Scottish Highlands Volunteer Trip

Discover the history and spirit of Scotland with other like-minded volunteers as you mitigate global warming by rewilding the Caledonian Forests of the Scottish Highlands

Plant trees in the Scottish Highlands!

Want to plant trees to fight climate change? Join us in the Scottish Highlands and help restore the Caledonian Forest. The Scottish Highlands Volunteer Trip helps to reforest and rewild the highlands at Dundreggan Conservation Estate, located in beautiful Glen Moriston, along the ‘Road to the Isles’!

Our environmental conservation projects will take place at Dundreggan, a 10,000-acre expanse of wild land. Located near Loch Ness, it is a center for rewilding and a flagship forest restoration project. Dundreggan contains a remnant of the ancient Caledonian Forest and is especially noted for its exceptional juniper-birch woodland. It has been described as a haven for biodiversity, supporting many rare and endangered species.

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Scottish Highlands Volunteer Trip Details

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You will take part in a variety of exciting activities to help restore the ancient Caledonian Forest, which could include tree planting, removing non-native species, growing rare trees in a nursery, collecting seeds and berries and carrying out important surveys to monitor forest regeneration. Additionally, you will be given a special talk about rewilding and forest restoration from an expert land manager, including information on reintroducing missing species such as the Eurasian lynx and European beaver.

Read our guest blog to see how a volunteer described her experience.




Your Scottish Highlands Volunteer Trip is focused on helping to reforest the Scottish Highlands. What follows is a general description of activities you can expect on the Scottish Highlands itinerary. Please note, however, that local conditions and the volunteer project needs continually evolve. Detailed plans are often finalized or revised after the group arrives and the trip leaders review the conditions at the site in light of the capabilities and special interests of the volunteers.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Day 1 is the day you should plan to arrive at the meeting point for the trip. This may require departing your hometown one or more days in advance and traveling on an overnight flight. Since our trip begins in Edinburgh, you might want to arrive a few days early to explore Scotland’s historic capital, and nearby sights.

Day 1: Meet the group in Edinburgh, then travel to Inverness.

Welcome to Scotland and its ancient capital, Edinburgh! Our trip begins at 8:00 a.m. with an orientation where you’ll get acquainted with your ConservationVIP® Trip Leaders and fellow volunteers and get an overview about the exciting week ahead. After our orientation, we’ll load up our bus and head for Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Along the way our expert guide will stop at a number of scenic vistas, historic sites, and engineering marvels. We plan to visit the mythical Kelpies, the Falkirk Wheel — a Ferris wheel for boats — and scenic Glencoe, the site of one of Scotland’s most notorious massacres. Then we will travel along Loch Ness (keep an eye peeled out for Nessie!), arriving at Inverness at the head of Loch Ness, for dinner and an overnight stay. Lunch and Dinner included. Please make sure you eat breakfast before you arrive at our meeting location.

Day 2: Explore Historic Inverness, and head to Dundreggan

After breakfast, our trip leaders will take us on a walking tour of historic Inverness. We will walk along the River Ness through the Ness Islands, check out Inverness Castle, explore historic downtown, and get one more chance to shop for any forgotten items. After lunch, our Trees for Life leaders will pick us up and take us back along Loch Ness to Glen Moriston, to our lodging at Trees for Life’s 10,000 acre  Dundreggan Conservation Estate.

Once we settle into our lodging and get oriented to our week ahead, our Trees for Life leaders will take us on a guided walk of Dundreggan Conservation Estate to learn about the ecology of the Caledonian Forest. Dundreggan Conservation Estate, once a hunting estate, is the focal area of Trees for Life’s restoration programs. It has a large remnant of ancient Caledonian Forest, with running brooks or “burns,” waterfalls, magnificent ancient Scots pine, and rare yew. The estate houses a large native plant nursery where thousands of seedlings and cuttings are grown for reforestation efforts throughout the Highlands. The Estate is also home to legends of dragons (dreggan) and faeries, and a medieval “motte” – a stone and earthen defensive mound that was used by the local clan chief to keep an eye on Glen (valley) Moriston.

All meals included. Meals are vegetarian based and are planned and prepared by the trip leaders. Participants make their own breakfast and box lunches from a variety of food available. Lunch meats may be provided upon request.

Days 3 – 7: Work on projects to help restore the Caledonian Forest

A typical workday consists of preparing a hearty breakfast of your choice, packing your lunch, and being geared up and ready to go at 8:30 a.m. Our projects will vary throughout the week and may include working in the on-site native plant nursery sowing seeds or cuttings, or transplanting native plants to bags ready for planting, and other tasks assigned by the nursery staff. Other days we will work outside, removing non-native species, planting native plants, or surveying for the presence of native wildlife such as the beautiful red squirrel. This work may involve hiking 1- 3 miles round trip per day. Throughout our days, our Trees for Life leaders and other Trees for Life experts will provide us with ecology, history and lore about the Highlands, and the critically important nature of our work. After our projects end for the day, generally around 4:30 p.m., you’ll have a little time to relax before dinner. All meals included.

After dinner is free time to relax, to read, or tell stories.

Day 8: Rest Day

We take a day off work to rest and relax. On this rest day, you will have the option to visit more of the Scottish Highlands and return in time for dinner. All meals provided.

Day 9: Complete your trip to the Scottish Highlands

After breakfast, we will return to Inverness, ending our group experience at the Inverness train station at about 10:00 a.m. Breakfast included.

Note: Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule above, the itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control, including weather, terrain conditions or health-related requirements such as changes in COVID restrictions. Project locations may vary with each volunteer expedition according to the needs of the local non-profit at the time the trip takes place.

IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING AIR TRAVEL: Before purchasing your airline tickets, please check with us to ensure the trip has the necessary minimum number of participants required to operate.

$2,495 for nine days (Note: Your trip expense may be tax-deductible. Please see our Frequently Asked Questions page and consult your tax adviser for details.)
Price includes:

  • all meals from lunch on Day 1 through breakfast on Day 9
  • hotel in Inverness; rooms are double occupancy
  • lodge at Dundreggan
  • all bus and van transportation noted
  • gratuities for services provided to the group
  • project leadership and support staff
  • group tools
  • orientation and training

Price does not include:

Deposit and Cancellation
A deposit of $500 per person is required at the time of signup; final payment is due at 90 days prior to departure. The payment and refund policy can be found here.

Group Size: 6 – 8 plus trip leaders

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Average rating:  
 10 reviews
 by Cindy T
Scottish Highlands

I have participated in several Conservation VIP projects and this one did not disappoint! The facilities were great, the food even better. But it was the beautiful country that stole the show. It was so moving planting trees that will live for years and reseed for even more years to come. Liv and Sally, with Trees for Life, were knowledgeable, funny, patient and great guides for the week we were together. I highly recommend this trip!

 by John Van Zanten
Scottish Highlands May 2023

Amazing. Super well-run, excellent and timely pre-trip information, great group and camaraderie. And the local staff shepherding us around daily were beyond fun, wonderful, energetic and interesting. We learned so much about the Highlands, land maintenance, competing interests and of course, about trees. An unforgettable experience. Well done, CVIP!

 by Barbara C
Scottish Highlands

The program for Trees For Life is an important and fun way to get people involved with a hands on way of making the planet healthier. The leaders were generous with their time before and during the trip. The Highlands of Scotland are awesome. Go see for yourself.

 by Nikki K

Exceeded expectations! Fantastic mission, trip leaders and rewarding work. Richard, Kenda & Debra are 100% committed to making it a great experience and work very hard to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

 by Shelly R

We had a wonderful time, learned a lot, amazing people, excellent experience!

 by Dona S.
A new perspective on the Scottish Highlands.

Photos of the Scottish Highlands typically show vast, treeless hills. Dundreggan Conservation Estate – the base of operations for the Scottish Highlands volunteer vacation – offers a different view.
Much of the highlands have been logged and/or planted in non-native species such as the Sitka Spruce. The Sitka Spruce turned out to be an almost ideal species for commercial forests in the region, but this benefit came at the cost of destruction of native habitat. This volunteer vacation was all about helping to restore a slice of the native highlands. We did everything from transplanting seedlings to removing non-native species to planting young oaks. Along the way we learned about the flora and fauna of the highlands. We saw red deer and golden eagles, but one of my favorites was Percy, a local pheasant who makes his home on the estate.
The estate itself is lovely. I could have spent weeks working there. Our group took a day to visit an ancient burial cairn and Glen Affric, one of the most beautiful glens in Scotland. These are gems of the highlands that most travelers do not see. We also spent an evening at a local community hall enjoying traditional music. Each day brought something special.
I enjoyed getting to know others in the group. Our ages ranged from 20s through 70s. We took turns with cooking and kitchen clean-up, with each contributing in our own way. Our meals were delicious. One of our guides treated us to homemade bread (thank you, Steven). We were fortunate to have a stellar yoga instructor in our group, and morning yoga classes were a welcome way to start the day.
The work itself was not overly taxing physically, so if you are concerned about needing to walk miles through the hills to get to the worksite, you need not worry. I actually could have handled more field work in this lovely place! Do pay attention to the packing list. Waterproof pants and a rain jacket are a must. Our May weather ranged from warm and sunny to a dusting of sleet and snow.
This trip changed my perspective on woodlands and forestry. I wholeheartedly recommend it to others. A big thank you to our guides and to Trees for Life for making this opportunity possible.

 by Pamela Morgan
Scottish Highlands - Absolutely a Must!

Scotland is an amazing country and you will feel like you're truly out in the 'wilds.' That's what makes this one of the most fascinating trips on the ConservationVIP schedule. You'll be with a small group of like-minded volunteers settled in a really cool rustic setting with accommodations at a lodge run by the Trees For Life non-profit organization.
The logistics are very well organized and allow time for very interesting excursions; from the town of Inverness into the northern part of the Caledonian Forest. The landscape is beautiful, the people are kind and genuine and you'll be rewarded with a true feeling of accomplishment by week's end. Fun and work combined to make this a very memorable service trip.
I highly recommend!

 by Peter M.
Helping Out in the Scottish Highlands

Exceptional experience! Here's a truly beautiful place, the Scottish great need of some thoughtful care and attention...and we helped make it happen. On Dundreggan Estate I met new and interesting people from so many different walks of life who are helping restore this ancient forestland. By day everyone worked hard with folks from Trees for Life...especially Peter and Stephen, our focalizers...making a real difference to help bring the forest back. In the evenings, we teamed up making dinner and sharing our unique life experiences. So much in so few days. Weather was great. People were great. Work was great. Thanks all.

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The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. The gear list has been created to help you in choosing your equipment for the trip. View the Gear List PDF.

Click to view the PDF Trip Reports.

May 2023
June 2022
September 2019
April-May 2019
September 2018
September 2017
September 2016
September 2015

Also, read our guest blog to see how a volunteer described her experience.

ConservationVIP has always focused on our volunteers’ safety. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened that focus. Traveling with COVID-19 safety concerns requires some extra planning and flexibility both for trip leaders and trip participants!

Because of continuing COVID concerns, we are restricting participation on this trip to people who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 including vaccine boosters. Participants will also have to comply with any restrictions imposed by the United Kingdom, Scotland and your country of origin at the time of travel. While we expect that the restrictions will change between now and the time of travel, we cannot predict what those changes will be.

While on the trip, participants will also have to follow procedures such as mask wearing and social distancing. You may be required to take rapid antigen tests, depending on United Kingdom, Scotland or Trees for Life protocols. More specific COVID related safety instructions will be provided to those registered for the trip.










Plant Trees when you travel

“The world needs trees more than ever. Here’s how to plant some on your travels.” ConservationVIP’s volunteer trip to the Scottish Highlands is recognized by the Washington Post […more]

Read more about why we think our Scottish Highlands trip is ideal for people looking for Sustainable Travel.

About the Scottish Highlands

The Romans named Scotland “Caledonia”. The name comes from an early Celtic word meaning “strong” or “hard”, an accurate description of the rugged and wet terrain of the Scottish Highlands.

Once heavily forested, today forests cover only about one percent of their original acreage. Fortunately, the environmental movement in Scotland — the birthplace of John Muir — is growing. A local Scottish nonprofit is in the forefront of restoring the great Caledonian forests. Over the past 25 years, Trees for Life and their volunteers have planted more than 1 million trees in the Scottish Highlands. They have already restored some 10,000 acres of forest. Now, ConservationVIP® wants to offer its volunteers a chance to participate in this great reforestation project. Take a moment to be inspired, watch the founder of Trees for Life as his passion for this great effort shines through his TEDx Talk:


Related Travel Information

Have extra time to explore in Scotland? Recognized as the capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century, Edinburgh offers a variety of options for history buffs. Explore Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town and 18th-century New Town, which together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Edinburgh’s other historic sites include Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and St. Giles’ Cathedral.

History also abounds outside Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Six miles outside Inverness is Culloden, the site of the last battle on British soil, which took place in 1746. Tour the modern visitors’ center to better understand the history. As you walk around the battlefield, stop and look at the boulders marked with the names of the Scottish clans who fell at Culloden, hinting at the scope of the slaughter that took place there.

About 11 miles from Inverness is Fort George, built between 1748-1769 by the English to guard the narrows in Moray Firth. Virtually unchanged after 250 years, it is an outstanding, and enormous, example of an English military fortification. As you walk around Fort George, visualize the forts built in North America by the English that pre-date the American Revolution, such as Forts Ticonderoga and William Henry in New York State.

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