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Woodland Trust Scotland Buys 4500 acre Couldoran Highland Estate in Wester Ross

By Calum MacLeod

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Couldoran Estate in Wester Ross has now been purchased by the Woodland Trust.
Couldoran Estate in Wester Ross has now been purchased by the Woodland Trust.

Woodland Trust Scotland has completed the purchase of the 4500-acre Couldoran Estate in Wester Ross as it invests a total of £8 million in the restoration of its native woodlands.

The Perth-headquartered charity used financial reserves to finalise the purchase and continues to fundraise to cover the cost of buying the estate and managing it in the years ahead.

The purchase price was £3.5 million with a further £4.5 million required to create native woodlands and transform the site for people and wildlfe.

So far the fundraising appeal has raised £600,000 from Trust supporters.

Couldoran, near Lochcarron, neighbours the Trust's existing site at Ben Shieldaig and the two will be managed jointly.

Couldoran Estate, Wester Ross, Scotland
Couldoran Estate, Wester Ross, Scotland

Woodland Trust Scotland director Alastair Seaman said: “Couldoran is in relatively poor condition. Once restoration is underway, we hope many of the iconic species we have at Ben Shieldaig will flood back in.

“Securing Couldoran doubles the area under our management at Shieldaig, increasing potential to bring back more of the native woods that once featured across the wider landscape.”

An initial walkover survey has revealed over 1000 acres of new native woodland of Scots pine, aspen, downy birch, rowan, willow and alder could be created with the rest remaining open ground.

Restoring the woodland at Couldoran will help connect important nearby sites creating a “nature highway” along Glen Shieldaig.

This will link the Shieldaig Pinewood Site of Special Scientific Interest with Rassal Ashwood Site of Special Scientific Interest and other ancient Caledonian pinewood remnants in the area. A range of species from lichens and mosses to butterflies and red squirrels will be able to move more freely, avoiding fragmentation and isolation while gaining resilience and adaptability.

Couldoran was once part of a network of rich woodland habitats that blanketed Scotland’s west coast. Today the land is in poor condition with just pockets of native trees, clinging to inaccessible ravines and gorges. Other areas of the site are infested with invasive, non-native Rhododendron ponticum. Patches of peatland, a priceless carbon store, need protection.

Mr Seaman continued: “Our vision is to manage Couldoran jointly with Ben Shieldaig as one huge mountainous estate. We want to establish a healthy and resilient mosaic of habitats across the entire catchment. This will include creating and restoring thriving native and montane woodland, with carefully planted trees and natural regeneration, gradually removing invasive species, and protecting peatland and blanket bog.

“Access is an important part of our aspiration. A couple of informal tracks exists. We want to upgrade this and improve public access into an area with spectacular views, but which currently attracts few walkers.

“Continuing our approach at Ben Shieldaig, the Trust will consult with local people and neighbouring landowners on our plans and provide opportunities for people to have their say and get involved.”

Couldoran Estate is situated in the Wester Ross National Scenic Area and the Wester Ross UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, part of Scotland’s rainforest zone, about 90 minutes drive from Inverness. It sits at the foot of Corbett Beinn Bhàn, which is a popular challenge with hillwalkers, and overlooks the start of the famoys Bealach na Bà to Applecross, one of the steepest roads in the UK and part of the North Coast 500.

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