The Eyrie: Eagle Information Point has been set up in a joint project by Philiphaugh Estate, located near Selkirk, and the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, a ground-breaking conservation initiative.
Philiphaugh, which is accredited by Wildlife Estates Scotland for its biodiversity work, has become a popular visitor destination in recent years.
It is also home to a modern hydro electric station, salmon viewing centre, historic battlefield, walled garden, wildlife walks and a gin distillery.
The new facility, set within the estate’s newly built Waterwheel Tearoom, is dedicated to telling the story of Scotland’s national bird.
Visitors will also have a chance to view video footage of golden eagles which have been brought to the region through the translocation scheme.
“As a keen participant in the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, we are delighted to offer a place for the UK’s first golden eagle information point,” said Philiphaugh manager Sir Michael Strang Steel.
“A truly fascinating and engaging visitor hub has been created and I would encourage locals and tourists alike to visit and discover more about this beautiful species and how they can help to ensure golden eagles will once again soar over the skies of the south of Scotland.’’
VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead hailed the new centre as “a fantastic addition to tourism in Scotland”.
He said: “With its spectacular scenery, unique natural environment and year-round wildlife calendar, Scotland is one of the best places in the world for watching wildlife.”
Before the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project began, there were thought to be just two to four pairs of golden eagles living across Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders – despite a national study showing the local habitat is suitable for up to 16 pairs.
Since 2018, four golden eagles have been translocated from the Highlands to the southern region as part of the initiative.
The birds have all settled into their new habitats and are already fending for themselves.
Covid-19 restrictions prevented the charity from bringing in more eagle chicks in 2020, but there are plans to restart the work this year.
Golden eagles, which have a wingspan around 2m, live around open moorlands and mountains in Scotland, favouring islands and remote glens.
They mate for life, with nest – known as eyries – often used by successive generations to rear their young.
The massive birds of prey are top hunters, feeding on animals such as rabbits, mountain hares and sometimes foxes, young deer and large birds like grouse.
This sparks conflict with humans, resulting in illegal persecution despite their protected status.
A study of tagged golden eagles in 2017 showed nearly a third disappeared in “suspicious circumstances connected with records of illegal persecution”.
Only this week police raided a shooting estate in the Cairngorms after a golden eagle was discovered dead after a deliberate poisoning.
The new development has been funded by the Fallago Rig Fund, Philiphaugh Estate, South of Scotland Economic Partnership), South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, RSPB Scotland and Lothian and Borders Raptor Study Group.