Optional enviro-tip on Great Glen Way will help to fund nature-based apprenticeships

Forest of Hope on Beldorney Estate

TO MARK Scottish Apprenticeship Week (6-10 March), Scotland’s pioneering rewilding project, Highlands Rewilding, has joined forces with Scotland’s leading hospitality group, Cobbs, to introduce an optional environmental tip for visitors to help fund the next generation of nature apprentices.

Visitors to the group’s six hotels and seven holiday homes along the Great Glen Way, running from Fort William to Inverness, will be invited to add a £2 discretionary payment to their stay, with the funds going directly to neighbouring Highlands Rewilding’s Bunloit Estate.

The money raised will allow the Highlands Rewilding team to employ a steady stream of rural apprenticeships to support the estate’s 22 local staff members to develop rural skills as they take their nature recovery work to scale. The team already employ one local apprentice and support several paid summer internships for university students from across Scotland each year.

Drumnadrochit-based, the Cobbs Group employs 440 people across its businesses and supports two trainee tourism ambassadors, though they are looking to expand the number of trainees they support each year. Fraser Campbell, founder and managing director of the Cobbs Group, said: “We’re delighted to partner with Highlands Rewilding to support their environmental efforts and encourage others to do the same, all while developing much-needed local rural skills. We already support several apprentices each year, so the idea of helping a local project that’s helping future proof our environment and young local people is a win-win.

“We live in an amazing part of the country with wide open spaces. We want to do what we can to help, protect and restore biodiversity and tackle climate change. This new partnership provides a great platform for our group to play their part in supporting the future of our local community.”

Bunloit is one of two estates owned by Highlands Rewilding that stretch 2,000 acres across the Scottish Highlands. Dr Jeremy Leggett bought Bunloit Estate in 2020 and Beldorney Estate in 2022. The company has a mass ownership model which saw an initial 50 investors help to raise £7.5million in 2020. A recent crowdfund and fundraiser launched in December 2022, and closing at the end of April, has recently acquired the funds needed to buy the 3,500-acre Tayvallich Estate in Argyll. Over 500 citizen rewilder investors, 40% of whom live in Scotland, have boosted funds raised by over £800,000. 

Fraser Campbell is a Founding Funder of Highlands Rewilding and has reinvested with the company this year. Explaining why he invested, Fraser, said: “We heard about Jeremy buying Bunloit Estate which is on our doorstep and went along to be shown round. We were blown away by what he and his team were doing, from soaking up carbon, to helping tourism. It was just fantastic. We decided at that point we needed to invest and be involved.”

The addition of a discretionary environmental tip to visitors staying at local Cobbs Group establishments is an innovative new way for visitors to give back to the stunning Highlands areas and to a project that’s helping to restore nature. Fraser continued: “Our visitors want to know that their money is being fed back into the local economy. This is a tangible way for us and our guests to help future proof our wonderful surroundings.”

Fraser hopes that as well as tackling climate change, Highlands Rewilding’s initiatives will attract more visitors to the area all year round, and that they will stay for longer, to the benefit of the wider local economy.

Jeremy Leggett, CEO of Highlands Rewilding, said: “We seek to scale rewilding in Scotland. To us, this means both rewilding and re-peopling the Highlands; the two go hand in hand. As we fight to reverse biodiversity loss and sequester more carbon, we are also creating local green jobs. Both Cobbs and Highlands Rewilding are invested in sustainable rural economies, and we hope that this new environmental tip will draw a clear connection between Scotland’s beautiful places, how tourism can support local communities, and our joint efforts to restore these wild and wonderful landscapes.”

Highlands Rewilding and Cobbs hope that by introducing an environmental tip to support a local project, it might inspire other businesses in the area to do the same.

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