A couple of weeks ago I visited the Highland Titles Nature Reserve which is located near Duror on the beautiful banks on Loch Linnhe. The reserve first opened in 2007 and over the last decade they have focused on the conservation of native species through their long term rewilding project. I think the conservation of native plants and animals is so important therefor I was very much looking forward to seeing the work carried out at this reserve first hand.
On our arrival we met up with Stewart who is the lead volunteer at the reserve. He gave us a brief overview of the reserve and the work done here before dousing us with midge spray and taking us on a tour around the park in a buggy. The reserve is vast and a lot of it is uphill so it’s great that they have these buggy’s on hand for the less able bodied. After our tour around Stewart dropped us off to let us explore the park ourselves on foot. He mentioned that the highest point in the reserve offers some spectacular views so we headed up there first. The walk up is fairly steep and off road but anyone with reasonable fitness will be able to manage the climb and it’s definitely worth the effort as the views were spectacular even on a bit of a dreich day. From here you look across Loch Linnhe to the remote Morvern Peninsula.
After descending the hill our next stop was a wee corner of the reserve which has been made into a ‘Forever Home’ for Hedgehogs. I didn’t realise but over the last 50 years the hedgehog population has dramatically plummeted in the Scottish countryside. This is mainly down to an increase in farmland and the wide scale use of pesticides. Sadly we didn't see any Hedgehogs as they are nocturnal animals but it’s good to know that they have an area here to roam safely. You can read more about Hedgehogs by clicking here.
The Salachan Burn runs through the Highland Titles reserve and along the course of the burn there are many waterfalls and pools which you can easily walk to. There wasn’t much water in the river when I visited but I can image it’ll be pretty spectacular if there’s been a lot of rain.
The river isn’t the only water source of water in the reserve. Stewart and the team have created a man-made 3 acre Lochan which is abundant with wildlife. The lochans are full of brown trout which over the years have attracted an Osprey as well as otters. There were no otters or ospreys for us but we did see a few different species of birds and lots of jumping fish.
During the morning/ early afternoon of our visiting the weather wasn’t very photogenic which was really frustrating as the Lochan was beautiful but the beauty of it wasn’t coming out well in photographs. We decided to hang around the area and come back for golden hour where we were treated to a beautiful Highland sunset.
As I mentioned the reserve do a huge amount of conservation, evidence of this is found along the edge of this wee lochan. As you walk past you’ll see brightly painting boxes, these boxes are beehives which have been decorated by the children from the local primary schools. The school children are educated about the bees and their importance as well as being involved in their care. I think this is brilliant as it’s so important to have the next generation involved in conservation and be passionate about nature. You can read Stewarts blog about why Honey Bees are so important by clicking here.
Other work carried out in the park since it’s opening includes the removal of the non native Sitka Spruce, these ‘forestry’ trees are gradually being replaced by native broadleaf species like Oak Trees. There are still large areas of Spruce trees in the reserve but as Stewart explained this is a long term project which takes a lot of time and effort.
By far the most exciting project at the reserve is the rehabilitation of Scottish Wildcats. These cats, which were once found all over Scotland, are now one of the rarest species in the world. There are thought to be less than a 100 left which is incredibly sad. The reserve has one of the best rehabilitation centres in Europe which cares for injured adults and abandoned kittens before returning them to the wild when they have fully recovered. They live in vast enclosures where they can hunt and build up their strength. If you visit the reserve don’t expect to see a wildcat as you won’t, this is not an animal park or a zoo. They inhabit the forest away from areas frequented by the public. It’s so important to keep these cats away from the public and actually make them frighted of people so when they leave the reserve they keep away from humans and inhabited areas. Now when I was there I saw one of the wildcats but I was unimaginably lucky, even the volunteers who work here everyday rarely ever see them. The sighting was fleeting but it’s a moment i’ll never forget!
You can help protect the species and aid the work done at Highland Titles by adopting one of these magnificent animals, the link to the adoption page is here.
The Highland Titles Nature Reserve can be visited for free at anytime but if you fancy contributing to the work done here you can buy a plot of land in the reserve and become a ‘Lord’ or ‘Lady’ which I think is a really fun idea. The money paid will go towards funding this project and help Stewart and his team continue their excellent work.
We finished off the day watching a muted sunset from one of the viewpoints in the reserve. I would thoroughly recommend a visit here if you are in the area. The reserve is such a peaceful place to wander around and you can learn lots about nature along the way.