TWO conservation charities have failed in an attempt to buy an historic area of wild land that once provided a hiding place for Scottish revolutionary William Wallace.
Despite raising enough money to put in an offer for the £1.1 million estate in the Borders, the John Muir Trust and the Borders Forest Trust were outbid.
They had hoped to safeguard the 5,300-acre Talla and Games-hope estate and use conservation measures to return it to its former glory, after many years as a working farm.
However, despite making it to the final two out of eight bidders, after hundreds of people responded to a fund-raising appeal, their attempt was unsuccessful.
Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust, said: “This was an opportunity to do something special with a beautiful and unique piece of Borders land, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
“Our staff and trustees, along with colleagues at the Borders Forest Trust, worked incredibly hard, and we are very disappointed not to have realised our vision for the estate.”
The Talla and Gameshope estate lies at the heart of the historic Ettrick Forest, which for centuries offered refuge to rogues and rebels. It would have provided a stronghold for legendary figures such as Wallace, during his 13th-century campaigns for independence and was a battleground for the feuding across the Border.
The land was put up for sale last month and attracted considerable interest, with eight bidders ranging from conservation groups to sheep farmers.
Regarded as a once-in-a-generation opportunity, the two trusts believed the sale would bring a special part of Scotland under conservation management.
The estate consists of spectacular hill country, containing 12 hills over 600 metres, including the summits of Great Hill, Molls Cleuch Dod, Carlavin Hill and Firthhope Rig.
Its earliest known history was as a royal hunting forest in the 12th century.
The trusts said it remained a relatively remote area but its formerly wild and natural qualities had been “largely tamed due to overgrazing”.
Mr Brooks said: “We understand there was a lot of interest and although we managed to gather enough resources to put in a very credible bid, we understand we were just pipped at the post.
“We’d like to thank everyone who gave such a great show of support. We continue to keep an eye out for special areas of wild land that could potentially come under our care.”
The charities had hoped to plant new woodland and the land would have been left to regenerate so that vegetation returned. They would have aimed to attract wildlife such as the golden eagle and black grouse.
John Hunt, chairman of the Borders Forest Trust, said the land had suffered centuries of overgrazing, and there had been “huge potential for ecological restoration to bring back natural, more diverse vegetation”.
The identity of the successful bidder was not known yesterday, but The Scotsman understands it is likely to be a sheep farmer.