Heritage Lottery Funding of £3 million has been awarded to help conserve the landscape of the Coigach and Assynt area.
It is hoped the grant, which includes £100,000 of development funding, will bring long-term social, economic and environmental benefits to the area.
Coigach is well known for its striking peaks, including the iconic Stac Pollaidh, while its mountains, moorlands, lochs and coastline provide habitats for species such as golden eagles, wildcats, black-throated divers and freshwater pearl mussels.
Funding will allow the landscape partnership project – led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust – to restore parts of the landscape, including regenerating and reconnecting the remaining native woodland, restoring blanket bog and heath moor, and repairing and improving pathways.
The internationally-significant Iron Age settlement at Clachtoll Broch, a local centre of power in 300BC, will be excavated and preserved. Local people and visitors will also be engaged through a comprehensive volunteering programme and a cultural learning programme which will increase understanding of this vast area’s complex heritage.
Viv Halcrow, project manager of Coigach-Assynt Living Landscape, said: “This Heritage Lottery Funding could have a great impact across the whole Coigach-Assynt Living Landscape. It would not only benefit the natural, cultural and built environment, but could help to increase integration between communities, landowners, and organisations.”
The chair of the Coigach Community Development Company, Iain Muir, added: “This is great news for Coigach, together with Assynt – it should be a very helpful piece in the jigsaw for CCDC’s attempts at reversing the unfortunate social and economic decline we are experiencing. Our communities exist in a spectacular environmental and cultural landscape and it’s right that the interrelationship and mutual dependence of these are taken into account – too often in the past the perceived needs of the environment have trumped the needs of the people who, after all, sacrifice a lot to live here.
“We will be vigilant in trying to ensure that community viability remains at the forefront of our thinking. Of course we welcome the longer-term environmental benefits that will result from the award, but in the short term it will mean vital new jobs in the area and we look forward to the project raising our profile as a destination for visitors and for new, young and economically-active residents.”