An official breaking-ground ceremony has taken place at the 10,000-acre Dundreggan estate near Loch Ness, where conservation charity Trees for Life is creating the new hub.
Dundreggan Rewilding Centre, the first of its kind anywhere, will act as the gateway to the forest and wild outdoors.
The new attraction will offer accessible trails, child-friendly forest adventures and more challenging routes for experienced hillwalkers.
It will also feature a cafe, classrooms and events space, alongside a 40-bed accommodation building.
Displays and interpretations will be displayed in English and Gaelic, with the centre drawing inspiration from the rich Gaelic heritage of the local area and the wider Highlands region.
Visitors to Dundreggan will be helped to discover stunning wild landscapes, learn about unique wildlife and engage with rewilding – the large-scale restoration of nature.
Trees For Life is dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands, with volunteers already establishing nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites, encouraging wildlife to flourish and helping communities to thrive.
Its Dundreggan estate, located just eight miles from the shores of Loch Ness and on the main road from Inverness to Skye, has been extensively rewilded over the past 13 years.
This has seen the protection and expansion of globally important fragments of Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest, golden eagles successfully breeding at the site for the first time in 40 years and populations of other species, such as black grouse, beginning to recover.
Laurelin Cummins-Fraser, Dundreggan Rewilding Centre director, said: “The landscape and its ancient connections to Gaelic will encourage people to rewild themselves by connecting with nature and exploring the heritage of our Highland-based rewilding centre.
“Guests will be welcomed into the centre to experience rewilding for themselves, whether this is from a casual visit while passing through, to immersive experiences; supporting the concept that we can work with nature rather than against it.
“Scotland, the UK and the wider world need a place where rewilding can be explored, undertaken and shared.
“That is why we want to create the world’s first rewilding centre at Dundreggan, a place where rewilding has been happening since 2008.
“The centre will offer recreational and educational experiences for people of all ages to enjoy the natural landscape and learn about the forest and rewilding, with the accommodation building being used for longer immersive experiences, including volunteering and educational trips.”
The plans for the centre have been developed following consultation with the local community.
Nick Halfhide, director of nature and climate change for NatureScot, said: “We have no doubt that visitors will find the rewilding centre and Dundreggan wonderful to explore, with ancient Caledonian pinewoods and rich wildlife.
“This special project, part-funded by our Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund, will help protect and expand Scotland’s nature – work which is crucial at this time, as we face the twin threats of biodiversity loss and climate change.”
Dundreggan Rewilding Centre is supported with funding from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund, led by NatureScot and part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund; the National Lottery Heritage Fund; Bòrd na Gàidhlig; SSE Sustainable Development Fund; Audemars Piguet Foundation; FERN Community Funds; and Garfield Weston Foundation.
It is expected to open to the public in 2022.