featuring a striking Scots pine sculpture will be a focal point where people can find out about the available activities. A Gaelic bothy area will spotlight local history and heritage, and there will be spaces for learning and events.
The building will act as a gateway to the forest and outdoors. There will also be accommodation with 20 beds, enabling people including students and researchers to have longer stays at the acclaimed rewilding estate.
The project has received over £2m of support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Scottish Natural Heritage-led Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund funded through the European Regional Development Fund, and from others. Trees for Life is seeking further funding to ensure the centre can be constructed on schedule next year.
Highland Council granted planning permission in principle for the centre in April 2019. Construction should begin in early 2021, with the centre opening in 2022.