My story with Highland Titles: from a souvenir plot in the Scottish Highlands wilderness to a tartan project
Today, I want to tell you about Highland Titles, an incredible project taking place in the Scottish Highlands, as well as announcing an exciting piece of news, so keep reading!
Back in 2017, just before we left France to travel and volunteer in gardens and farms around the world for a year, my partner gave me a very special gift: a plot of land in Glencoe, in the Scottish Highlands.
When I opened the lovely gift box, I was not quite sure what it was about, as I had not heard of Highland Titles yet! My gift pack informed me that I was now one of the many “Lady Glencoe” and owned a 10 foot square plot of land in a natural reserve around Glencoe. Can you imagine how excited I was?! I was surprised about the concept, and eager to know what the whole project was about. There was quite a bit of information in my gift package, but it’s only when we arrived at Highland Titles Natural Reserve a few months later that we fully understood the extraordinary work that they were doing up there.
Visiting Highland Titles Nature Reserve in Duror
We first visited the reserve in June 2017, during our 3 months trip in Scotland. We were driving up there and had booked our “Meet and Greet” service in advance, to make sure we would be able to make the most of our visit. When we arrived, we were greeted at the lodge by one of the lovely Highland Titles staff, who handed us a map and useful information about the location of “my” plot. Shortly after, we were joined by David, a fantastic guide from the reserve, who took us to my plot in one of their jeep; it was a really wet day, so we were grateful for the shelter!
On the way to my plot we were really surprised by the variety of landscapes around us. I remember the vibrant colours of the vegetation, the beautiful lochan that we passed next to, the pink foxgloves and other flowers at the sides of the track, the magnificent hills and the delightful sounds of the many birds surrounding us.
After a few minutes of driving David parked the jeep and we disembarked, as the location of my plot was not far off. The area where it was located was incredibly different from everything we had seen so far. Covered with dead pine needles, the area was overcrowded with massive (and naked) trees, all very close to one another. It does not seem like so in the pictures (though you might guess it, as they are very blurry!) but it was really dark, and most of all: extremely silent. We were only a few dozens of meters off the track, yet the atmosphere was considerably different.
“Why is that?” you must wonder. And so did we! But we were going to find out soon enough, as while driving back, David gave us plenty of information about the evolution of the work that they had been doing since they acquired the reserve back in 2007.
Highland Titles conversation projects in the Scottish Highlands
Originally, the Highland Titles Nature Reserve (also known as Glencoe wood) was 250 acres of land that had been used for commercial forestry and hill farming. It’s easy to imagine how poor the soil must have been in some areas, like around the location of my plot, that had been exploited intensively for so long by the previous owners. These areas will not stay this way forever, but as digging out massive trees like these is a costly work, this is one of the many projects that Highland Titles are working on little by little. Even the entrance of the site was then completely overgrown and barely accessible before Highland Titles started working on the land. The team’s project was (and still is!) very ambitious and required great dedication and planning, as well as the help from external stakeholders.
In their own words, they aim to “offer an amenity to the local community, to help preserve and encourage protection of wildlife in the West Highland area, and to provide an education medium for local schools and organisations”. But more precisely, what kind of projects have they completed, or are they working on? To name just a few, they have already planted thousands of native trees, created bug hotels, bat boxes, beehives (along with kids from local schools!), a 3 acre lochan, as well as a forever home for injured hedgehogs. They also work on controlling invasive species like rhododendrons and bracken with the very helpful collaboration of two pigs! 🙂
They have published their “five year plan” that you can access and purchase in the form of a booklet, if you’d like to know how the project evolved in great details.
Over the years, their efforts have been rewarded by the reappearance of species that had been long gone in the area, as well as an increase of others that were already present, including: red squirrels, pine martens, badgers, hedgehogs, ospreys, several species of bats, butterflies and dragonflies, to name a few.
In 2018, Highland Titles have also announced the creation of the first wildcat rescue facility in Scotland, which is also the largest one in Europe, designed to help orphaned kittens and injured adults return to the wild. If that is something you are interested about (I know many of us are under most felines’ magic spell!) and are an animal lover, you can support these more specific projects by “adopting” a Scottish Wildcat, hedgehog, red squirrel or bat. By spending £25, you can provide one of these residents with food, shelter, and protection for a year!
In one word, their nature reserve project is to “rewild” the area. While it seems that there is more than one definition of this word, I love the one used by Rewilding Europe and Highland Titles: “Rewilding ensures natural processes and wild species play a much more prominent role in the land and seascapes, meaning that after initial support, nature is allowed to take more care of itself. Rewilding helps landscapes become wilder, whilst also providing opportunities for modern society to reconnect with such wilder places for the benefit of all life.”
Two years after our first visit, in February 2019 (6 months after we had moved to Scotland), we went back to Highland Titles Nature Reserve to take our friend Clémentine, to her own souvenir plot. We were assuredly happy to get another occasion to visit the reserve. Upon arrival, we had the lovely surprise to be greeted by our guide David, once more! This time again, he took us around the reserve to get to Clémentine’s plot, and it was amazing for us to get to see the progress that had been achieved in two years, as well as to explore new areas of the reserve. This day was a fairly rainy one as well, which explains why I do not have so many pictures to show you. This might be our mission for our next visit to the reserve!
As a nature and Scotland lover, I am hugely enthusiastic about Highland Titles Reserve’s work, and very pleased to be contributing to it at my own, small scale. That brings me to exciting news, which I hope will make the Ladies, Lords and Lairds Glencoe out there happy…
Our new range of Highland Titles tartan handmade gifts
I am delighted and proud to announce that Atelier Escapades will now be offering a range of handmade gifts and accessories made with Highland Titles official tartan! I fell in love with their tartan when I first saw it at their Visitor Center during my first trip to the reserve, and am thrilled to be able to offer some of my products made with this gorgeous cloth to my customers.
This tartan, was designed in 2011, exclusively for Highland Titles, is made from 100% pure new wool and woven in the Scottish Borders, at Lochcarron. In case you wonder, I order the tartan directly from Highland Titles themselves, and this new range is handmade by me in my home-based atelier in Edinburgh, like the rest of our handmade tartan and Harris Tweed gifts.
If there are any other items that you would like to get made for yourself or a loved one with this tartan, always feel free to get in touch, as I love making custom orders that look like you!
How to support Highland Titles’ conservation projects?
The various projects undertaken by Highland Titles are fantastic. Not only because they work hard to allow Scottish wildlife to come back to areas that had been made rather unwelcoming for so long, but also because it encourages people from all over the world to visit the area, support the local community and businesses, and get to learn and care more about wildlife.
Highland Titles use profits from their sales to create and protect nature reserves in the Scottish Highlands and fund conservation projects. So, by buying a souvenir plot (and becoming a Lady, Lord or Laird Glencoe 😉 ), “adopting” one of their residents, or purchasing any of the gifts they offer both on location at their Visitor Center in Duror or online, you are being part of this amazing project too.
If you do end up buying a plot, make sure to visit them on your next trip to the Scottish Highlands, I guarantee that you will have a great time!